Thursday, July 17, 2014
#NFLMostMemorable semifinals await
By Kevin Seifert
Just a few days ago, a spasmodic flamethrower was beside himself with concern that horizon would overcome history in ESPN's NFL Most Memorable plays project. The average year of the 32 plays submitted was 1997, and it wouldn't have been stunning to see an iconic play or two knocked out by the simple fact that too few of today's voters would have seen them.
We saw that happen in a few isolated instances, but as the semifinals open, it's worth pointing out that three of the five oldest plays are among the four remaining candidates for the most memorable play in NFL history. The only "modern-day" semifinalist is the 2008 Helmet Catch by New York Giants receiver David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII.
Voters have recognized the basic fundamentals of Bart Starr's Ice Bowl game-winning touchdown in the polling.
Otherwise, voters have advanced -- properly, in my opinion -- Bart Starr's Ice Bowl touchdown (1967), Franco Harris' Immaculate Reception (1972) and Dwight Clark's Catch (1982). Voters must now decide whether to send the Ice Bowl or The Catch to the finals from one bracket, and then either the Immaculate Reception or the Helmet Catch from the other.
Let's look at the comparable merits of each:
Kramer vs. Clark: I always think of the Packers' clinching touchdown in that 1967 NFL Championship Game as the "Kramer Play." Starr never would have scored -- and the clock probably would have run out -- were it not for right guard Jerry Kramer's perfect block. For decades, coaches at all levels have used it as a textbook example for the simple effectiveness of staying low and rooting out an interior defender. Clark, meanwhile, also executed classic technique by reaching high for a pass that plenty of receivers -- especially those shorter than his 6-foot-4 frame -- would have missed. If you want my vote, I'm sticking with tradition and nominating the Ice Bowl, a play that had so much surrounding it. If it advances, I'll tell you more about it on Friday. (That the Cowboys were victims of both plays in this bracket probably isn't lost on some.)
Harris vs. Tyree: Here we get into a philosophical question. Is something more memorable based on its singularity or its degree of difficulty? Harris won a playoff game by catching a wild carom of a deflected pass and taking off for the end zone before the Oakland Raiders knew what had happened. Tyree trapped a game-saving pass on his helmet, only after quarterback Eli Manning escaped a fierce pass rush, and held on after a violent hit in the Super Bowl. It's one of the most difficult pass receptions -- preseason, regular season or playoffs -- in NFL history. You didn't ask my opinion, but the unique nature of the Immaculate Reception seems to make it more memorable to me.