Super Bowl 2020: Franco Harris’ ‘Immaculate Reception’ voted greatest moment in NFL history

Pittsburgh Steelers' running back Franco Harris (32) eludes a tackle by Oakland Raiders' Jimmy Warren as he runs for a touchdown to complete the "Immaculate Reception." The play was voted the NFL's greatest moment Sunday. (Harry Carbluck/Associated Press)

caption arrowCaption
Pittsburgh Steelers' running back Franco Harris (32) eludes a tackle by Oakland Raiders' Jimmy Warren as he runs for a touchdown to complete the "Immaculate Reception." The play was voted the NFL's greatest moment Sunday. (Harry Carbluck/Associated Press)

The "Immaculate Reception" in 1972 by Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris was voted the greatest moment in NFL history.

The announcement was made during Fox’s Super Bowl, pregame show Sunday afternoon,

The iconic play took place Dec. 23, 1972, at Three Rivers Stadium during the AFC divisional playoffs. The Steelers were trailing the Oakland Raiders 7-6 with 22 seconds and no timeouts left.

The voting started with 32 moments (one for each team) and was been whittled down each week.

Harris’ “Immaculate Reception,” David Tyree’s “Helmet Catch,” the 1972 Dolphins’ perfect season and Dwight Clark’s “The Catch," were the final four contenders.

The Steelers were facing fourth-and-10 from their own 40-yard line, and quarterback Terry Bradshaw, under great pressure from Oakland’s pass rush, launched a pass toward running back John "Frenchy’ Fuqua. Oakland linebacker Jack Tatum collided with Fuqua and the ball lurched toward Harris, who picked it off his shoetops and ran for the game-winning score.

The play, called by NBC’s Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis, was controversial because it was not clear who touched the ball first. Under the NFL rules at the time, if Fuqua touched the ball first, the play would have been ruled illegal and the Raiders would have taken over on downs. However, if Tatum touched the ball first, the play was legal, and that call was upheld by referee Fred Swearingen and his crew.

That rule was changed in 1978.

Harris’ play gave the Steelers a 12-7 lead, and Roy Gerela’s extra-point clinched a stunning 13-7 victory. It was the first playoff victory in Steelers history.

About the Author