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January 10, 2019

On this date in 1982, one of the most iconic plays in NFL history occured when San Francisco 49ers tight end Dwight Clark tiptoed the sideline for a touchdown reception to beat the Dallas Cowboys.

Commonly referred to as "The Catch," the touchdown reception became much bigger than simply the 49ers beating the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game. It would signal the end of dominance by the Cowboys in the NFC and began the 49ers dynasty of the 1980's.

The lead-up to "The Catch" was equally impressive as Joe Montana engineered a 14-play, 83-yard drive to put the 49ers in position leading up to the famous play.

The original intended target of the game-winning play was wide receiver Freddie Solomon but Solomon slipped while running his route, causing the timing of the play to be thrown off. With Montana running out of room sprinting towards the sidelines, the QB hurled the ball towards the end zone in what looked to be an attempt to simply throw the ball away.

But Clark managed a herculean leap to snag the ball with his fingertips and managed to come down in bounds. A subsequent extra point from kicker Ray Wersching put the 49ers ahead with 51-seconds remaining in the game.

On the ensuing Cowboys drive, Eric Wright would make a huge play to tackle Drew Pearson in what almost certainly was a touchdown-saving play. On the very next play, Cowboys QB Danny White fumbled the ball and it was recovered by the 49ers, sealing their victory.

"The Catch" is widely viewed as a major turning point in NFL history. The Cowboys were a team that had appeared in five Super Bowls, winning two of them in the 1970's.  However, the Cowboys would not make it to another Super Bowl in the 1980's while the 49ers would go on to win four Super Bowls in the decade. 

Clark discussed "The Catch" in America's Game: The Super Bowl Champions documentary about the 1981 49ers team.

 

"It's humbling, really. I feel honored people are still talking about it, 25 years later. I am honored to be able to be a part of a play that was kind of the culmination of just this incredible surprise season. It's great to give 49er fans that moment that they can relive over and over and over, and I know they do because when I am in San Francisco and a lot of places, people want to talk about that play and how it crushed the Cowboys and sent them into submission for a decade. I never get tired of talking about it; I never get tired of seeing it, because I sign pictures and send them to people. I see that catch every day. I may sit and think about that moment couple of times a year, and how awesome it was to be a part of that play and to be a part of the 49ers in the '80s."

 


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