SportsPulse: The NFL turns 100. Will it actually survive to reach 200? We take a deep dive into the state of the league and the challenges that could derail the NFL as the undisputed king of American sports.
USA TODAYThis is the NFL’s 100th season, and to celebrate, the league has launched a new series called the “NFL 100 Greatest.” First up was the 100 greatest plays, a two-part series from NFL Films that concluded Friday night on NFL Network. The list was compiled by 80 people selected by the Associated Press and NFL Media. Their conclusion? The “Immaculate Reception” is the greatest play in NFL history. For the few unfamiliar: The “Immaculate Reception” was a play made by Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris at the end of a 1972 divisional round playoff game against the Oakland Raiders at Three Rivers Stadium. Facing fourth down shortly after Ken Stabler put the Raiders ahead with a late scramble for a TD, Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw fired a pass over the middle that deflected off Raiders DB Jack Tatum – at least that’s what the refs ruled, as there was a rule at the time that would have nullified the play had the ball only hit the Steelers’ John Fuqua, who was leveled by Tatum on the play – and ricocheted several yards back up the field. Harris grabbed the ball out of the air and raced up the sidelines, giving the Steelers the game-winning touchdown. The “Immaculate Reception” represented a sort of beginning to the magical stretch of four @SuperBowl titles in six years that would cement the 1970s @Steelers as one of the NFL’s great dynasties. #NFL100https://t.co/1flZy6zktD— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) September 21, 2019It was the Steelers’ first playoff win in what was then their 39th year of existence. They would go on to win four Super Bowls later in the decade, and currently have six Lombardi Trophies (tied with the Patriots for the most) and sit second behind the Pats with 36 total playoff victories. Franco Harris eludes a tackle by the Oakland Raiders’ Jimmy Warren to complete the “Immaculate Reception” in 1972. (Photo: Harry Cabluck, AP)The No. 2 play as voted by the panel was “The Catch,” the Joe Montana to Dwight Clark connection in the 1981 NFC Championship Game that sent the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl for the first time. Two weekends later, the @49ers won their first @SuperBowl – the first of five titles during a late 20th century dynasty. #NFL100https://t.co/0MpXcOkyH0— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) September 21, 2019Similar to the “Immaculate Reception,” this was seen as a historical turning point as the balance of power in the NFC was perceived as having transferred from the Cowboys to the 49ers for the duration of the 1980s.No. 3 on the list was “The Helmet Catch,” New York Giants WR David Tyree’s remarkable grab against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. The @Giants, who had lost six games during the season and entered the @SuperBowl as 12-point underdogs, scored a touchdown four plays later and won, 17-14, denying the Patriots from a perfect record and 4th Super Bowl title in seven years. #NFL100https://t.co/gVhux7OEQu— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) September 21, 2019It helped set up the Giants’ game-winning touchdown that prevented the Patriots from a perfect 19-0 record. The rest of the list, which features plenty of other iconic, named plays, can be found here. AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext Slide