July 29, 2021

Bucs Life

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20th Anniversary of the Bert Emanuel Catch

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The Date: January 23, 2000.
The game: 1999 NFC Championship game
The Location: Trans World Airlines (TWA) Dome St. Louis, MO
St. Louis Rams 11
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 6 Final

Although the St. Louis Rams lead the league in offensive yards and points scored, which led to their historical nickname of “The Greatest Show on Turf” being coined, they faced a team that was known for the most losses in history. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, however, left those losses where they belong, in the past, and became known for something much greater; the Tampa 2 defense.

For fans and organization, it was a long-awaited trip to the NFC Championship, who coincidentally made last made their last appearance 20 seasons ago against the same team, although then called the Los Angeles Rams in the sold-out Tampa Stadium losing 9-0. Payback was on the minds of every Tampa Fan.

Backup quarterback, Shaun King started for the injured and often inconsistent Trent Dilfer, with 5 games remaining in the season and helped continue the Buccaneers to an 11-5 record, which surpassed the 1979 team’s record by one win, winning 4 out of the last five games of that season.

Today, marks the 20th Anniversary of the Bert Emanuel catch. Needless to say, unless you have been living under a rock, the Emannuel catch rocked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and fans to their very core.

Late in the NFC Championship Game, the Buccaneers were getting close to Rams Red Zone when quarterback Shaun King threw a pass to wide receiver Bert Emanuel. That’s when everything got tricky. As the NFL’s instant replay was in its infancy, many results were pretty bad, but this particular one changed the course of NFL history forever. The pass was caught, so everyone believed, and by everyone, I mean the fans in the stadium, the players on the field, the coaches for both teams, John Madden and Patt Summerall, but much to the surprise of everyone, the referees were reviewing the play.

The pass was a 13-yard connection to Bert Emanuel to the 22-yard line, which would have resulted in moving the chains. I can still hear John Madden’s words during the referee review as they echo through my soul, “Yeah that’s good, nothing wrong there, I don’t think you can take that away from him.”

Despite the referees initially calling the ruling the pass complete, after reviewing the play and suspecting that the nose of the ball touched the Astroturf before Emanuel had full possession of the ball, head referee, Bill Carollo determined that the play was incomplete and ended the Buccaneers’ potential game-winning drive. This situation changed the way the NFL looks at catches during reviews, as it was later determined that although it does look like the nose did touch the turf, Emanuel had full control of the football, and it was a catch which is called the Bert Emanuel Rule.

The Rams went on to win the game and went on to win Super Bowl XXXIV. The rest is history.  – Written By Erik Riggs