Clemson's winning play stirs memory of 'The Catch'

Clemson's winning play stirs memory of 'The Catch'

The play Dwight Clark made famous as the second man in the progression turns 35 years old on Tuesday.

On Jan. 10, 1982, Clark made “The Catch” – a leaping 6-yard touchdown reception of a Joe Montana pass along the back line of the end zone to send the 49ers to a 28-27 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game at Candlestick Park.

The play propelled the 49ers to their first of five Super Bowl championships over the next decade-and-a-half.

On Monday night, Clark was in Tampa, Florida, to watch his alma mater, Clemson, win its first national championship since 1981.

And with :06 remaining, trailing by three points, the Tigers had one opportunity to beat Alabama in regulation from the 2-yard line.

Clemson calls the play, “Crush.” But in the Bill Walsh playbook it was called, “Sprint right option.” That’s right, Clemson ran the same basic concept to win the title that Walsh called in the 49ers' critical moment 35 years ago against the Cowboys.

Earlier in the NFC Championship Game, Freddie Solomon, the inside receiver on the right side, caught an 8-yard touchdown pass. But on the deciding touchdown, Solomon slipped coming out of his break, Montana waited and waited and waited before lofting a high pass. Clark, who lined up on the outside, ran toward the post, then glided back along the back of the end zone to make himself available for Montana's pass.

On Monday night, Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, while sprinting to his right, went with the first option, Hunter Renfrow, for a 2-yard touchdown pass with :01 remaining for the winning points in a 35-31 upset victory over Alabama. Renfrow was wide open in the front of the end zone after the defender assigned to cover him got tied up in traffic caused by the outside receiver and cornerback.

Immediately after the game, Clark answered a text message that pointed out the similarities of the two historic plays.

“The guy running my route got pushed to the ground,” Clark responded.

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The 49ers-Cowboys NFC Championship game came be watched in its entirety here. The NFL posted the video in September.
 

Report: 49ers free agent ILB signing with rival Seahawks

Report: 49ers free agent ILB signing with rival Seahawks

Michael Wilhoite has spent his whole five-year NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers.

But now the free agent inside linebacker is reportedly switching sides in the NFC West rivalry. Wilhoite is set to sign with the Seattle Seahawks, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. 

Terms of the deal are unknown at this time. 

Wilhoite, 30, played in all 16 games last season for the 49ers, starting in only six. In 2016 he recorded 55 tackles, 30 less than 2015 in four less games, and forced one fumble. 

After earning a promotion from the 49ers' practice squad in 2012, Wilhoite's career in the Bay Area comes to an end with 268 tackles and three interceptions in 65 games. 

NFL owners mull cutting regular-season OT to 10 minutes

NFL owners mull cutting regular-season OT to 10 minutes

NEW YORK -- NFL owners will consider proposals next week to cut regular-season overtime from 15 minutes to 10; eliminate players leaping over the line on kick plays; and expansion of coaches' challenges and what can be reviewed by officials.

In what promises to be a busy annual meeting next week in Phoenix that will include discussing the Raiders' potential relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas, the 32 owners also will vote on changing the mechanics on replay reviews and other items intended to reduce downtime during games.

The Eagles proposed four rules changes, including abolishing the leaping techniques that league football operations director Troy Vincent said Thursday "don't belong in the game."

Seattle and Buffalo co-authored a proposal allowing a coach to challenge any officiating decision, whether a foul is called or not.

"That is a significant change to our current replay rule and it is something that will be on the floor and will be debated next week," NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino said.

Another major change would be the reduction of overtime in-season; the extra period in the playoffs would remain at 15 minutes. The powerful competition committee, of which Vincent and Blandino are members, believed it's a player safety issue, noting that number of snaps for games going to OT - especially deep into the overtime - is excessive. Especially if a team has a quick turnaround.

"We don't know where a team is going to be playing the next week, it could be four days later," said committee chairman Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons. "We felt we should put an end to it. We don't think it will lead to more ties. Could it? It could, but we are not concerned with that."

As for changing the format of overtime to ensure both teams always get a possession - a popular topic after how the Super Bowl ended - Blandino said the league's wants to keep the element of sudden death in the extra period.

The "leaper rule" has taken some priority among competition committee members, the players' union and coaches. Vincent said coaches have begun scheming how to defense it, which can "create a real safety issue."

"It is really in the best interest of the game" to outlaw leaping on kicks," Vincent added.

McKay noted that the NCAA is in the process of passing a similar ban on the technique.

During the meetings that run from Sunday to Wednesday, the teams will be shown plays the competition committee believes should result in suspensions or ejections. Game officials already have had the leeway to eject players, but it rarely has happened; there were three in 2016.

"They don't happen very often, let's give the players credit," McKay said. "We have 40,000 plays in a year. We'll show a tape that will have four or five plays that would warrant suspension. This is not a widespread situation."

Added Vincent, a former NFL defensive back: "When you see the plays, they are catastrophic. We had two players who did not return for the season. They are high-impact plays that belong out of the game. It will be a real point of emphasis this season."