"Clark caught it! Dwight Clark!... It's a madhouse at Candlestick!"
Jan. 10, 1982. NFC Championship. Candlestick Park.
Few plays in football history can be brought to mind with one word. "The Catch" may be the most iconic of them all.
The Dallas Cowboys were "America's Team," and they led the San Francisco 49'ers 27-21 with only 4:54 left to play, and the 49'ers back on their own 11-yard line. Joe Montana managed to drive his team to the Dallas 12-yard line with 1:15 to go. But the he threw incomplete on 1st Down. After a 6-yard run on 2nd Down, the Niners faced 3rd and 3 with the clock at 0:58 and the game and the Super Bowl on the line.
The play called was "Red Left Slot – Sprint Right Option." It called for Clark and the primary receiver, Freddie Solomon, to line up right. Montana was supposed to roll to his right and find Solomon on a quick pass. Clark was supposed to rub Solomon's defender and continue his route.
But after the snap, while Montana rolled right, Solomon slipped, and the 49'ers offensive line collapsed. The Cowboys' Ed "Too Tall" Jones, Larry Bethea and D. D. Lewis chased Montana, who faded backward and threw a pass that looked like it would sail out of the end zone. But Clark came across the back of the end zone, jumping as high as his 6' 4" frame could reach, and made the catch with his fingertips.
San Francisco went on to win the game and the Super Bowl, ending the Cowboys decade-long domination of the NFC, and launching the 49'res dynasty which would go on to win four Super Bowls in the 1980s.