Another 49ers NFC Championship Game and "The Catch"

QB Joe Montana exits the field at Candlestick after "The Catch" Copyright 2014 by Al Francis.
QB Joe Montana exits the field at Candlestick after "The Catch" Copyright 2014 by Al Francis.

Sunday's San Francisco 49ers game against the Seattle Seahawks at 3:30 p.m. for the National Football Conference title is much like another NFC Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys that produced "The Catch."

The 1981 Championship game on Jan. 10, 1982 was in the pouring, cold rain at Candlestick Park.

Many parts of the parking lot were flooded, but that did not prevent fans from coming early and tailgating up until game time for one of the most anticipated NFL rivalry games.

The Cowboys had defeated the 49ers in 1970 and 1971 NFC Championship game and knocked out the 49ers in the playoffs again in 1972.

But, things turned around late in the Dallas game and fans were on their feet, soaked and cold as Joe Montana was about to be knocked out of bounds as he rolled to his right.

But, a split second before he was knocked into the Cowboys sideline, he rifled a pass hard and high toward the end zone. 

Covering the game as a newspaper photographer, I fired off a couple of shots from my end zone spot of Montana either being hit or throwing the ball.

Just as Montana released the ball, someone crossed in front of me and leaped straight up in the air.

I had zoomed my telephoto lens back in time to capture Dwight Clark make a fingertip catch in the back of the end zone -- right in front of me.

What a lot of people don't know about "The Catch" is how high Clark jumped to grab the game winning toss. I kept shooting because the place went wild.

Players were celebrating and fans were screaming. Their vision of going to the Super Bowl was in sight.

But, more excitement was to come as the game clock got closer to zero -- the fans started pouring onto the field. The fans were excited that the 49ers finally sent the Cowboys packing.

The security officers dressed in yellow jackets along with uniformed officers were no match for the hundreds of fans coming onto the field to rejoice.

The San Francisco Mounted Police put their horses next to the goal post to prevent the goal post from being toppled. As I stood near the south end zone taking pictures of fans celebrating, I saw something out of the corner of my eye approaching in a hurry.

Hoping not to be knocked over by a fan or a horse, I looked up and saw a player running for his life for the locker room door located at the south end of the stadium. I pulled up my camera and without having time to focus I fired off one quick frame.

The player's eyes were wide open as he was in a full sprint without any big linemen in front of him. I realized after he passed me that it was the quarterback Joe Montana running for the safe confines of the locker room with fans on his heels.

The fans ripped up every bit of colored grass in the end zones so they can have memories of one of the greatest games in NFL history.

I have this photo and the entire sequence of "The Catch" to help my memory.

Copyright 2014 by Al Francis


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