Immaculate Reception

The Immaculate Reception is one of the most famous plays in the history of American football. It occurred in the AFC divisional playoff game of the National Football League (NFL), between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on December 23, 1972. With the Steelers trailing in the last 30 seconds of the game, Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a pass attempt to John Fuqua. The ball either bounced off the helmet of Raiders safety Jack Tatum or off the hands of Fuqua, and, as it fell, Steelers fullback Franco Harris scooped it up and ran for a game-winning touchdown. The play has been a source of unresolved controversy and speculation ever since, as many people have contended that the ball only touched Fuqua or that it hit the ground before Harris caught it, either of which would have resulted in an incomplete pass by the rules at the time. Kevin Cook's The Last Headbangers cites the play as the beginning of a bitter rivalry between Pittsburgh and Oakland that fueled a historically brutal Raiders team during the NFL's most controversially physical era.[1]

NFL Films has chosen it as the greatest play of all time, as well as the most controversial.[2] The play was a turning point for the Steelers, who reversed four decades of futility with their first playoff win ever, and went on to win four Super Bowls by the end of the 1970s.

The play's name is a pun derived from the Immaculate Conception, a dogma in the Roman Catholic Church. The phrase was first used on air by Myron Cope, a Pittsburgh sportscaster who was reporting on the Steelers' victory. A Pittsburgh woman, Sharon Levosky, called Cope before his 11 PM sports broadcast on the 23rd and suggested the name, which was coined by her friend Michael Ord. Cope used the term on television and the phrase stuck.[3] The phrase was apparently meant to imply that the play was miraculous in nature (see Hail Mary pass for a similar term).

1972 AFC Divisional playoff
Three Rivers Stadium
Three Rivers Stadium, the site of the game.
Oakland Raiders
Pittsburgh Steelers
7 13
Head coach:
John Madden
Head coach:
Chuck Noll
1234 Total
OAK 0007 7
PIT 00310 13
DateDecember 23, 1972
StadiumThree Rivers Stadium, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
RefereeFred Swearingen
TV in the United States
AnnouncersCurt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis

Events of the play

Immaculate Reception diagram
Diagram of the Immaculate Reception

After Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler scored a touchdown on a 30-yard run with 1:17 left, the Pittsburgh Steelers trailed the Oakland Raiders 7–6, facing fourth-and-10 on their own 40-yard line with 22 seconds remaining in the game and no time-outs. Head coach Chuck Noll called a pass play, 66 Circle Option, intended for receiver Barry Pearson,[4] a rookie who was playing in his first NFL game.

Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw (1 in diagram), under great pressure from Raiders linemen Tony Cline and Horace Jones, threw the ball to the Raiders' 35-yard line, toward halfback John "Frenchy" Fuqua. Raiders safety Jack Tatum collided with Fuqua just as the ball arrived (2). Tatum's hit knocked Fuqua to the ground and sent the ball sailing backward several yards, end over end.

Steelers fullback Franco Harris, after initially blocking on the play, had run downfield in case Bradshaw needed another eligible receiver. He scooped up the sailing ball just before it would have hit the ground (3). Harris ran past Raiders linebacker Gerald Irons, while linebacker Phil Villapiano, who had been covering Harris, was blocked by Steelers tight end John McMakin (4). Harris used a stiff arm to ward off Raiders defensive back Jimmy Warren (5), and went in for a touchdown. The touchdown gave the Steelers a 12–7 lead with Roy Gerela adding the ensuing extra point.


Statue of Harris making the "Immaculate Reception" at Pittsburgh International Airport.

The critical question was: who did the football touch in the Fuqua/Tatum collision? If it bounced off Fuqua without ever touching Tatum, then Harris's reception was illegal. If the ball bounced off only Tatum, or if it bounced off both Fuqua and Tatum (in any order), then the reception was legal. The rule stated in the pertinent part that once an offensive player touches a pass, he is the only offensive player eligible to catch the pass. "However, if a [defensive] player touches [the] pass first, or simultaneously with or subsequent to its having been touched by only one [offensive] player, then all [offensive] players become and remain eligible" to catch the pass.[5][6] (This rule was later rescinded in 1978.) If the reception was illegal, the Raiders would have gained possession (by a turnover on downs), clinching a victory.

One official, Back Judge Adrian Burk, signaled that the play was a touchdown, but the other game officials did not immediately make any signal.[4] When the officials huddled, Burk and another official, Umpire Pat Harder, thought that the play was a touchdown because Tatum and Fuqua had both touched the ball, while three others said that they were not in a position to rule.[7][8] Referee Fred Swearingen approached Steelers sideline official Jim Boston and asked to be taken to a telephone. Boston took Swearingen to a baseball dugout in the stadium. There was a video monitor in the dugout, but it was not used by Swearingen.[7] (Terry Bradshaw's assertion that a special television was rigged up on the sideline so that Swearingen could watch the replay[9]:16 is not supported by other accounts.) From the dugout telephone Boston put in a call to the press box to reach the NFL's supervisor of officials, Art McNally. Before the call McNally had "an opinion from the get-go" that the ball had hit Tatum's chest, which he confirmed by looking "at one shot on instant replay."[6] In the press box the telephone was answered either by Dan Rooney, son of Steelers owner Art Rooney, or by Steelers public relations director Joe Gordon (reports vary), and McNally was put on the line.[7][10][11] According to McNally, Swearingen "never asked me about the rule, and never asked what I saw. All he said was, 'Two of my men say that opposing players touched the ball.' And I said, 'everything's fine then, go ahead.'"[7][12] After Swearingen hung up the phone Boston asked, "What do we got?" "We got a touchdown,"[7][13] answered Swearingen, who then went back onto the field to signal the ruling to the crowd. Franco Harris crossed the goal line at approximately 3:29 PM EST. Fans immediately rushed the field, and it took 15 minutes to clear them so that the extra point could be kicked to give the Steelers what turned out to be their final margin of victory, 13–7.

Although this has been described as the first known use of television replay to confirm a call[14][15] (there was no instant replay review then), at the time the NFL denied that the decision was made in the press box or using a television replay.[16] An Oakland Tribune article two days after the game reported that Steelers publicist Joe Gordon told reporters in the press box that the decision had been made using the replay.[17] Gordon has dismissed this as "a total fabrication."[11] NFL officials Jim Kensil and Val Pinchbeck, who were in the press box with McNally, also deny that replay was used in making the decision on the play.[17][18]

In various NFL Films productions about the play years later, various Raiders have theorized that the real purpose of Swearingen's phone conversation was to see if there were enough police on hand to ensure the players' safety if the play was ruled incomplete. The theory claims that there were too few police, so the play was called for the Steelers out of fear. In one of the films, McNally laughs at the suggestion.

The play is still disputed by those involved, particularly by living personnel from the Raiders and their fans, who insist the Raiders should have won. Tatum said that the ball did not bounce off him, both immediately after the game[15] as well as later;[4] however, in his memoirs, Tatum equivocated, stating that he could not honestly say whether or not the ball hit him.[19] Raiders linebacker Phil Villapiano, who was covering Harris at the time, maintains that the ball hit Fuqua.[20] Fuqua has been coy, supposedly saying he knows exactly what happened that day but will never tell.[21]

According to Raiders defensive back George Atkinson, the play is known by the Raiders and their fans as the "Immaculate Deception" because "the public was deceived, the officials were deceived, and we got deceived".[22]

John Madden, coach of the 1972 Raiders, has said that he will never get over the play, and has indicated that he was bothered more by the delay between the end of the play and the final signal of touchdown than by which player the ball truly hit. After the game, he indicated that from his view the football had indeed touched Tatum.[15] Although a few days later Madden indicated that the Raiders game films showed that the ball hit Fuqua's shoulder pads,[17] Jack Tatum conceded that "even after we viewed the game films with stop action, nobody could tell who the ball hit on that moment of impact."[19] Years later Madden wrote, "No matter how many times I watch the films of the 'immaculate reception' play, I never know for sure what happened."[23]

In 1998, during halftime of the AFC Championship game, NBC showed a replay from its original broadcast. The replay presented a different angle than the NFL Films clip that is most often shown. According to a writer for the New York Daily News, "NBC's replay showed the ball clearly hit one and only one man[:] Oakland DB Jack Tatum."[24] Curt Gowdy, doing the live TV play-by-play, called it as having been deflected by Tatum, and reiterated that during the video replay.[25]

Pittsburgh sportscaster Myron Cope, in a 1997 article[11] and in his 2002 book Quintuple Yoi!,[26] related that two days after the game he reviewed film taken by local Pittsburgh TV station WTAE-TV, and that the film showed "[n]o question about it – Bradshaw's pass struck Tatum squarely on his right shoulder." Cope stated that the local film would be next to impossible to find again, because of inadequate filing procedures.

In 2004 John Fetkovich, an emeritus professor of physics at Carnegie Mellon University, analyzed the NFL Films clip of the play. He came to the conclusion, based on the trajectory of the bounced ball and conservation of momentum, that the ball must have bounced off Tatum, who was running upfield at the time, rather than Fuqua, who was running across and down the field.[27] Fetkovich also performed experiments by throwing a football against a brick wall at a velocity greater than 60 feet per second, twice the speed Fetkovich calculated that Bradshaw's pass was traveling when it reached Tatum and Fuqua. Fetkovitch achieved a maximum rebound of 10 feet when the ball hit point first, and 15 feet when the ball hit belly first, both less than the 24 feet that the ball actually rebounded during the play. Timothy Gay, a physics professor and a longtime Raiders fan,[28] cited Fetkovich's work with approval in his book The Physics of Football, and concluded that "the referees made the right call in the Immaculate Reception."[29]

Terry Bradshaw himself had made points similar to those of Fetkovich 15 years earlier, stating that he did not think that he had thrown the ball hard enough for it to bounce that far back off Fuqua, and that since Fuqua was running across the field, the ball would have veered to the right if it had hit him. Bradshaw opined that the ball must have bounced off the upfield-moving Tatum – if that had happened then "Tatum's momentum carries the ball backward."[9]:14–15

The ball came very close to hitting the ground before Harris scooped it up. In the sideline views of both film and video, Harris had caught the ball out of frame, and came running into frame from the right side on his path to the end zone. The only other known NBC video was an end zone shot from above and behind the goalposts depicting Harris scooping the ball before it touched the ground. The best NFL Films shot of the play, from ground level, is a tight shot from the end zone of Harris snaring the ball, with his feet and the ground just out of frame below.

Villapiano has also stated that he was illegally blocked by Steelers tight end John McMakin as he was pursuing Harris following the reception, and he would have tackled Harris without it.[4][20] Raiders coach Madden echoed this complaint;[17] McMakin, who calls his contribution the "Magnificent Obstruction", insists the block was perfectly legal, and is "puzzled" that the Raiders would think otherwise.


The week after this playoff victory, the Steelers lost the AFC championship game 21-17 to the Miami Dolphins,[30] who went on to win Super Bowl VII in their landmark undefeated season. Had the Raiders advanced to the AFC championship game instead, they would have entered that contest with an all-time record (including playoffs) of 6-1-1 against the Dolphins,[31] a formidable opponent to derail Miami's quest for the perfect season.

Despite the loss to the Dolphins, the Steelers started to reverse four decades of futility and went on to become a dominant force in the NFL for the rest of the 1970s, winning four Super Bowls in six years with such stars as Bradshaw, Harris, John Stallworth, and Lynn Swann along with the Steel Curtain defense led by Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, "Mean Joe" Greene, Mel Blount, and Dwight White.

1972 was the year before the team's 40th year in the league, during which they had finished above .500 only nine times, and until then had never won a playoff game. In fact, before this game, the only playoff game the team had ever played was a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1947 after the two teams finished tied for the Eastern Division championship. The Immaculate Reception was actually the first touchdown the Steelers ever scored in the postseason (they were shut out against the Eagles in the 1947 playoff game). (The Steelers also lost to the Detroit Lions in the 1962 Playoff Bowl, though this was considered an exhibition game between the two second place teams in league record books and not an actual playoff game.) They had long been regarded as one of the league's doormats (as the 1944 Card-Pitt merger was 0–10 and was ridiculed as the "Carpitts," a play on the word "carpet"). As recently as 1969 the team had posted a 1–13 record, thus securing the first draft choice in the subsequent NFL draft (in which the Steelers chose Terry Bradshaw) and seeding their remarkable turnaround. Since the AFL-NFL Merger, the Steelers have the NFL's best record (surpassing Miami in 2007 because of the Dolphins' recent struggles), have had a league-low three head coaches, and have had only nine losing seasons, none worse than 5–11. Only twice since the Immaculate Reception has the team had losing seasons two years in a row and none three years in a row.

The Immaculate Reception spawned a heated rivalry between the Steelers and Raiders, a rivalry that was at its peak during the 1970s, when both teams were among the best in the league and both were known for their hard-hitting, physical play. The teams met in the playoffs in each of the next four seasons, starting with the Raiders' 33–14 victory in the 1973 divisional playoffs. Pittsburgh used the AFC championship game victories over Oakland (24–13 at Oakland in 1974 and 16–10 at Pittsburgh in 1975) as a springboard to victories in Super Bowl IX and Super Bowl X, before the Raiders notched a 24–7 victory at home in 1976 on their way to winning Super Bowl XI. To date, the two last met in the playoffs in 1983 when the eventual Super Bowl champion Raiders, playing in Los Angeles at the time, crushed the Steelers 38–10. The rivalry has somewhat died off in the years since, mainly due to the Raiders on-field struggles since appearing in Super Bowl XXXVII.

The play itself started another rivalry between the Raiders and the rest of the league, as Raider fans have long thought that the league has wanted to shortchange the team and specifically owner Al Davis. In 2007, NFL Network ranked the "Raiders versus the World" as the biggest feud in NFL history.[32]

For the 1978 NFL season, the rule in question regarding the forward pass was repealed. There are no longer any restrictions on any deflections of passes, and a future play that mirrored the Immaculate Reception would simply be an extraordinary but legal reception. Whether a future Franco Harris would have been ruled as catching such a deflected football before it struck the turf is a different matter, thanks to myriad cameras and use of instant replay that is part of the present-day NFL.

As 1972 was the last year that the NFL forbade any local telecasts of home games, the game itself wasn't shown live on Pittsburgh NBC affiliate WIIC-TV (now WPXI), nor was it shown on nearby NBC affiliates WJAC-TV in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, WFMJ-TV in Youngstown, Ohio; WBOY-TV in Clarksburg, West Virginia; and then-NBC affiliate WTRF-TV in Wheeling, West Virginia, all of which are secondary markets to the Steelers—WICU-TV in Erie, Pennsylvania and then-NBC O&O WKYC-TV in Cleveland, Ohio, were the closest stations to air the game (although WIIC-TV showed the game on tape delay the following day). Starting the next year, any home games that sold out 72 hours before kick-off could be televised locally. As the Steelers began their home sell-out streak in 1972, blackouts have never been needed in the Pittsburgh area.

Game ball

The actual ball ended up in the hands of fan Jim Baker, who attended the game with his young nephew, Bobby. Baker managed to scoop up the ball during the ensuing melee after the extra point kick, grabbed his nephew, and ran off the field. He had offered to give the ball back to the Steelers in return for lifetime season tickets but was rebuffed. He has since declined any offer to sell it, including the highest offer of $150,000 from heavy equipment provider Ray Anthony International. Baker has instead kept this coveted piece of NFL memorabilia in a guarded bank vault in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, occasionally bringing it out for public appearances involving the Steelers including one with Franco Harris in 1997 to commemorate the play's 25th anniversary.[33][34]


The Steelers organization still consider the Immaculate Reception the greatest moment in team history. The Immaculate Reception was documented by NFL Network's A Football Life in 2012.[35]

On December 23, 2012, on the 40th anniversary of the play just hours before the Steelers hosted the Cincinnati Bengals, the Steelers unveiled a monument at the exact spot where Harris made the reception at a parking lot just outside Heinz Field, where Three Rivers Stadium formerly stood. This is the third such monument that commemorates the play in the city (the others are located at the Pittsburgh International Airport and the Heinz History Center).[36]

The play was referenced on the third season premiere of This Is Us.

In the 2013-14 NFC Championship Game, Seattle Seahawks' Richard Sherman deflected a pass by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, that was intended for Michael Crabtree, which was caught by teammate Malcolm Smith to seal the Seahawks' 23–17 victory.[37][38][39][40] The play was later dubbed "the Immaculate Deflection" (as an homage to the Immaculate Reception), and would later be voted by Seahawks fans to be the most significant play in franchise history.[41]

For Super Bowl XLIX, ran an ad featuring retired football players using its tools to build websites for their new businesses, including Franco Harris who creates a fictional wedding planning website called "Immaculate Receptions" named after the famous play.[42]

For Super Bowl LIII, the NFL used the Immaculate Reception reference, with Bradshaw throwing while chased by Aaron Donald, with contemporary 21st-century players deflecting the ball, and being caught by Harris as part of the NFL's centennial advertising campaign.


Last chance for the Steelers. Bradshaw trying to get away. And his pass is...broken up by Tatum. Picked off! Franco Harris has it! And he's over! Franco Harris grabbed the ball, a deflection! Five seconds to go! He grabbed it with five seconds to go and scored!

— Curt Gowdy, calling the play on NBC television

You talk about Christmas miracles. Here's the miracle of all miracles. Watch this one now. Bradshaw is lucky to even get rid of the ball! He shoots it out. Jack Tatum deflects it right into the hands of Harris. And he sets off. And the big 230-pound rookie slipped away from Warren and scored.

— Gowdy, describing an instant replay of the play on NBC

Hang onto your hats, here come the Steelers out of the huddle. Twenty-two seconds remaining. It's down to one big play, fourth down and 10 yards to go. Terry Bradshaw at the controls. And Bradshaw... back and looking again. Bradshaw, running out of the pocket, looking for somebody to throw to, fires it downfield, and there's a collision! [volume increases] And it's caught out of the air! The ball is pulled in by Franco Harris! Harris is going for a touchdown for Pittsburgh! Harris is going...5 seconds left on the clock. Franco Harris pulled in the football, I don't even know where he came from!

— Jack Fleming, on the Steelers radio broadcast

We wanted to hit Barry Pearson with the post. The pass protection broke down so all of the timing was off. Bradshaw rolls out to his right and I thought he was going to get tackled, but he ducked and he came up and he fired the ball. Now, from the angle I'm coming from, the outside in, Jack Tatum's coming from an angle straight ahead. What I was going to do, if nothing else, is beat him to the point. We got there about the same time. Now, if the ball hit me, it bounced a hell of a ways. If the ball hit him, he wasn't aiming at it, he was going at my head. I can tell you this: I did not take my eyes off the ball, as you can tell from the way that my body was. What happens from that point on was truly Immaculate.

— Frenchy Fuqua on the play.[43]

The play that changed a city.


See also

External links



  1. ^ Cook, Kevin. "Rowdy and Rough". Retrieved 4 December 2012.
  2. ^ NFL Top 10 – Controversial Calls
  3. ^ Finder, Chuck (November 11, 2012). "Couple who coined name for Immaculate Reception never sought credit". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  4. ^ a b c d "The house that the 'Immaculate Reception' built". Sporting News. 2000. Archived from the original on 2006-02-17.
  5. ^ "Rule 7, Section 5, Article 2, Item 1". Official Rules for Professional Football. The National Football League. 1971. pp. 44–45.
  6. ^ a b Gola, Hank (December 21, 1997). "Steel of the Century! Twenty-Five Years Later, 'Immaculate' Still Inimitable". New York Daily News. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e Collier, Gene (1998). "The Immaculate Reception: Franco Catches Eternal Fame" (PDF). The Coffin Corner. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-08-07. Retrieved 2009-08-05.
  8. ^ "Did Tatum Deflect the Pass?". Eugene Register-Guard. December 24, 1972. p. 3B.
  9. ^ a b Bradshaw, Terry (1989). Looking Deep. Chicago: Contemporary Books. ISBN 0-8092-4266-4.
  10. ^ Rooney, Dan (2007). My 75 Years With the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL. New York: Da Capo Press. p. 3. ISBN 0-306-81569-9.
  11. ^ a b c Cope, Myron (December 21, 1997). "Backtalk: An Immaculate Explanation of the Truth". The New York Times. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  12. ^ Miller, Ira (November 29, 2000). "Cold Reception: Raiders-Steelers rivalry is still Immaculate after all these years". Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  13. ^ Robinson, Alan (December 28, 1997). "An Immaculate Recollection – Incredible Touchdown Still Amazes Franco Harris 25 Years Later". Los Angeles Times. Associated Press. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  14. ^ Merron, Jeff. "Great moments, great TV". Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  15. ^ a b c Wallace, William N. (December 23, 1972). "This Day In Sports: The 'Immaculate Reception'". The New York Times. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  16. ^ "TV or Not TV?". The New York Times. December 24, 1972.
  17. ^ a b c d LaMarre, Tom (December 25, 1972). "Madden: Raiders Were Robbed". Oakland Tribune. (Reprinted in One for the Thumb: The New Steelers Reader, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006, ISBN 0-8229-5945-3, pp. 171–172). templatestyles stripmarker in |publisher= at position 101 (help)
  18. ^ Smith, Red (December 24, 1972). "How Fort Duquesne Repelled Raiders". The New York Times. (Reprinted in One for the Thumb: The New Steelers Reader, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006, ISBN 0-8229-5945-3, pp. 169–171). templatestyles stripmarker in |publisher= at position 101 (help)
  19. ^ a b Tatum, Jack (1979). They Call Me Assassin. New York: Everest House. p. 145. ISBN 0-89696-060-9.
  20. ^ a b "Memories from Pro Football's Greatest Era". Archived from the original on 2007-11-01. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  21. ^ "Two words say it all: 'Immaculate Reception'". ESPN/Starwave Partners. January 8, 1999. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  22. ^ A Football Life: The Immaculate Reception (Television program)|format= requires |url= (help). NFL Network (National Football League). 2012.
  23. ^ Madden, John (1984). Hey Wait a Minute, I Wrote a Book. New York: Villard Books. p. 238. ISBN 0-394-53109-4.
  24. ^ Raissman, Bob (January 13, 1998). "With NFL, Networks Can't Win for Losing". New York Daily News. p. 57.
  25. ^ NBC broadcast of 1972 AFC Divisional Playoff
  26. ^ Cope, Myron (2002). Quintuple Yoi!. Sports Publishing. p. 179. ISBN 1-58261-548-9.
  27. ^ "The physics of the matter say the Immaculate Reception ball hit Tatum". 2004-10-18. Retrieved 2019-01-17.
  28. ^ Spice, Byron (October 4, 2004). "Pigskin physics and the Immaculate Reception". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  29. ^ Gay, Timothy (2005). The Physics of Football. New York: HarperCollins. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-06-082634-5.
  30. ^ "1972 NFL Standings, Team & Offensive Statistics". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  31. ^ "All Matchups, Raiders vs. Dolphins". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  32. ^ "Biggest Feuds".
  33. ^ Gamble, Kim (December 12, 2012). "How one man nabbed the most coveted piece of NFL memorabilia from the clutches of history". Grantland.
  34. ^ Karlovits, Bob (April 30, 2016). "'Sports Detectives' investigates Immaculate Reception ball". Trib Total Media.
  35. ^ "NFL Network's A Football Life Explores Life, Legacy of Steve McNair Oct. 17". 2012-10-12. Archived from the original on 2012-10-18. Retrieved 2012-11-01.
  36. ^ "Immaculate Reception honored". Associated Press. December 22, 2012. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  37. ^ "Seahawks CB Richard Sherman fined $7,875 for NFC title game taunting".
  38. ^ Chris Greenberg (January 20, 2014). "Richard Sherman's Rant May Have 'Scared Erin Andrews,' Definitely Bothered Some On Twitter (VIDEOS)". The Huffington Post.
  39. ^ "Richard Sherman stunned by reaction to his victory rant". November 14, 2011. Retrieved January 24, 2014.
  40. ^ "Richard Sherman fined $7,875 for on-field celebration".
  41. ^ "Richard Sherman gives new meaning to cover corner".
  42. ^
  43. ^ Bouchette, Ed (2012-09-16). "Frenchy Fuqua: The man who collided with history – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette". Retrieved 2012-11-01.
  44. ^ McCollough, J. Brady (September 9, 2012). "Steelers Immaculate Reception: The play that changed a city". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


1972 Oakland Raiders season

The 1972 Oakland Raiders season was the team's 13th season. The Raiders won the AFC West for the second time in three seasons. They lost in the AFC Division Round to the Pittsburgh Steelers when Franco Harris scored the game-winning touchdown on the Immaculate Reception. The Raiders still dispute that this was a legal touchdown to this day.

1972 Pittsburgh Steelers season

The 1972 Pittsburgh Steelers season was the team's 40th in the National Football League.

The team posted a record of 11–3 in 1972, and won their first-ever AFC Central Division title. It was the team's third-ever postseason appearance, its first postseason appearance in ten seasons (the Playoff Bowl for third place in the league), and only its second playoff game since 1947. This season is famous for the Immaculate Reception, where the Steelers beat the Oakland Raiders in the playoffs 13-7 on a last second touchdown by Franco Harris.

The rebuilding of the franchise that began in 1969 with the hiring of Chuck Noll finally came to fruition in his fourth year. After winning only one game in his first year in 1969 the team that showed steady improvement broke through in 1972 and made the playoffs for the first time since 1947. The division title was the first in team history, as was the appearance in the AFC Championship game which they lost to the undefeated Miami Dolphins 21-17. It was the first of 8 straight playoff appearances for the Steelers that led to 4 Super Bowl Championships.

1973 Oakland Raiders season

The 1973 Oakland Raiders season was the team's 14th season, and fourth in the National Football League.

In Week Two of the regular season, the Raiders defeated the Miami Dolphins, snapping Miami's 18-game winning-streak including a perfect season in 1972.

For the third time in four seasons, the Raiders won the AFC West title. They exacted a measure of revenge by defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Division Round game, one year following the Immaculate Reception loss. But the Raiders failed to reach the Super Bowl as they lost to Miami in the AFC Championship Game.

1974 Oakland Raiders season

The 1974 Oakland Raiders season was the team's 15th season in Oakland and fifth in the National Football League. The team would post a superb 12–2 record; the campaign's two losses would be by a total of four points. The Raiders' record (the team's best since 1969) would ensure their fourth AFC West title in five years.

For the second straight campaign, the Raiders exacted revenge upon the team that had eliminated them in the prior year's playoffs. This time, Oakland toppled the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins, by a score of 28–26, in the playoffs' Divisional round. Quarterback Kenny Stabler threw a last-minute winning touchdown pass to running back Clarence Davis in what has come to be known as the "Sea of Hands" game.

For the second straight season, however, the Raiders lost in the AFC Championship Game. They were upset, 24–13, by the eventual champion Pittsburgh Steelers. While the Raiders led 10–3 at the end of the third quarter, a defensive meltdown would allow the Steelers to score 21 points in the final frame.

The 2006 edition of Pro Football Prospectus listed the 1974 Raiders as one of their "Heartbreak Seasons", in which teams "dominated the entire regular season only to falter in the playoffs, unable to close the deal." Pro Football Prospectus states, The John Madden Raiders were a consistently good regular season team, but the playoffs were a different story. The 1972 season came to an end with the painful Immaculate Reception game. The 1973 Raiders ended Miami's 18-game winning streak during the regular season but lost to the Dolphins in the AFC Championship game. In 1974, the Raiders seemed to finally have all the pieces."

Despite the disappointment at the end of the 1974 season, Pro Football Prospectus continues, "[t]he Raiders persevered, keeping the team's core together the next several seasons. In 1975, they again fell to the Steelers in the AFC title game, but caught a break in the 1976 AFC Championship, when they cruised to a 24–7 victory over Pittsburgh, who were without running backs Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. Finally, in the Super Bowl, they did not waste their opportunity, crushing the Vikings 32–14 behind Ken Stabler and Clarence Davis."

"The Autumn Wind", a poem written by former NFL Films President and co-founder Steve Sabol, became the unofficial team anthem of the Raiders, and was first used for the team's official team yearbook film in 1974. It was narrated by John Facenda, and dubbed "The Battle Hymn of the Raider Nation".

Adrian Burk

Adrian Matthew Burk (December 14, 1927 – July 28, 2003) was an American football quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) for the Baltimore Colts and Philadelphia Eagles. After his playing career he served as an official.

Barry Pearson

Barry Lynn Pearson (born February 4, 1950 in Geneseo, Illinois) is a former professional American football player who played wide receiver for four seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers (1972–1973) and Kansas City Chiefs (1974–1976).In 1972, making his pro football debut, Pearson was on the field for the Immaculate Reception and was the receiver for whom the play was designed, but Terry Bradshaw was flushed from the pocket and threw toward Frenchy Fuqua instead.

Franco Harris

Franco Harris (born March 7, 1950) is a former American football running back who played professionally in the National Football League (NFL) for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks. He was picked by the Steelers in the first round of the 1972 NFL Draft, the 13th selection overall. He played his first 12 years in the NFL with the Steelers; his 13th and final year was spent with the Seahawks. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

Fred Swearingen

Fred Swearingen (September 25, 1921 - December 16, 2016) was a former official in the National Football League, serving as both a referee and field judge from 1960 through 1980. He wore uniform number 21 for the majority of his career.

Swearingen owned and operated Swearingen's Sporting Goods in Athens, Ohio, United States.

On December 23, 1972, Swearingen was the referee for an AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders at Three Rivers Stadium. The game is famous for a play known as the Immaculate Reception. With 22 seconds remaining and Oakland leading 7–6, Pittsburgh was on its own 40-yard line on 4th and 10. Terry Bradshaw threw to John "Frenchy" Fuqua, but safety Jack Tatum collided with Fuqua sending the ball wobbling backward. Rookie running back Franco Harris then scooped up the ball, running untouched into the end zone.

Under the rules of that time, there could not be a legal catch if the ball touched two offensive players in succession. If the ball either bounced off both Tatum and Fuqua, or hit only Tatum, the catch would be legal. Swearingen consulted with umpire Pat Harder and field judge Adrian Burk, but then went to a sideline phone to consult with NFL supervisor of officials Art McNally, who was in the press box. Swearingen emerged and made his ruling that the play was a touchdown. The Steelers went on to win 13–7.

Immaculate Deflection

The Immaculate Deflection, also referred to as The Swat Heard Around the World or simply The Tip, was a play in the American football 2013 NFC Championship Game in the National Football League between the #5 seeded San Francisco 49ers and the #1 seeded Seattle Seahawks. The game was played in CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington and, being the NFC Championship Game, was televised nationally on FOX.

With the score 23-17 in favor of the Seahawks, the 49ers had driven the ball all the way to the Seahawks 18 yard line. With 0:30 left in the last quarter, 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw a pass to Michael Crabtree in the right corner of the endzone. Before Crabtree could catch the ball, cornerback Richard Sherman leapt a deflected the ball directly into linebacker Malcolm Smith's hands, who took a knee with 0:22 left on the clock, sealing the Seahawks victory. After the play, Sherman received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for directing a choke sign towards Kaepernick. After three kneels by Seahawks Quarterback Russell Wilson and two 49ers timeouts, the game ended, the Seahawks having punched their ticket to only the second Super Bowl berth in franchise history.

Incomplete pass

An incomplete pass is a term in American and Canadian football which means that a legal forward pass hits the ground before a player on either team gains possession. For example, if the quarterback throws the ball to one of his wide receivers, and the receiver either does not touch it or tries to catch it unsuccessfully, it is ruled as an incomplete pass. An incomplete pass causes the down to advance by one and the offensive team gains no yards. The game clock is stopped.

Jack Fleming

Leo W. "Jack" Fleming Jr. (February 3, 1923 – January 3, 2001) was an American sports announcer for the National Football League's Pittsburgh Steelers and the National Basketball Association's Chicago Bulls in professional sports, and also the West Virginia Mountaineers football and basketball teams. One of his most famous calls was for the Steelers in 1972, on the "Immaculate Reception".

Jack Tatum

John David Tatum (November 18, 1948 – July 27, 2010) was an American football safety who played 10 seasons from 1971 through 1980 for the Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers in the National Football League (NFL). He was popularly known as "the Assassin" because of his playing style. He was voted to three consecutive Pro Bowls (1973–1975) and was a member of one Super Bowl-winning team in his nine seasons with the Raiders. He is also known for a hit he made against New England Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley in a 1978 preseason game that paralyzed Stingley from the chest down.

A member of the College Football Hall of Fame, Tatum was a unanimous All-American in 1969 and 1970. He was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the first round of the 1971 NFL Draft, and with them earned a reputation as a fierce competitor and one of the hardest hitters ever to play the game. Tatum was also noted for his involvement in the Immaculate Reception play during a 1972 playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Tatum's hitting style was well recognized in the 1970s, and his New York Times obituary stated Tatum was a "symbol of a violent game".

John Fuqua

John William "Frenchy" Fuqua (born September 12, 1947) is a retired professional American football running back who played from 1969 to 1976, for the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL) and the New York Stars of the World Football League (WFL).

Pat Harder

Marlin Martin “Pat” Harder (May 6, 1922 – September 6, 1992) was an American football player, playing fullback and kicker. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993.

Raiders–Steelers rivalry

The Raiders–Steelers rivalry is an NFL rivalry between the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers of the American Football Conference (AFC). The historically bitter rivalry started with the Steelers' first playoff win over the Raiders by way of Franco Harris's Immaculate Reception on December 23, 1972. The two teams met in the playoffs for five consecutive seasons (1972–76). The series was regarded as one of the fiercest rivalries in the history of professional sports, especially in the 1970s. As of the end of the 2018 season, Oakland is one of three AFC teams with a winning overall record against Pittsburgh (the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars are the other two).

Ricky's Sports Theatre and Grill

Ricky's Sports Theatre and Grill is an Oakland Raiders themed sports bar located in San Leandro, California.Ricky's opened in 1946 as a steakhouse and has since become famous for being rated the number two best sports bar in America according to Sports Illustrated and the number twelve best sports bar in America according to CNN.In July 2018, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden held a fan appreciation event at Ricky's that was attended by over 500 fans and featured Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, Raiders team owner Mark Davis and several Raiders legends.

Ronnie Shanklin

Ronnie Shanklin (January 21, 1948 — April 17, 2003) was a professional American football player who played wide receiver for six seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Bears. He also played football at the University of North Texas.

He was a member of the 1974 Steelers squad that defeated he Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX. He was also a part of the 1972 Steelers team that defeated the Oakland Raiders in the Immaculate Reception play off game (their first ever post-season appearance) and the 1973 Steelers that lost to the Raiders in the first round of the playoffs.

1st Touchdown pass that Terry Bradshaw ever threw in the NFL 67 yards.

The Chief (play)

The Chief is a 2003 biographical one-man play about the Pittsburgh Steelers' founder and owner Art Rooney (1901–1988). The Pittsburgh Public Theater show has had several revivals since its inauguration, with each production performed by Pittsburgh native Tom Atkins.

Three Rivers Stadium

Three Rivers Stadium was a multi-purpose stadium located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from 1970 to 2000. It was home to the Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL).

Built as a replacement for Forbes Field, which opened in 1909, the US$55 million ($375.8 million today) multi-purpose facility was designed to maximize efficiency. Ground was broken in April 1968 and an oft behind-schedule construction plan lasted for 29 months. The stadium opened on July 16, 1970, when the Pirates played their first game there. In the 1971 World Series, Three Rivers Stadium hosted the first World Series game played at night. The following year, the stadium was the site of the Immaculate Reception. The final game in the stadium was won by the Steelers on December 16, 2000. Three Rivers Stadium also hosted the Pittsburgh Maulers of the United States Football League and the University of Pittsburgh Panthers football team for a single season each.After its closing, Three Rivers Stadium was imploded in 2001, and the Pittsburgh Pirates and Pittsburgh Steelers moved into newly built stadiums: PNC Park and Heinz Field, respectively.

Game information
Key personnel
Wild card berths (6)
Division championships (15)
Conference championships (4)
League championships (4)
Current league affiliations
Former league affiliation
Seasons (60)
Division championships (23)
Conference championships (8)
League championships (6)
Retired numbers
Hall of Fame members
Current league affiliations
Seasons (87)
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NFL Championship
AFL Championship
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