Today Promises to Be the Best Football Day of the Year

The photograph above is of The Catch, often referred to as the greatest moment in 49ers history. Joe Montana passed to Dwight Clark, who made an incredible catch in the back of the end zone. To win a Super Bowl? No, a conference title and a chance to participate in the Super Bowl, which the Dallas Cowboys got to watch on TV.

There were some claims that Montana was trying to throw the ball away, to leave time for a fourth down. Clark disputes that, claiming that it was a backup plan, practiced many times. Montana said that he could not see the end zone through the defenders, but claims that he knew exactly where Clark would be. Bill Walsh, the 49ers coach, assumed that it was a play that did not work and immediately began planning for the fourth down until he heard the cheers from the crowd.

Regarding the height of the catch, Montana has said that he didn’t feel that he threw the ball very high. Clark leaped as high as he could, however, only to get his fingertips on the ball. In a later Sports Illustrated article, Montana explained that he never saw The Catch since he had just been knocked to the ground, but “I saw Dwight’s feet touch the ground. I heard the crowd scream.” In the locker room, he expressed amazement at how high Clark had jumped.

The 49ers won 28–27 and went on to win Super Bowl XVI 26-21 over the Cincinnati Bengals and establish a minor football dynasty.

Ever since the merger of the old NFL with the AFL, these Conference Championships seem to produce better games than the Super Bowl. This isn’t just my opinion. Jason Logan does a good job of explaining why in “Six ways NFL Championship Sunday is better than Super Bowl Sunday.” Here’s the link: NFL Championship Sunday

This year promises to continue the tradition of the best Sunday in football. The NFC Championship Game features what most experts agree are the two best teams in the conference. While some argue that the Steelers, when healthy, are a better team than the Broncos, it should be fun to watch an elite defense take on the defending Super Bowl champs, led by perhaps the greatest quarterback in NFL history, Tom Brady. Versus Peyton Manning, no less, and the Patriots are favored to win. Brady is 11-5 against Manning-led teams, but he’s lost two of the three AFC title bouts played between these two legends. They kick off at 3:05 p.m. Eastern Time in Denver, a home venue that keeps the spread against the Broncos down to a field goal.

Maybe Carson Palmer versus Cam Newton doesn’t carry the same juice as Brady vs. Manning, but many believe that whoever wins this game will also win the Super Bowl. The oddsmakers have home team Carolina winning this, but also only by a field goal, so expect two close games. The second game kicks off at 6:40 Eastern.