In Saturday's playoff game pitting the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints, many knew catches would be made by explosive offenses. However, few would have thought they would see a play that would take them back in time three decades almost to the day. The following will chronicle three catches made by three San Francisco 49er's receivers with 30 years separating the original "catch" from the catch that was just brought in by Vernon Davis this past Saturday, January 14th.
"The Catch" is a name any true football fans know fondly while making the fans of America's team think of how a 6th ring may have slipped away. On January 10th 1982, the 49ers faced the Dallas Cowboys at Candlestick Park in the NFC championship game. Down by 6, Joe Montana led San Fran down to the 11 yard line and lined up for a critical 3rd down play. Montana got the ball and rolled out to his right looking in the end zone. Dallas provided good pressure and Montana pump faked, which got a defender to jump in the air in an attempt to bat down the ball. This pump fake provided an opening for Montana to get the pass off after the defender came back down from his jump. Montana then threw a ball up to the corner of the end zone where it appeared to be thrown away. It seemed to be sailing out of the back of the end zone until receiver Dwight Clark jumped out of nowhere to snag the ball for the go-ahead score. Dallas was unable to come back after the play and the 49ers went on to the Super Bowl after the 28-26 win.
16 years later, at Candlestick, a young Bret Farve and the Green Bay Packers faced the 49ers and a young up-and-coming receiver named Terrell Owens. San Francisco was down 23-27 to Green Bay with 8 seconds left on the clock and needed to go to the end zone. Young got the snapped and stumbled briefly before gunning a ball down the seam and into the end zone. There, Owens grabbed the ball before being hit hard and sandwiched between teo Packer defenders. Owens held on to the twenty-five yard pass and would not let go, taking the ball all the way to the sideline while hugging teammates with tears of joy in his eyes.
Fast forward 14 years Later to this past Saturday where Candlestick, once again, provided the venue to witness another remarkable clutch completion. Alex Smith had just spiked the ball and had a 3rd down and 3 with 14 seconds left to play in the game. San Francisco was down by just 3 and were in field goal range at the 14 yard line. Smith took the snap out of the shotgun and did not hesitate before zinging one to Vernon Davis into the end zone. It was clear he wanted to not settle for a field goal and win the game right then. Like Owens, Vernon was met with a hit just inside the goal line and held on for a score. He too would not let go of the ball after that and, in an eerily similar scene, walked to the sideline with ball in hand hugging teammates with tears of joy in his eyes.
Even more eerie, however, may be the fact that each epic play occurred on 3rd down and 3 to go.