The deflected pass that Pittsburgh Steeler running back Franco Harris miraculously caught for a touchdown and the first playoff victory in his team’s existence has been voted the greatest play in National Football League history.
A nationwide panel of 68 media members gave that 1972 play by Harris 3,270 points and 39 first-place votes. Second was Dwight Clark’s TD catch from Joe Montana that lifted San Francisco past Dallas to win the 1981 NFC championship, although that play got only four first-place votes.
The runner-up in first-place votes among media members was David Tyree’s “Helmet Catch” for the Giants in their upset of the New England Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl.
The poll is part of the NFL’s ongoing celebration of its 100th anniversary.
In the 1972 Harris game, a desperation pass from Terry Bradshaw bounced off Oakland Raider Jack Tatum, seemingly ending the Steelers bid for a win. But Harris was in the right place at the right time, and caught the deflected pass, rumbling into the end zone.
Game officials weren’t initially not sure who deflected the pass. Had it gone off a Steeler, rules would have made it an incomplete pass. But the referees huddled, then ruled it a touchdown. Pittsburgh kicked the extra point for a 13-7 lead with five seconds remaining.