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49ers' top plays: The Catch

7/3/2014
AP Photo

This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in the San Francisco 49ers' history. On Tuesday, we will feature Joe Montana's throw to John Taylor to win Super Bowl XXIII and Wednesday, The Catch II. Please vote for your choice as the 49ers’ most memorable play.

Score: 49ers 28, Cowboys 27

Date: Jan. 10, 1982 Site: Candlestick Park

How could this play not be on this list of candidates for the best play in 49ers' history?

It is one of the most iconic plays in NFL history.

Say "The Catch" to any football fan and they will know what it is. Mention it to a 49ers’ fan and see that person erupt into unbridled glee. The Catch may have happened 32 years ago, but it is fresh in the minds of all 49ers fans, even fans who weren’t alive yet.

Everyone knows The Catch.

Montana to Clark.

It changed everything.

With the upstart 49ers trailing America’s Team 27-21 with 58 seconds to go, the home crowd was both buzzing and a collective nervous wreck at once. It was third-and-3 from the Dallas 6-yard line.

Even though the game was in the final minute, Bill Walsh had options. He could have gone for a first down or he could take two strikes at the end zone. Walsh wanted pay dirt.

When Joe Montana took the snap, the play was sprint right option. The initial option was receiver Freddie Solomon, but Solomon, already with a touchdown in the game, was blanketed.

Montana was being hotly pursued by three Dallas defenders and was backpedaling like a crooked politician. It appeared he was either going to be sacked, which would have been disastrous, or he was going to go out of bounds and create a fourth-and-long.

Suddenly, Montana whipped the ball. It looked like it was going to be out of the end zone. But then Dwight Clark jumped into the San Francisco heavens. Clark out jumped Dallas cornerback Everson Walls and came down with the ball, and the 49ers had their first trip to the Super Bowl.

The 49ers became a dynasty, and The Catch poured fire on what would become one of the NFL’s fiercest rivalries.

Last December, when Candlestick Park was closed, The Catch was celebrated. But make no mistake, it is celebrated every day in San Francisco.