Time For “The Catch,” Tampa Style

June 6th, 2018


Yes, I was there.

It was a brisk 43 degrees at Candlestick Park on Jan. 10, 1982, when the 49ers and Cowboys met in the NFC Championship Game. In later years, this matchup was celebrated for “The Catch,” a six-yard TD reception by Dwight Clark in the final minute that lifted San Francisco to a 28-27 triumph and ultimately triggered a dynasty.

Clark passed away Monday at the age of 61 after battling ALS. The pro football world paid tribute to a clutch receiver who will forever be immortalized for snaring Joe Montana’s arching pass in the back right corner of the end zone, despite being double-teamed.

As a young NFL reporter with United Press International, I was jubilant that the company sent me from New York to San Francisco for the big game. The idea that I was going to write the lede rather than a sidebar thrilled me, but the local 49ers scribe understandably wasn’t so happy.

Joe Sargis was a veteran sports writer who covered all of the team’s home games for years. Here I was, intruding on his turf.

Hey Joe, it wasn’t my call.

Judging Winston-Evans

The game more than lived up to its billing, launching the 49ers into the Super Bowl and the first of four championships within a nine-year span. The first two of those titles came before Jerry Rice came aboard in 1985, as Clark and Montana developed rare chemistry.

Using his big body to shield off defenders, Clark was at his best when it counted most. In nine playoff games, he caught 48 passes for 726 yards, including four 100-yard efforts.

It’s fair for Buc fans to wonder if Jameis Winston and Mike Evans will ever be linked like those two 49ers. Montana and Clark both had only two NFL years behind them before San Francisco turned in a 13-3 slate in 1981.

That season included a 45-14 laugher against Dallas three months before the conference title rematch, yet the Cowboys were favored by three points at Candlestick that chilly afternoon.

I realize Evans has reached the 1,000-yard mark in each of his first four NFL seasons, but I also know he caught only five TD passes in 2017.

Only 15 of the 71 balls caught by Evans came on third down, tying him with Charles Sims for third on the Bucs behind Cameron Brate (22) and Adam Humphries (17).

Time For A Breakthrough

Evans won’t make the NFL’s Top 100 list this year, voted on by the players, and that insult has to change this fall if the Bucs hope to play meaningful games in December.

Let’s not talk about Montana and Winston in the same sentence, but Evans has to be the Dwight Clark of 1981, a big rangy target who catches clutch passes — even with defenders draped all over him.

It’s easy to forget in the wake of “The Catch,” but the 49ers overcame six turnovers that day. Everson Walls picked off two Montana passes, but when the game was on the line, Clark beat Walls across the back line and leaped into NFL lore.

Now, it’s Evans’ turn to step up for a franchise seeking respect.

Can’t you see that winning TD pass from Winston to Evans in the season opener at the Superdome?

It’s time for “The Catch,” Tampa style.

Ira Kaufman is the most revered sports personality and writer in town. He has hung his hat at JoeBucsFan.com world headquarters since July 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also hear Ira on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio Wednesdays during football season, and see him now on Mondays at 10:30 p.m. on Spectrum Sports 360 (aka BayNews 9). Ira also is part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday show and enjoys beet salads, Riesling, Chiefs victories and needling Joe.

20 Responses to “Time For “The Catch,” Tampa Style”

  1. DB55 Says:

    It’s easy to forget in the wake of “The Catch,” but the 49ers overcame six turnovers that day. Everson Walls picked off two Montana passes,
    But it been repeated over and over again that you can’t win games when you turn the ball over.

    2 INTs in the same game? That must be one garbage qb.


    So Montana’s first P.O. game came in his 4th year on a “lucky” play? Say it ain’t so.

  2. gilhealy Says:

    C’mon DB, that’s too factual. No need for that on this blog. Those picks weren’t his fault. LOL.

  3. ndog Says:

    DB55 you beat me to it, my thoughts exactly!!!!!!!

  4. 813bucboi Says:

    maybe Montana was “trying to hard”…..


  5. AlteredEgo Says:

    Montana’s heroics were darts…not 50/50 alley opps….

  6. William Walls Says:

    Nice one, 813!

  7. Buc50 Says:

    Breaking Dallas’ heart like that made me an instant fan. Montana is still the GOAT.

  8. SB Says:

    Was talking Fantasy with some cats on another site and they were talking TEs. Got me to looking it up. Jameis threw 6 TDs to Brate and 6TDs to Howard. He only threw 19 TDs and 12 were to TEs………..Hmmmmmm

  9. Gambelero Says:

    So, the Bucs are at 7.5 over 130 in Vegas.For a team that went 5-11, 7.5 anything represents a great vote of confidence from the people who let their money talk for them. Only teams with better turnaround expectations are the Packers and Texans, teams getting injured top tier QBs back.

    Our trade partner, Buffalo, is at 6 under 130. For a team that went 9-7, made the playoffs and plays four games against Miami and the NYJs this year, 6 under 130 is a huge slap in the face. Same thing for The Jags at 8 ov125. They were one play from the Super Bowl, have all their players coming back healthy and have the number one defense. Even within Luck and Watson heathy, 8 seems like an indictment of their off season moves.

  10. Dooshlarue Says:

    Just curious, how many fumbles did Montana have that game…. or for the season for that matter?
    Montana also possessed something you JW fan boys refuse to see.

    Plain and simple.

    I hope Jameis gets his head right soon, I really do, but you guys comparing him to Montana are ridiculous.
    I know, mention the soiled Messiah’s stats and take your pick of great QBs to compare him to and call the rest of us idiots for not believing…… but the way JW goes about getting his stats just ain’t the same.
    He has a sloppy style, he can’t lead a receiver and my biggest gripe… he can’t hold on to the ball.
    Interceptions I can handle to a certain extent, but the fumbles are just ludicrous.

  11. BringBucsBack Says:

    I believe that I still have this full game on VHS. People remember this game for “the catch” but, I believe there was still time on the clock and the 9ers still had to come up with a defensive stop against a great O. …Ya hear that Smitty?

  12. donuts Says:

    The only thing different between Winston and Montana is WINS and ACCURACY!

    Montana had 65% throwing percentage something Winston has yet to achieve.

    Wins don’t mean much to the Jaboofanclub on here just passing yard records! Montana had 13 wins in his first full season as the starting QB. Here comes the blame it on the team excuses…

  13. SB Says:

    You are correct BringBucsBack!

  14. Stanglassman Says:

    Just to point a fact Jameis 2017 throwing % was 63.8. Montana career percentage throwing was 63.2.
    You are correct Montana one of the goat Qbs on one of the Goat teams with oone of the Goat coaches did win more games his 3rd season in the NFL.

    Great point.

  15. BoJim Says:

    Jameis needs to step up. Not so much Evans.

  16. Bucnjim Says:

    Well you have players like our nemesis Steve Smith from the Panthers. At 5’9″ he would run through, around, and over other teams for additional yardage. Tough as nails and I can’t stand the Panthers! Fact is like I have said before this is something you can’t teach. Now the 2018 Bucs have a tough core of players I’m looking forward watching instead of the finesse we’ve seen for the past decade or so.

  17. Bucnjim Says:

    Also not sure if you meant the insult was Evans play last year or that players in the NFL deemed him not worthy of a top 100 position.

  18. Bucaturd09 Says:

    Why can I not post it has about posses me so bad off tonight I’m never coming to this website again and I have been A regular for years! Iv never wanted to post until now

  19. Mike Johnson Says:

    NAHhh, it ain’t time for the catch, A hope, A wish, A dream..Its time for the Bucs to wake up..and smell the GD Coffee!! We got to play Defense. Yes, Jameis makes mistakes. But our offense has//..Does give us a chance for survival eveey Sunday. But where has the Defense been Ira? Huh?!! Paging..Pressbox Smitty? Please come down out of your pressbox and coach your Defense on the Field!! You SIR..are PITFULL!!!!!!!! (I want to add more exclamations) And Ira..Im callin YOU and the rest of the Buc Media OUT..Thats right. You should be DEMANDING..DC Smith be on the field. After all, His binocular viewing for a better view? How has that Worked!!!!!!!!!! Change the..Buc Way!

  20. Nick2 Says:

    We do need “a catch” but I am not of the mind that it has to be Evans although that would be the logical pick. Chris Godwin made “the catch” at the end of last year and I really dont care who makes this one. It has to be a defining moment to win a game against a division nemesis thats for sure. We are so loaded at receiver that I really dont care who makes it. I am of the mindset that Ronald Jones and what he brings is going to open things wide open for Jameis. We had such a terrible running game last year it was just Jameis pass, pass, pass. We are ready now lets get it done.