The San Francisco 49ers ruled the 1980s with eight seasons of 10-plus wins and a perfect 4-0 record in Super Bowl appearances. The remarkable run of success is marked by a handful of plays, none more recognizable than "The Catch", one of the most memorable plays in NFL history.
It's the NFC Championship game, January 10, 1982, against the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas has the lead 27-21, but Joe Montana has the ball for a potential game-winning drive. The clock is winding down. Third-and-3 at the Dallas six-yard line. Just under a minute left.
Ed "Too Tall" Jones and the Dallas front chases Montana out of the pocket, and Montana's main option, Freddie Solomon, is perfectly covered. Montana retreats to the sideline and launches the ball high toward the back of the end zone on a play that head coach Bill Walsh believed was a throwaway. He was already preparing for fourth down options. Suddenly Dwight Clark leaps and this happens:
Joe Cool was born.
Elbert L. Woods had a short NFL career, but the man known as Ickey Woods lives on in our hearts thanks to his signature touchdown dance: the Ickey Shuffle. The former Cincinnati Bengals fullback grabbed plenty of attention after a stellar rookie season with 15 rushing touchdowns in 1988 (and another three touchdowns during the Bengals' Super Bowl run). Unfortunately, a torn ACL and subsequent knee injury knocked him out of football after only four seasons. The Shuffle, however, lives on.
Check out Darrell Waltrip doing the Ickey Shuffle after winning the 1989 Daytona 500:
LT breaks Theismann
Lawrence Taylor stood with his hands on his helmet for a second before waving for help. It's that stance that says it all. Perhaps the most dominant defender in the NFL sacked dozens of quarterbacks in his career, but this tackle on Joe Theismann is the most memorable. It's also the most gruesome.
Theismann, Washington's longtime quarterback, had just received the ball back from running back John Riggins on a flea flicker that met the New York Giants blitz head-on. After escaping Harry Carson's grasp, Taylor jumps and awkwardly pulls down Theismann. It was a shocking play that resulted in a career-ending compound fracture for Theismann and one of the most ghastly plays ever seen in NFL history. Of course we'd share it.
Montana to Taylor
The NFL's best player of the 1980s deserves two spots on this shareable list, because Twitter would have been alive with Vines and GIFs of Joe Montana's touchdown throw to John Taylor with 38 seconds left in Super Bowl XXIII. If not for The Catch, this touchdown pass to Taylor at the end of a long drive would likely be known as Montana's finest moment.
The final drive went the length of the field in 11 plays, and Montana completed eight of nine on the drive. He'd already hit Jerry Rice with completions of 27, 17, and seven yards on this final possession, so it made sense for the Bengals to sit on Rice as he went in motion. John Taylor hadn't caught a single pass for all four quarters. It created the perfect decoy and Montana found his man for a 10-yard touchdown and third Super Bowl victory in as many tries.
49ers head coach Bill Walsh said after the game, "There's only one thing to say about Joe Montana. He's the best there is and the best there ever was. Period."
Fridge scores/Super Bowl Shuffle
The Niners may own the decade, but the Chicago Bears Super Bowl victory might be the most memorable of all. The team's dominance of the New England Patriots in a 46-10 win in Super Bowl XX was just the tip of an iceberg that also included the unforgettable touchdown run by defensive lineman William "Refridgerator" Perry and the subsequent Super Bowl Shuffle.
We are the Bears Shufflin' Crew
Shufflin' on down, doin' it for you.
We're so bad we know we're good.
Blowin' your mind like we knew we would.
Let's give Cleveland their moment. They deserve their time in the spotlight in recent weeks with the arrival of LeBron James and Johnny Manziel in town. Cleveland is once again a relevant sports town.
Of course this is all before LeBron takes the court or Manziel takes the field. While the Cavs seem destined for success, Browns fans will have to see it to believe it given the team's depressing history. They've had only three winning seasons since 1990, and even their successful seasons in the '80s came with moments like The Fumble, the most heartbreaking play in team history.
The Browns are on the road and on the ropes at Mile High Stadium in the AFC Championship game against the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are up by a single touchdown, and the Browns are driving down field once again. Once up 21-3, Bernie Kosar had ralled the Browns back for what seemed to be one of the NFL's greatest comebacks of all time. At the eight-yard line, running back Earnest Byner has his name called. Then this happened.
The Browns enjoyed a strong run of success that included five straight playoff appearances in the late '80s, but this is the only lasting memory for most NFL fans from those days.