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Celebrating the 36th anniversary of The Catch

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On this date 36 years ago, the most iconic play in San Francisco 49ers history went down. On January 10, 1982, Bill Walsh called Sprint Right Option as the 49ers trailed the Dallas Cowboys 27-21 in the fourth quarter of the 1982 NFC Championship Game. Joe Montana took the snap and rolled right. He kept rolling and rolling, and eventually threw off his back foot, finding Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone.

The 49ers worked with Vin Scully to make the video above to celebrate The Catch. Additionally, you can watch the full game video thanks to the NFL posting it on YouTube.

The Catch is the most notable aspect of the game, but it would have been all for naught, if not for a couple huge plays on the ensuing Cowboys drive. The 49ers scored the game-winning touchdown with 51 seconds left. The Cowboys got the ball back at their own 25 yard line with 47 seconds left.

The first play of the drive, quarterback Danny White found Drew Pearson over the middle for 31 yards, and rookie cornerback Eric Wright just barely took him down. It was actually a horse collar tackle, but that was not illegal at the time. If Wright did not get hold of Pearson, he was going to take it to the house.

On the next play, Lawrence Pillars sacked White and forced a fumble, recovered by Jim Stuckey. Joe Montana took a knee, and the 49ers were headed to their first Super Bowl. If you get a minute, Eric Branch put together a great feature on that huge Wright tackle. He spoke with all the key parties in that play, including Wright, Pearson, and White, as well as then 49ers defensive backs coach George Seifert. It’s a great read.

It’s hard not to consider a notable similarity from back then to now. The 49ers entered the 1981 season having gone 6-10 in 1980, and 2-14 in 1979. This year’s 49ers went 6-10 a year after going 2-14. One big difference is that Bill Walsh was coach for both the 1979 and 1980 seasons, while this year’s team was Kyle Shanahan’s first season, replacing Chip Kelly. But the similarity is still at least a little bit interesting as the 49ers head into an offseason with as much momentum and optimism as we have seen in several years.