Peyton Manning is one of the greatest and most famous football players of all-time. He has hosted Saturday Night Live, appeared in countless commercials and, oh yeah, won a couple of Super Bowls. Now, he’s hosting his own series on ESPN+.
Peyton’s Places follows the NFL great around the country as he explores the history of the National Football League, one piece at a time. The 24th episode is titled “The Immaculate Reception,” and it breaks down every aspect of one of the most famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask) plays in the history of the NFL.
The episode opens with Peyton visiting Pittsburgh International Airport, which is home to a statue of George Washington next to a statue of Franco Harris as he was executing the Immaculate Reception. Peyton makes jokes about how one is “the father of our country” and the other is “a guy who caught a football.” In true Peyton fashion, he keeps that joke going for a bit too long to the point where it gets corny, but in a fun way. He completely won me back over with “this man is on Mt. Rushmore, this man did rush more.”
We then get to a dark room where Peyton is pouring over one of those serial killer-hunting cork boards with string linking one photo to another. Peyton loves make these things overly dramatic. He then starts getting into the footage of the play and this is where football fans and historians will really get into it. Peyton breaks down every angle of the play and discusses every potential issue with it, regarding whether or not it should have counted. Im familiar with the Immaculate Reception, as most football fans are, but I still learned quite a bit about it in this segment alone.
Peyton is then joined by former Steelers halfback Rocky Bleier as he tries to uncover more details about the play. Bleier tells the amusing story of how, despite being on the sideline at the time, he missed one of the biggest plays in the history of football because he flinched and looked away.
Peyton then tracks down what is said to be the actual ball from that game, which is now in the possession of a fan who fought his way on to the field like so many others and wrestled it away from other fans at the end of the game. He now has it locked in a safe, which he opened up to allow Peyton to see and actually touch. In the cringe moment of the episode, the fan actually asks Peyton is he was right- or left-handed. Luckily, Peyton saves the moment when he jokingly replies “I was amphibious.”
After some more intense film studying, Peyton flies out to the Rose Bowl where he is joined by several of the players that were on the field for this play: Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, running back Frenchy Fuqua, Raiders linebacker Phil Villapiano and of course Harris.
This is one of those really cool moments this show tends to create. Four players reunite to discuss an incredible play that took place almost 50 years ago. It’s very entertaining because even though there’s still some resistance and resentment from Villapiano, it’s clear these guys have bonded over the play over the years.
Peyton even brings out some stunt doubles for the retired players and they try several times to recreate the play. Sadly, something that magical (or maybe impossible?) can’t be done more than once.
This was another great episode of Peyton’s Places. I’ll admit, I was skeptical of an entire episode being dedicated to one play, especially with that play being tied to the Pittsburgh Steelers (a team I would love to see never win another game). As I said though, there was much more to this play than I had ever known and it was fun to see it broken down in detail.
The first 24 episodes of Peyton’s Places are available now on ESPN+. Fans can subscribe to ESPN+ for just $4.99 a month (or $49.99 per year) and can cancel at any time.