The Immaculate Reception

It was 40 years ago today. I still feel the pain.

It was a divisional playoff between the Oakland Raiders and the Pittsburgh Steelers. A few seconds left …

Harris, who was simply trailing the play, scooped up the ball (which had bounced 24 feet) and scored with 5 seconds remaining. It was the first playoff victory in the history of the Pittsburgh franchise and it began their glory days.

But the question was, did the ball bounce off Frenchy Fuqua, the Steelers intended receiver, or did it bounce off Jack Tatum, the Raiders defender. If Fuqua, it’s incomplete. Offensive deflections were not legal receptions at the time. If Tatum, or if both, then the completion is good. It took several minutes for the officials to decide.

And to this day no one is sure except Raiders fans and Steelers fans.

NFL Films calls it the greatest play in NFL history. For fans it was one of those indelible events that causes you to remember right where you were when it happened — driving on I-5 between L.A. and San Diego on the way from Oakland to Tucson for Christmas.

The rule was changed in 1978 to make passes deflected by any player legal.