“How’d he catch that ball?” was what so many people were wondering after wide receiver David Tyree came down with the football pressed against his helmet in the drive that gave the New York Giants a 17-14 victory over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
In the next Spike Lee Lil’ Joint for ESPN Films, “The Greatest Catch Ever,” Tyree, coach Tom Coughlin, quarterback Eli Manning, Patriots safety Rodney Harrison and others break down the now-famous play and reflect on the unforgettable game.
ESPN NFL analyst Antonio Pierce still vividly remembers the moment as well, and Front Row caught up with him before the film’s debut.
What do you recall from that play?
I was on the far end of where the offense was coming down the field, focused on Eli because the Patriots were getting close, grabbing him. I remember thinking, “We can’t take a sack right here.” Then, I see Eli break out of a tackle and throw the ball up. At first, I thought it must be to Plax [Plaxico Burress] because of his height and vertical ability. Then I saw David Tyree and I’m like, “Oh my God.”
At the time, I couldn’t tell if he caught the ball, if it was on his head, if [Rodney] Harrison intercepted it because of the angle. Then, on the ground you saw him twist and I was like, “Wow, he held onto it.” I looked again to make sure — there were no flags or that the ref wasn’t blowing the whistle, or Belichick wasn’t going to throw the red flag.
Then I ran to the other end of the field to be behind the offense to watch. I just remember looking at David Tyree and thinking, “How the hell did he catch that ball?” It wasn’t until after the game that I saw the different camera angles of the play.
All these years later, is it still hard to believe the impact of this one play?
The day after when we were on the bus or going to the airport back home, I said to him, “Every year at the Super Bowl they are going to talk about that game and show that one play. Nobody knows how the game started off. Nobody knows who took the opening kickoff, or who threw the first interception or touchdown. They just know about that play and how you made that catch.” I told him he’s a “lifer.” That was a once in lifetime moment.
A portion of “The Greatest Catch Ever” will be shown during Friday Night Movie Night on SportsCenter today during the 6 p.m. ET hour. The 30-minute short film will also air Monday at 11 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and be available on espn.com.