Was the Reception actually Immaculate?


Was the Reception actually Immaculate?

ALAMEDA -- To a more recent vintage of Raiders fan, the world turned upside down in the snow of New England and, really, shame on you if you utter the words "Tuck Rule" in the streets of Silver and Blackdom.

But for the veteran denizens of Raider Nation, another utterance gets their blood boiling just as quickly…even if it is fast approaching its 40th birthday.

The Immaculate Reception.

Take a breath. Count to three. Ready now? OK, then checking out today's premiere of the NFL Network's "A Football Life: The Immaculate Reception" at 5 p.m. PT will only peel off certain silver and black scabs but in a wildly entertaining documentary, it might be worth it. After all, 40 years is 40 years, right?

You all know the story -- at least, you should if it still gets you riled up -- as there were 22 seconds left in an AFC divisional playoff game at Three Rivers Stadium on Dec. 23, 1972. The Raiders led, 7-6, and the Steelers were facing 4th-and-10 at their own 40-yard line.

Terry Bradshaw dropped back to pass and after barely eluding defensive ends Horace Jones and Tony Cline, Bradshaw threw a laser from his own 30-yard line down field toward Frenchy Fuqua. A collision ensued -- between Fuqua, Jack Tatum and, presumably, the ball -- at the Oakland 35-yard line and the ball bounded back towards the line of scrimmage.

Jimmy Warren jumped up briefly in celebration before realizing that an oncoming Franco Harris had the ball and Warren gave chase. Warren caught up to Harris at about the 10-yard line before being shrugged off as Harris crossed the goal line with five seconds to play.

As the documentary explains, it's "the story of a play that's lived a life of its own.

"The Immaculate Reception is a myth. A miracle. A cottage industry. A conspiracy. A crime. And, a detective story."

No doubt. The film of the play has been called "The Zapruder Film of sports," and for good reason. Mostly because everyone loves a good conspiracy.

"If you could have packaged all that anger and frustration," offers Raymond Chester, "it probably would have been nuclear."

In fact, four conspiracy theories have arisen from the ashes of the play, which has taken on religious overtones in the Steel City, while being referred to as the Immaculate DE-ception by the Raiders.

The four conspiracies investigated:

* The Fuqua Theory, as in, did Fuqua touch the ball? If he did, the play, under NFL rule 7, Section 5, Article 2, Item 1, would have been an incompletion.

"The question: Frenchy, did you touch the ball?" Fuqua says in the documentary, followed by a seven-second pregnant pause. "Maybe. Maybe not."

Andy Russell says in the documentary Fuqua told reporters that day the ball bounced off his chest.

"I knew that that's not the right answer," Russell says. "I grabbed him, and I said said, 'Frenchy, no, what you meant to say was…"

* The Trap Theory, as in Harris trapped the ball off the Riverfront turf.

"I can't say," Harris says.

Added Bradshaw: "More than likely, because Franco doesn't speak, he probably trapped it on the ground."

* The Riot Theory, as in, with the crowd having already flooded the field, the referees were not going to rule it a non-touchdown.

"(Ref Fred) Swearingen had a problem," says Phil Villapiano. "I think, if he would have ever reversed that call, that man might have died. And all the other officials too."

* The Clip Theory, as in Villapiano claims he was clipped by John McMakin on Harris' run.

"We totally got screwed," Villapiano vents. "I was definitely clipped…if it wasn't for that clip, I think I make that play and we have no Immaculate Reception."

McMakin, though, calls his block the "Magnificent Obstruction."

Does the documentary then, which enlisted the help of former CIA director General Michael Hayden, solve anything?

Not really. Not even with the film of the play digitally remastered, though, from this vantage point, it appeared as though Fuqua did touch the ball with his left hand before it bounded off Tatum.

Still so incensed over the play, John Madden would not be interviewed for the documentary. Instead, clips of the former Raiders coach from 1986 and 2002 speaking on it are used. As are snippets of the late Al Davis ruminating on the play in 1989.

Bottom line, if you think it was a clean play before watching the documentary, you'll still believe so. And if you think the Raiders were robbed, you'll be even more convinced now. Especially with George Atkinson's passionate takes.

"That play, if you're a Steeler fan, you believe in it," Fuqua says. "If you're a sinner, like them damn Raiders, you'll never accept it. So it's almost like the Bible, a myth to some and a faith to others."

Now, about that Rob Lytle fumble...

Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain


Injury report: CB Sean Smith questionable; Washington TE Reed's status uncertain

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Raiders are remarkably healthy heading into Sunday night’s game against the Washington football club.

The entire 53-man roster practiced fully on Friday, before heading to the nation’s capital.

That includes veteran cornerback Sean Smith, who missed the previous game with a neck injury. A shoulder ailment cropped up during the week, which prompted the Raiders to label him questionable heading into Week 3. Smith’s the only Raider on the injury report, and even he’s in decent shape.

“I mean we put it on there because there’s still a little bit of a question,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “You don’t have probable’s anymore. Given the choices, I just left him that way.”

That means the Raiders are going to have some healthy scratches a week after Smith was the only injured player sitting out.

Washington has some impact players on the mend. That included tight end Jordan Reed, who is questionable with a rib/sternum injury. He stands 6-foot-2, 246 pounds and is the type of receiving tight end that gives the Raiders fits. He has 1,638 yards 17 touchdowns the last two seasons, using good hands and a large frame to create mismatches in the secondary.

It’ll be key for the Raiders to defend him well if he’s active, with Nicholas Morrow as a primary coverage option.

“We’re prepared to face him,” Del Rio said. “We think he’s a good player. We’ll approach it that way and adjust if he doesn’t go.”

Washington also lists starting inside linebacker Mason Foster and running back Rob Kelley as questionable.

Raiders Injury Report
CB Sean Smith (neck/shoulder)

Washington Injury Report

TE Jordan Reed (rib/sternum), LB Mason Foster (shoulder), RB Rob Kelley (rib), S Monate Nicholson (shoulder), CB Josh Norman (shoulder)

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

Karl Joseph living up to first-round billing with early impact for Raiders

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Raiders safety Karl Joseph notched his first career forced fumble in Week 2’s blowout victory over the New York Jets. It came on his first sack, where he bent around a tackle into the pocket and devoured his pray.

Joseph recovered the ball, and the Raiders quickly scored a touchdown. The second-year pro enjoyed that moment, but left the game with regrets.

"I should have definitely had more sacks than I did,” Joseph said. “I feel like I should have had three.”

Joseph had quarterback Josh McCown in the crosshairs three times, and feels like he should’ve finished each one. The game plan provided opportunity. Joseph blitzed six times – fellow safety Reggie Nelson attacked thrice – and pressured the quarterback four times.

It was a relatively new responsibility, considering he blitzed nine times all last year. Joseph will be first to say he was a different player then. He was less explosive, more tentative and a smidge less confident, lingering effects from an ACL tear during his final college season. Joseph was cleared to play as a rookie but wasn’t all the way back, doubly hampered by missing an offseason program where rookies grow quick.

"I wasn’t completely myself,” Joseph said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports California. “I feel a lot more like myself this year. I obviously feel better physically, and the year of experience in the system has definitely helped. So has adjusting to the NFL life. That’s been an easier transition for me.”

Joseph is playing more like his highlight reel from West Virginia, where he proved a heavy hitter and a solid cover man worthy of last year’s No. 14 overall draft pick. The Jets game isn’t the only evidence of that.

Joseph had an excellent training camp, flashing an aggressive style and solid timing making plays in practice. That translated to the regular-season opener at Tennessee, when he saved a touchdown on consecutive plays. The first came on an open-field tackle. The second was a leaping pass breakup in the end zone, proof positive that Joseph was ready to make a big impact.

"He’s really good close to the line of scrimmage,” defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. "He’s a really good tackler in the open field. He also plays well on the back end. I think his development is right on time right now.”

The Raiders recognize that, and are using him like a queen on the chessboard. He can move back or forward, as an attacker or the last line of defense. He’s a rover at times, with an ability to create havoc at all levels of the defense.

Joseph is an excellent fit for the defensive scheme, bring a tone-setting physicality to the secondary. He is learning, as part of his development, that the nuclear option isn’t always best. There are times when it is, and Joseph enters those scenarios without fear.

"You can’t play worried about getting hurt. That’s not the way I play,” Joseph said. “It’s about being smart. I had to adjust my game coming into the NFL. Every hit can’t be a big hit. Sometimes you have to be smart and just wrap people up, but you can’t ever play scared.”

He isn’t afraid to take risks or attack when asked, and is already making a major impact on this year’s defense. That isn’t a surprise. It’s expected of first-round picks.

"That’s what he’s supposed to do. He’s supposed to make plays,” head coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s a guy we selected because we thought he’d be a guy that could come in and impact on our defense. In the first two games of this year he’s played well. There are still things, like I tell you all the time, that have cleaning up to do, work to do, things to improve on, but he’s off to a good start and obviously it follows up from a good offseason. Healthy, a lot of good work and confidence that he’s gaining as we go.”