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List of Hail Mary passes in American football

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In the National Football League, Eli Manning completed a Hail Mary pass in January 2012.

This is a list, ordered by year, of famous Hail Mary plays from collegiate and professional football in the United States.

College football[edit]

Early use of the term "Hail Mary Pass"

  • 1922 — On October 28, 1922, the term "Hail Mary play" was used by Knute Rockne's Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a victory over Georgia Tech. Notre Dame trailed 3–0 in the second half and had been unable to move the ball effectively. Noble Kizer, the one Presbyterian player on the Notre Dame team, stopped play and said to his teammates, "Boys, let's have a Hail Mary." They all prayed, and Elmer Layden scored a touchdown. On the next possession, Kizer said, "Let's have another Hail Mary," and Layden scored another touchdown. After the game, Kizer said, "Say, that Hail Mary is the best play we've got."[1] An account written in 1935 presented a variation on the 1922 "Hail Mary" play as follows:

    "In the huddle the boys were surprised to hear the non-Catholic say: 'C'mon fellows let's have a 'Hail Mary.' The boys said the quick prayer and on the next play Jimmy Crowley dashed 30 yards for a touchdown. Some time later Notre Dame was again stopped and again this non-Catholic called on the boys for a Hail Mary. On the next play Stuhldreher tossed a 25 yard pass to Layden for a score. In between halves this same lad was chuckling to himself. He turned to one of his teammates and said, 'Boy that Hail Mary is a ________ of a play.'"[2]

  • 1935 — On November 2, 1935, Notre Dame faced an undefeated Ohio State team and trailed 13–0 at the start of the fourth quarter. Notre Dame scored two touchdowns to cut Ohio State's lead to 13–12. With less than a minute left in the game, Notre Dame quarterback Andy Pilney ran 30 yards to the Ohio State 19-yard line. Pilney was injured and had to be carried off the field on a stretcher. William Shakespeare (nicknamed the "Merchant of Menace") replaced Pilney. With the clock running out, the ball was snapped to the fullback who handed it to Shakespeare on what appeared to be a reverse. Shakespeare threw a pass into the end zone, which was caught by Wayne Millner on his knees for an 18–13 win. Red Barber, who broadcast the game on radio, later called it "the greatest college football game I ever called."[3] Radio announcer Tom Manning added, "I always said Shakespeare had a pair of rosary beads and a bottle of holy water in his back pocket."[4] The media picked up stories of the Catholic faithful praying for Notre Dame as they listened to the game on the radio. One nun told a reporter of overhearing a colleague in her convent "gamefully bargaining" and eventually "threatening" the Poor Souls and saints for another Notre Dame touchdown.[3] Shakespeare's game-winning pass became known as the "Hail Mary pass."[5] In 1969, the game was selected in a poll by the Associated Press as the "game of the century", the best game in the first 100 years of college football.[6][7]
  • 1940 — In 1940, the Georgetown Hoyas football team and quarterback Joe McFadden used a play referred to as the "'Hail Mary' pass." An Associated Press article published in December 1940 noted: "A 'Hail Mary' pass, in the talk of the Washington eleven, is one that is thrown with a prayer because the odds against completion are big."[8]

Contemporary use of the term "Hail Mary Pass"

  • 1980Holiday BowlBrigham Young vs. SMU: BYU quarterback Jim McMahon completed a 41-yard Hail Mary to Clay Brown on the game's final play for a 46–45 win. The game is known as the "Miracle Bowl" because the Cougars overcame SMU's 45–25 lead with four minutes left in the game, sealing the victory with a touchdown and PAT kick after time expired. Brown's catch remains one of the most spectacular Hail Mary receptions in football history. He was completely surrounded by SMU defenders in the end zone, but he out-jumped all of them and somehow managed to hold on to the ball during the subsequent pileup.
  • 1984Boston College vs. Miami: BC quarterback Doug Flutie threw a 48-yard Hail Mary to Gerard Phelan for the 47–45 victory. The play is known as "Hail Flutie" and is generally credited with winning Flutie the Heisman Trophy later that season.
  • 1989Southern Mississippi vs. Louisville: In October, with USM on its own 21 yard line and only six seconds remaining, Brett Favre heaved a pass that bounced off of the helmet of the Eagles' Michael Jackson and over to wide receiver Darryl Tillman. Tillman scored as time expired, breaking a 10–10 deadlock. At 79 yards, the throw was probably the longest Hail Mary pass ever completed and was later voted on as one of the "Top 5 Memorable Moments" in college football history during an ESPN.com online vote.
  • 1994Colorado vs. Michigan: Down by 5 points, with 6 seconds to play, #7 Colorado lined up in a formation called 'Jets' – 4-wideouts with Trips left. Colorado quarterback Kordell Stewart had good protection, dropped back to the CU 27, scrambled a bit, and heaved the ball 73 yards in the air down to the opposing 1-yard line. The play, known as 'Rocket Left', called for Michael Westbrook to tip the ball into the end zone for backup wideout Blake Anderson, but it was in fact Anderson in the middle of a cluster of players who tipped it to Westbrook for a 64-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the game. Colorado won 27–26, and the play (which Colorado had also run at the end of the first half, resulting in #4 Michigan intercepting it) became known as “The Miracle at Michigan” and took home an ESPY for College Football Play of the Year.[9]
  • 2000Northwestern vs. Minnesota: Northwestern quarterback Zak Kustok completed a 45-yard Hail Mary to wide receiver Sam Simmons. The touchdown gave Northwestern a 41–35 victory as the Wildcats rallied from a 35–14 deficit. The play (a volleyball-style tip to the trailing wide receiver) was named "Victory Right."
  • 2001Miami (Ohio) vs. Akron: Future Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed a 70-yard tipped pass to Eddie Tillitz to defeat Akron 30–27 on the last play. The play was dubbed "Big Ben" (an old Atlanta Falcon name for the Hail Mary pass) and helped Roethlisberger earn the nickname that he would later be known by.
  • 2002LSU vs. Kentucky: This game ended in a 75-yard Hail Mary pass, thrown by LSU QB Marcus Randall, deflected by Kentucky into the hands of LSU receiver Devery Henderson. Before the play, Kentucky players gave a "Gatorade bath" to the head coach thinking they would surely win. After the play, fireworks were then fired into the air over the stadium and Kentucky fans rushed onto the field and even started tearing down the goal posts in the opposite end zone, not knowing that they had lost. LSU won the game 33–30. The play is known as the “Bluegrass Miracle”.[10]
  • 2003Tennessee vs. Florida: Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to James Banks on the final play of the first half. The play gave Tennessee a 7–3 lead and they went on to win 24–10.[11]
  • 2004
  • 2005
  • 2006
    • NC State vs. Boston College: A 34-yard Hail Mary from NC State quarterback Daniel Evans to wideout John Dunlap with 8 seconds left gave NC State a 17–15 victory.[13]
    • Arkansas State vs. Memphis: A 53-yard Hail Mary from quarterback Corey Leonard to wide receiver Patrick Higgins with 6 seconds left gave ASU a 26–23 victory.[14]
    • Washington vs. Cal: In his third career start, quarterback Carl Bonnell threw a 40-yard Hail Mary that was tipped by three Cal defenders at the goal line and caught by Marlon Wood at the two yard line with no time left. He dove into the end zone to tie the game at 24–24. Cal would win in overtime.[15]
  • 2007
    • Iowa vs. Indiana: On September 29, trailing 21–0 with five seconds left in the first half, Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen's took the snap and made a 33-yard desperation heave into the end zone that was deflected by a group of three Hoosier defensive backs before being caught by receiver Trey Stross. Iowa went on to lose the game.
    • Army vs. Tulane: In October, on his first Army touchdown pass, quarterback Kevin Dunn threw a 36-yard Hail Mary that was tipped by two Tulane defenders and a diving catch was made by Mike Wright to tie the game at 17–17. Army was down 17–7 with just 4 minutes left, and went on to win the game in overtime 20–17 after the Hail Mary tied the game as time expired.[16][17]
  • 2008
    • Middle Tennessee vs. Florida Atlantic: MT quarterback Joe Craddock threw a touchdown pass to Malcolm Beyah as time expired to beat the Owls 14–13. The Blue Raiders had been in a similar situation earlier in the season against Kentucky, but the Wildcats' Robbie McAtee made a game-saving tackle at the 1-yard line after the Raiders gained 61 yards on the play (see more about the first Hail Mary attempt below).[18][19]
    • Buffalo vs. Temple: Flanker Naaman Roosevelt hauled in a 35-yard Hail Mary pass from quarterback Drew Willy to stun Temple and turn UB Stadium on its ear with bedlam. The play capped a remarkable final three minutes that saw the lead change hands three times. The Bulls won with a final score of 30–28.
    • UC Davis vs. Northern Colorado: After an illegal procedure penalty, UC Davis was moved out of field goal range to the 38 yard line, down 30–28 with two seconds remaining on the clock. Quarterback Greg Denham completed a Hail Mary pass to wide receiver Bakari Grant as time expired to win the game 34–30.
  • 2010
    • East Carolina vs. Tulsa: ECU defeated Tulsa 51–49 with a Hail Mary pass on its final play. The pass was thrown by Dominque Davis and caught by Justin Jones.
    • UAB vs. Troy: Bryan Ellis of UAB threw a 44-yard pass to Jackie Williams as time expired to top Troy at Legion Field, 34–33.
  • 2011
    • Michigan State vs. Wisconsin: On the final play of the game, Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins threw a pass into the end zone that was caught by Keith Nichol at the 1-yard line after being deflected off B. J. Cunningham's helmet. Nichol had to fight two Wisconsin defenders for the extra yard to reach the end zone. It was not ruled a touchdown on the field, however the call was overturned after video replays showed that the ball had crossed the plane, making the play a 44-yard touchdown pass, giving a 37–31 win to Michigan State. It was Nichol's only catch of the game.
    • Boise State vs. Wyoming: With 1 second to play before halftime, Boise State Quarterback Kellen Moore took the snap, rolled left as time expired, and heaved a 46-yard pass that Wyoming Cornerback Tashaun Gipson batted into the air. Wide Receiver Matt Miller, who had already fallen to the ground, caught the ball on his chest as it fell towards him, breaking a 7–7 deadlock. Boise State used the momentum going into halftime to further expand their lead in the second half and win by a significant margin.
    • 2012 Capital One Bowl — #9 South Carolina vs. #20 Nebraska: Down 13–9 at the end of the first half, South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw took the snap from South Carolina's own 49-yard line with six seconds remaining. With 0:02 remaining, Shaw heaved a Hail Mary pass, which was caught at the 4-yard line by 6'4" receiver Alshon Jeffery, who dove into the end zone for a touchdown as time expired. South Carolina went on to win 30–13, and Jeffrey was named MVP of the game.
  • 2012
    • Southern Utah vs. Cal: On the final play of the second half, Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorensen rolled right and threw a 37-yard pass into the end zone that was tipped by several players before wide receiver Cameron Morgan made a one handed catch in the back of the end zone. The TD closed the Bears lead to 20-10. The Bears would eventually win 50-31.
    • Auburn vs. Louisiana-Monroe: A struggling 0-2 Auburn team completed a Hail Mary pass just before halftime when Kiehl Frazier connected with Sammie Coates, giving the Tigers a 21-14 halftime lead. Auburn was then able to hang on to win in overtime over a ULM team that had upset Arkansas just the week before.
  • 2013
    • Texas vs. Iowa State: With four seconds left in the first half, quarterback Case McCoy took the snap, dropped back, and threw a deep 44 yard pass that was caught by wide receiver Josh Harris as time expired in the second quarter. The pass gave the Longhorns a 17-13 lead and was crucial in their 31-30 victory over the Cyclones.
    • Nebraska vs. Northwestern: Trailing 24-21 with four seconds left in the game, Nebraska quarterback Ron Kellogg III tossed a ball that was caught by receiver Jordan Westerkamp in the end zone. The ball was tipped in the air at the goal line by a Northwestern player before Westerkamp, who was behind the cluster at the goal line, caught the ball 2-3 yards into the end zone. The pass gave the Cornhuskers a 27-24 victory. The play is called "The Westercatch" by Husker fans.
    • Auburn vs. Georgia: Trailing 38-37 with 36 seconds left in the game on 4th-and-18, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ricardo Louis. The ball was overthrown but was deflected by Georgia defenders Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews at the 23-yard line, falling into the hands of Louis, who bobbled and then controlled the catch. The score known as "The Prayer at Jordan-Hare" gave Auburn a 43-38 win.[20]
  • 2014
    • Jackson State vs. Florida A&M: Jackson State quarterback LaMontiez Ivy threw a 60-yard Hail Mary pass to wide receiver DeSean McKenzie with one second remaining in regulation to defeat Florida A&M 22-16.
    • Edward Waters vs. University of Pikeville: Edward Waters quarterback Tyler Mahla completed a 46-yard pass to Devion Laws to tie the score at 48 with no time left in regulation. Kicker Christopher Miglioranzi added the extra point to seal the win. Edward Waters outscored Pikeville 35-7 in the fourth quarter.[21]
    • Arizona vs. California: Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon launched a 47-yard Hail Mary pass to wide receiver Austin Hill as time expired to defeat visiting California, 49-45. The play capped off a 22-point second half rally in which Arizona scored 36 points in the 4th quarter, including the game's last 19 points in the final 3:30. Fans dubbed the play the "Hill Mary".
    • Houston vs. BYU: Houston quarterback John O'Korn heaved a 45-yard Hail Mary pass to wide receiver Daniel Spencer in the end zone to pull the Cougars of Houston within a possession at the end of the first half, 23-15, after falling behind 23-0 with 3:23 to play. However, three missed kicks (two PATs and a blocked field goal) doomed Houston in its loss to the Cougars of BYU, 33-25.
    • University of Southern California vs. Oregon State: Leading 14-10 right before halftime, Cody Kessler threw a 48-yard Hail Mary pass that was caught by Darreus Rogers on the 1. Rogers then was able to run in the end zone, giving the Trojans a 21-10 lead. Southern Cal ended up winning the game 35-10.
    • Arizona State vs. USC: Trailing 34-32 with seven seconds remaining, Arizona State quarterback Mike Bercovici completed a 46-yard Hail Mary pass to wide receiver Jaelen Strong as time expired to defeat #16 Southern California, 38-34, in Los Angeles. This was the first time ASU had won in the Coliseum since 1999. This completed a 9-point comeback in the last 3:02 where ASU had no timeouts. USC had several defenders on the goal line, but Strong had enough space to leap for and catch the ball just in front of the end zone and then scored the touchdown before the defenders could react. Bercovici, a California native, was starting just his second game that year, having replaced an injured Taylor Kelly. This was not the first time that first year USC coach Steve Sarkisian had lost on a long pass against ASU: in 2009, Sarkisian (then in his first year coaching the University of Washington) was defeated when Danny Sullivan completed a 50-yard pass to Chris McGaha with five seconds remaining in a game ASU won 24-17.
    • UCF at East Carolina: After blowing a 26-9 fourth quarter lead, the Knights won 32-30, claiming a share of the AAC title when Justin Holman completed a 51-yard Hail Mary to Breshad Perriman as time expired. [22]
    • 2014 Popeyes Bahamas Bowl - Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky: Western Kentucky was leading 49-14 heading into the fourth quarter, but Central Michigan rallied by scoring five unanswered touchdowns in the period, including a last-second pass from quarterback Cooper Rush 48 yards downfield to receiver Jesse Kroll, who then lateraled the ball to Deon Butler for 10 yards. Butler then lateraled to Courtney Williams for 2 yards. Williams finally lateraled to Titus Davis, who sprinted down the sideline and managed the reach the ball over the pylon for the touchdown that pulled the Chippewas within a point at 49-48. CMU elected to go for the win on a two-point conversion, but Rush's pass on a fade route was broken up, which allowed the Hilltoppers to escape with a 49-48 victory.
    • 2014 Capital One Orange Bowl - Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech: As time expired in the first half, Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott threw a 42-yard pass that was tipped and caught in the end zone by receiver Fred Ross. The touchdown cut Georgia Tech's lead to 21-20, but the Bulldogs would eventually lose to the Jackets 49-34.
  • 2015
    • BYU vs. Nebraska: With his team trailing 28-27 with one second remaining, BYU backup quarterback Tanner Mangum threw a 42-yard pass that was caught by receiver Mitch Matthews, who managed to fall across the goal line as he was tackled by a trio of Cornhusker defenders. The touchdown gave BYU a 33-28 win and ended Nebraska's Football Bowl Subdivision record 29-game winning streak in season openers.[23]
    • BYU vs. Boise State: Incredibly, for a second consecutive week (following their last second, "Hail Mary" win over Nebraska in their the previous game), BYU pulled off a miraculous victory with another long "all or nothing" pass from freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum. This time, with his team trailing 24-21 with 54 seconds left in the game and facing 4th-and-7, Mangum evaded a sack and tossed a 35-yard pass to BYU receiver Mitchell Juergens, who pulled it down in the end zone to put the Cougars ahead. BYU defensive back Kai Nacua then returned an interception 50 yards for another touchdown in the last remaining seconds to give BYU a 35-24 win.[24]
  • 2016
    • Central Michigan vs. Oklahoma State: With Central Michigan trailing 27–24 with no time remaining on its own 49-yard line, with an untimed down following an Oklahoma State penalty, Chippewas quarterback Cooper Rush threw a Hail Mary to Jesse Kroll, hitting him just inside the Cowboys' 10-yard line. In a planned play, Kroll than lateraled to Corey Willis, who ran into the end zone for a touchdown to give the Chippewas a 30–27 win. The game was known not only for its finish, but for an officiating error that made the play possible. Shortly after the game, the referee in charge, as well as representatives from the two conferences involved (MAC and Big 12), announced that the Chippewas should not have been allowed to run their winning play. On the previous play, during which the clock ran out, Oklahoma State had been called for intentional grounding on fourth down. Under NCAA rules, an accepted live-ball penalty on fourth down cannot end the game; however, an exception to that rule states that if the penalty includes a loss of down (as is the case with intentional grounding), the game ends at that point. This nuance in the rules was missed by both the officiating crew, provided by the MAC, and the replay crew, provided by the Big 12.[25]
    • Tennessee vs. Georgia: After a Georgia touchdown with 10 seconds remaining in regulation, it appeared as if the Bulldogs would win this game leading 31-28. It was not to be. Aided by a couple of Georgia penalties, on the last play of the game, Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs threw a 43-yard Hail Mary to receiver Jauan Jennings, who outleaped several Georgia defenders in the end zone to secure the catch. The touchdown gave the Volunteers a 34-31 win, after trailing as many as 17 points. For more details on this game, see Hail Mary between The Hedges.[26]

Professional football[edit]

  • 1975NFC Divisional PlayoffsMinnesota Vikings vs Dallas Cowboys: With 24 seconds left in the game, Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach threw the 50-yard winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Drew Pearson to defeat the Minnesota Vikings. Although this touchdown appears to be more of a traditional, scripted "bomb" pass play to a designated receiver, Pearson, Staubach's post-game comments about the play are thought to have popularized "Hail Mary" as a football term.
  • 1978Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints: The Falcons beat the Saints 20–17 on a 57-yard Hail Mary pass from Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski to Alfred Jackson. The play was known as "Big Ben" and was practically repeated by the Falcons against the Saints only two weeks later in the "Big Ben II" game (see more about the "Big Ben II" attempt below).
  • 1980Minnesota Vikings vs. Cleveland Browns: Using a play from their playbook called "Squadron Right", Minnesota quarterback Tommy Kramer completed a Hail Mary pass to Ahmad Rashad as time expired resulting in a 28–23 victory for the Vikings. This pass is also known as the "Miracle Catch." Kramer passed for 456 yards in the game. As a result of the victory, the Vikings qualified for the playoffs and would lose to the eventual NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles.
  • 1981Buffalo Bills vs. New England Patriots: Bills quarterback Joe Ferguson threw a 36-yard pass that was tipped in the end zone, and caught for a touchdown by running back Roland Hooks to give Buffalo a 20–17 victory. The win secured Buffalo the last AFC playoff spot in 1981.[27][28]
  • 1983Atlanta Falcons vs. San Francisco 49ers: Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski threw a Hail Mary pass 47 yards to Billy "White Shoes" Johnson on the final play of the game to give the Falcons a 28–24 win over the 49ers.[29] TV coverage showed that it was very close to being "down at the 1 foot line" but a 2nd referee raised his arms indicating touchdown, as Johnson's left shoulder hit the ground as he was putting the ball over the goal line with his right.
  • 1984New Orleans Saints vs. Cincinnati Bengals: The Saints' Dave Wilson completed a 54-yard Hail Mary pass, deflected by Bengal safety Robert Jackson, to Hoby Brenner on the last play before halftime to take a 7–3 lead. Ken Anderson, who was recovering from a shoulder injury that he had received earlier in the season, replaced an ineffective Boomer Esiason and rallied the Bengals to a 24–21 victory.
  • 1987San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Leading 26–20, with 0:06 remaining, Bengals coach Sam Wyche inexplicably called a 4th-down running play instead of a punt. The 49ers stopped the runner with :02 seconds left, giving them possession and a stopped game clock (a de facto time out due to the Bengals' losing the ball on downs). On the game's final play, 49ers quarterback Joe Montana threw a touchdown pass to Jerry Rice as time expired, and the NFL-mandated point-after-attempt gave San Francisco a 27–26 win.[30]
  • 1988 (Playoffs) NFC Wild Card PlayoffsMinnesota Vikings vs. New Orleans Saints: In the Saints' first-ever playoff game, they were victimized once again. The Vikings were ahead 24–10 near the end of the first half, when Wade Wilson completed a Hail Mary pass to Hassan Jones, to make the halftime score 31–10. The touchdown put the game basically out of reach, and the Vikings defeated the Saints 44–10.[31]
  • 1991Atlanta Falcons vs. San Francisco 49ers: Billy Joe Tolliver found Michael Haynes for 44 yards with one second left to beat the 49ers, 17–14, in a key NFC West battle. The Falcons would go on to qualify for the playoffs, with this victory and a stunning road win at Candlestick Park earning them a tiebreaker edge over the playoff-missing 49ers[32]
  • 1991Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins: The Dallas Cowboys were playing the then undefeated Washington Redskins in 1991. With the game tied 7–7 in the second quarter with time running out and a 4th down from Redskin 34 yard line, the Cowboys decided to go for it. Then Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman threw the Hail Mary in the right corner of the end zone where Alvin Harper cleanly caught the ball for a touchdown putting the Cowboys up 14–7. The Cowboys would end up winning 24–21 and giving the dominant Redskins their 1st loss after an 11-0 start[33]
  • 1999New York Giants vs. New Orleans Saints: Just before halftime, Kent Graham of the Giants completed a 53-yard Hail Mary pass to Joe Jurevicius that had been tipped by teammate Amani Toomer and the Saints' Sammy Knight. The touchdown gave Jurevicius his first NFL touchdown and the Giants a 24–3 halftime lead. New York won the game, 31–3. The Saints gave up another Hail Mary the following week (see more about the second Hail Mary attempt below).
  • 1999Cleveland Browns vs. New Orleans Saints: On Halloween, and only a week after the Giants had completed a similar pass play against the Saints before halftime, the Browns won their first game since coming back to the NFL against New Orleans as Tim Couch completed a 56-yard Hail Mary pass to Kevin Johnson as time expired for the stunning 21–16 victory. As in the week before, the Saints' Sammy Knight also batted this pass before it was caught (see more about the first Hail Mary attempt above).
  • 2001Chicago Bears vs. Cleveland Browns: Chicago tied the game on a 34-yard deflected Hail Mary from Shane Matthews where running back James Allen made a remarkable diving catch. The play capped off a 14-point comeback in the final 28 seconds of a game that Chicago won in overtime, 27–21, on an interception return by Mike Brown (which was remarkable in and of itself, because it was the 2nd straight game that the Bears had won in OT on a Mike Brown pick-6).
  • 2002Cleveland Browns vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Cleveland won on a 50-yard Hail Mary pass from Tim Couch to Quincy Morgan against Jacksonville for a 21–20 shocker. It was Couch's second Hail Mary victory.[34] Many fans refer to this as the "Hail Morgan" catch.
  • 2006New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons: Drew Brees completed a Hail Mary pass to Terrance Cooper before halftime that helped the Saints cruise to a 31–13 victory over the team that had beaten them twice in 1978 by using the "Big Ben" play.
  • 2007Arizona Cardinals vs. San Francisco 49ers: Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner threw up a 48-yard toss to Larry Fitzgerald at the end of the first half of the game to take the lead against the shocked 49ers, 21–17. San Francisco, however, would win 37–31 in overtime at the end of the game on a Warner fumble recovered for a touchdown.[35]
  • 2010Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Houston Texans: With the score tied 24–24 and 3 seconds left on the clock, the Jaguars had possession of the football on the 50 yard line. Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard attempted a Hail Mary pass to wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker. Houston safety Glover Quin slammed the ball out of the end zone with both hands, only to watch in horror as it bounced right to Mike Thomas at the 1-yard line, who stepped into the end zone with no time left to ensure a 31-24 Jacksonville victory.
  • 2011Kansas City Chiefs vs. Chicago Bears: With 2 seconds left in the first half, the Bears leading 3–0, Kansas City had the ball on Chicago's 38 yard line. Tyler Palko threw a Hail Mary into the end zone that was batted down by Chicago's Brian Urlacher and Chris Conte only to be caught after the deflection by Kansas City's Dexter McCluster. The pass was Tyler Palko's first career touchdown pass and Dexter McCluster's first career touchdown reception. The Chiefs went on to win the game 10–3.[36]
  • 2012 (Playoffs)New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers: With 15 seconds left in the half, the underdog Giants had a 3rd and one at their own 40. Ahead by 13-10 and with no time outs, the Giants were apparently content to run out clock, calling a running play to Ahmad Bradshaw. Bradshaw however broke the run for 23 yards, getting out of bounds at the Green Bay 37 with 6 seconds left. Eli Manning then threw 37 yards to Hakeem Nicks for a TD, with Nicks jumping high, catching the ball against his helmet between two defenders, which was reminiscent of Manning's pass to David Tyree in Super Bowl XLII. The touchdown put the Giants up 20-10 and they won the game 37-20. The Giants eventually went on to win Super Bowl XLVI.
  • 2012Detroit Lions vs. Tennessee Titans: On the final play of regulation, Lions quarterback Shaun Hill threw a 41-yard Hail Mary pass to the end zone where Titus Young caught the touchdown pass off a partial deflection to tie the game 41-41. The Lions would eventually lose in overtime 44-41.
  • 2012Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks2012 Packers–Seahawks officiating controversy: Playing with replacement officials on a Monday night, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw a last-second Hail Mary attempt on 4th-and-10 to Golden Tate, who was surrounded by three Green Bay defenders in the end zone. Tate pushed one of the defenders out of the way as the ball approached without drawing a flag from the officials for offensive pass interference. As the ball arrived, M.D. Jennings of the Packers appeared to have intercepted the pass at the height of his jump, but as Jennings and Tate fell to the ground, they struggled for possession of the ball. Once on the ground, they both had two hands on the ball, and one referee signaled touchdown, while the other signaled for the clock to stop. A booth replay review followed and the touchdown ruling stood, resulting in a 14-12 Seattle victory. This play, known as the "Fail Mary", led to confusion and debate over what exactly constituted a "catch" according to NFL rules, especially in an instance such as this where two opposing players are vying for possession. NFL Commentator Gregg Rosenthal claimed that this event brought about the "replacement official apocalypse",[37] as the NFL and the regular referees quickly reached a deal that brought them back to work by the following week.[38]
  • 2013Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals: After falling 17-0 at halftime, the Bengals rallied back to come to 17-10 with 2 seconds left on the game clock. With Ravens players already in the locker room conducting after game interviews, Andy Dalton, facing a 4th-and-15 from the Bengals 49-yard line, skied a ball into the air that was deflected twice by Bengal and Raven players until it was finally caught by Bengal receiver A.J. Green. This would tie the game and send it into overtime, but the Bengals would eventually lose 20-17.
  • 2015Indianapolis Colts vs. Houston Texans: Houston QB Brian Hoyer completed a 42-yard Hail Mary pass to WR Jaelen Strong to end the first half trailing 13-10. However, the Texans would lose to the Colts 27-20.
  • 2015Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions:[39] On the second to last play of the game, Green Bay completed a number of lateral passes until Aaron Rodgers was brought down with no time left in regulation. However, a penalty was called against Lions defender Devin Taylor for pulling Aaron Rodgers's face mask. [40] The Packers were awarded 15 yards and an additional play. During the play, Aaron Rodgers evaded three Lions pass rushers for 8 seconds before throwing a 66-yard pass to the four Packers receivers and tight end Richard Rodgers waiting in the end zone. Richard Rodgers caught the pass, resulting in a 27-23 Packers victory. This was dubbed "The Miracle in Motown" and was Rodgers's first successful Hail Mary pass.[41][42] It also became the longest game-winning Hail Mary play in NFL history.[43] Aaron Rodgers and Richard Rodgers received the Best Play ESPY Award for this on July 13, 2016.[44]
  • 2015Kansas City Chiefs vs. Baltimore Ravens: Ravens quarterback Jimmy Clausen hooked up with receiver Kamar Aiken on a 48-yard pass to end the first half. However, the Ravens would eventually lose to the Chiefs, 34-14.
  • 2016 (Playoffs)Green Bay Packers vs. Arizona Cardinals: Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers heaved a 41-yard pass to receiver Jeff Janis, who out-leaped Arizona defenders Patrick Peterson and Rashad Johnson to fully retain control of the ball in the end zone, as time expired in regulation. It was Rodgers' second successful Hail Mary throw in his professional career, about a month after "The Miracle in Motown" (see above). This score tied the game at 20 and forced overtime. However, the Packers would eventually lose to the Cardinals 26-20.
  • 2016Cincinnati Bengals vs. Cleveland Browns: With 7 seconds left to play in the first half and the Bengals up 14-10 on the Browns' 48-yard line, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton launched the ball into the end zone as time expired. In the end zone, wide receiver A.J. Green reached his hand into the air and tipped the ball. As the ball floated down towards the ground, Green was able to use the same hand to juggle the ball and pull it into his chest to complete the catch. Adding a Mike Nugent PAT, the Bengals went into halftime up 21-10 and eventually won 31-17.
  • 2017 (Playoffs)New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers: With 6 seconds left to play in the first half and the Packers leading 7-6, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers launched the ball into the end zone as time expired. Wide receiver Randall Cobb caught the ball in the back of the end zone for a 42-yard touchdown to give the Packers a 14-6 halftime lead.[45] The Packers would go on to win 38-13.[46]

List of unsuccessful Hail Marys[edit]

The sheer improbability of completing such a long pass with so many defenders in position to stop it makes even some unsuccessful Hail Mary attempts worth mentioning. Below is a list of such attempts and explanations as to why the plays were noteworthy.

  • 1978Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints: Just two weeks after the Falcons beat the Saints 20–17 on the "Big Ben" pass play, the Falcons beat them again by the same score on the final play of the game after an intercepted Hail Mary pass when Saint defensive back Mo Spencer was called for pass interference by side judge Grover Klemmer. The Falcons scored on a run from the 1 yard line on the next play. The play became known as "Big Ben II." In this particular instance, the NFL later acknowledged that the interference call was the wrong call, and the case was cited by some as an early example for the need for football officiating crews to have access to instant replays. Though incomplete in this game, it should be noted that the pass play really began to be used by other teams significantly more often after this game, as a pass interference penalty that would move the ball to the 1 yard line was now viewed as a possible result from the play — if not an even more likely result than completing the pass itself. However, officials have actually proved very reluctant to call pass interference during Hail Marys since this game, possibly because it appears difficult to determine in real time just who made contact with whom, with so many players congregating in one place to catch the ball — not to mention the high stakes of making an incorrect call with the outcome of the game in balance. Also, in the 1980s, pass interference rules were relaxed in cases where defenders made contact but were making an honest attempt for the ball (see more about the first "Big Ben" attempt above).
  • 1990LSU vs. Vanderbilt: LSU completed a Hail Mary pass against Vanderbilt. It was perhaps the only time where offensive pass interference has reversed the outcome of the play, despite a traditional reluctance of officiating crews to call a penalty on any one player during a play consisting of a cluster of flailing players and so much on the line. With the touchdown called back, Vanderbilt won its only game of the season, 24–21. According to LSU Student Media, during a press conference in the week after the game, LSU's head coach, Mike Archer, showed reporters replays of the play, frame-by-frame, explaining why the penalty was a poor call. LSU later completed the season with a 5–6 record, and Archer was pressured to resign, with the loss to the eventual 1–10 team often being cited as the likely primary reason for his dismissal.
  • 1995AFC Championship GameIndianapolis Colts vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: With five seconds on the clock and the underdog Colts trailing the Steelers 16-20, Jim Harbaugh (who earned the name "Captain Comeback" during the season) fired a Hail Mary pass into the end zone. After deflecting off several Steeler defenders, the ball made a rough landing in Colts wide receiver Aaron Bailey's stomach, but his arms were impeded from wrapping onto the ball and it rolled on its side and touched the Three Rivers Stadium turf before he was able to slap both hands onto it. The play was close enough that Dick Enberg and Phil Simms both initially declared on-air that the ball had been caught, and Bailey raised his arms with the ball as if he were celebrating a touchdown, but replays showed that the incomplete call was correct.[47]
  • 1996Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots: On September 22, Mark Brunell threw a pass to Willie Jackson for 55 yards that appeared to win the game. The officials ruled Jackson down at the 1, though Jaguar fans insist that replays show that Jackson crossed the goal-line. The Patriots then prevailed 28–25 in overtime. Brunell also completed a 51-yard Hail Mary in the same game before halftime, as well as 41 and 61-yard touchdown passes in the second half, to erase the Patriots' 22–0 first-half lead (see more about the first Hail Mary attempt above).
  • 1997Notre Dame vs. Navy: With three seconds remaining, Navy's Chris McCoy threw a pass from the Irish 29 that bounced off of the helmet of Irish player Deke Cooper and into the hands of Pat McGrew at the 18. McGrew was finally tackled by Allen Rossum when he had nearly reached the 1 yard line, allowing Notre Dame to hold on and win 21–17. Had McGrew scored, it would have ended the nation's all-time longest losing streak in an annual college football series. However, as a result of the loss, Navy continued its string of losses to the Fighting Irish — not finally ending it once and for all until 2007, at 43 games.
  • 2002Atlanta Falcons vs. Pittsburgh Steelers: With 1 second remaining in the OT period of the Week 9 NFL meeting between Atlanta and Pittsburgh at Heinz Field, Steeler QB Tommy Maddox dropped back from his own 49-yard line and fired the ball towards the end zone. WR Plaxico Burress leapt into a group of Falcon defenders and Steeler receivers and grabbed the pass in mid-air, but when Burress landed on the turf, the upper half of his body (with his arms wrapped around the ball) crashed down at the 1-yard line with his lower body landing in the end zone. With no penalties on Atlanta and the clock reading 0:00, Maddox and Burress' spectacular completion was the final exclamation point in the first tie the NFL had seen since 1997. This play is not counted as a success, although it is regarded as an amazing play, because it did not result in a team scoring a game-winning (or tying) touchdown.
  • 2008Kentucky vs. Middle Tennessee: Six years after Kentucky lost the Bluegrass Miracle game on a similar pass play, MT's Eldred King caught a tipped 61-yard throw from Joe Craddock on the game's final play. King was tackled on the 1 yard line to preserve a 20–14 UK victory and prevent a second Bluegrass Miracle from happening. It is noteworthy that MT did complete a similar pass play against Florida Atlantic later in the same season (see more about the second Hail Mary attempt above).
  • 2009Magnolia BowlLSU vs. Mississippi: LSU's Jordan Jefferson, under a heavy pass rush, was forced to heave an under-thrown 43-yard Hail Mary pass that Terrance Toliver was able to catch with between two and three seconds remaining in regulation — but still 6 yards short of the end zone. After the completion the clock was not halted for the first down until one second remained, giving LSU too little time to set up and run a follow-up play. Ole Miss prevailed, 25–23. This play was a rare completed Hail Mary pass with time remaining, but was under-thrown and time ran out. The loss subsequently led to harsh criticism of LSU's Les Miles for his clock management efforts — especially since it appeared that the team was going to try to spike the ball as time ran out — and led to a significant movement over the next year to remove him as head coach. He later signed a contract extension after a much more successful season the following year.
  • 2012 - Super Bowl XLVI - New England Patriots vs. New York Giants: After a touchdown run by Ahmad Bradshaw to make the score 21-17, in favor of the New York Giants, the New England Patriots received the ball with 59 seconds to play. After running a few plays, 4 seconds remained on the clock. The Patriots, backed up at their own 49-Yard Line, elected to go for the Hail Mary. Tom Brady threw a pass deep into the end zone intended for Tight End Aaron Hernandez. A mass of players jumped up for the ball, and the ball landed a yard in front of TE Rob Gronkowski as time expired. The New York Giants went on to win the Super Bowl, 21-17, defeating the Patriots for a second time in just 5 years.
  • 2013Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons: After a late 4th quarter rally by the Falcons to take the lead by 2 in a divisional playoff game, Atlanta attempted a surprise onside kick, however the play failed. As a result, it set up the Seahawks to attempt a Hail Mary. With 2 seconds left, Seahawks' QB Russell Wilson spiraled a 60-yard pass into the end zone only to be intercepted by Falcons' wide receiver Julio Jones with no time remaining.[48] The Falcons would lose to the 49ers the following week, however.
  • 2014 - San Francisco 49ers vs. New Orleans Saints: The 49ers had just tied the score at 24-24 with 44 seconds left in regulation, leaving the Saints with enough time to try for the win. On the final play of the 4th quarter, Saints quarterback Drew Brees fired a pass from his own 48 yard line towards the end zone where tight end Jimmy Graham caught it for what appeared to be the game winning touchdown. However, officials called offensive pass interference on Graham for shoving 49ers defensive back Perrish Cox to the ground before making the catch. Cox appeared to have 'flopped,' or exaggerate the contact from Graham, and Graham claimed that the penalty should not have been called. The 49ers went on to win the game in overtime, 27-24. A few days after the game, the NFL issued a statement saying that offensive pass interference was correctly called on the failed Hail Mary.
  • 2015 - Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots: The New England Patriots' WR Brandon LaFell caught a 23-yard touchdown pass with 5:13 left in the 4th quarter. On the ensuing drive, Patriots safety Duron Harmon intercepted Ravens QB Joe Flacco, but were unable to run out the clock. After the subsequent punt, the Baltimore Ravens received the ball with 0:04 to play. The Ravens selected a Hail Mary play for the final play. The Ravens lined up at their own 48-yard line, with Flacco lining up in the shotgun formation. Flacco scrambled around the pocket, and heaved a deep ball to the end zone. A mass of players leaped for the ball, however, the ball was knocked out. The ball bounced off WR Torrey Smith's body and hit the turf, ending the game. The New England Patriots would go on to win Super Bowl XLIX.
  • 2015 - Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers: Although Aaron Rodgers completed two other Hail Marys in the 2015 season, he was not successful on this attempt. In week 17, with the Packers down to the Vikings 20-13, Rodgers threw the ball about 50 yards to the end zone, but the pass was knocked down. The victory gave Minnesota the NFC North championship.

List of passes often mistakenly referred to as a "Hail Mary"[edit]

A number of games over the years have been decided by long, last-second touchdown throws but were not, strictly-speaking, Hail Mary passes. Below is a list of such games with explanations as to why it has been improper to describe them as Hail Marys. Usually, the touchdowns were more conventional pass plays with designated receivers and not of the unscripted, "jump ball" throws that are normally associated with Hail Mary-styled passes.

  • 1972 — AFC Divisional Playoffs — Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Oakland Raiders: Pittsburgh trailed in this game 7–6 and faced fourth down and 10 from their own 40 with 22 seconds remaining. Pittsburgh's Terry Bradshaw threw to halfback Frenchy Fuqua but the Raiders' Jack Tatum collided with him and the ball was deflected towards the Steelers' Franco Harris, who then scored a controversial touchdown. This play has become known as the Immaculate Reception. The pass is usually not considered a "Hail Mary" pass in that it was a scripted play intended for a specific receiver and not thrown desperately "up for grabs" like Hail Marys usually are. It also was not thrown anywhere near the Raiders' end zone by design.
  • 1974Thanksgiving Day gameWashington Redskins vs Dallas Cowboys: Dallas reserve quarterback and rookie Clint Longley, filling in for an injured Roger Staubach, threw two touchdown passes including the game winning 50-yarder to Drew Pearson to push the Cowboys to a 24–23 victory and to keep the Cowboys in the playoff hunt. This pass was more of a traditional, late-game "bomb" throw with a scripted post route for Pearson. 35 seconds remained when attempted.
  • 1997Nebraska vs. Missouri: Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost's last-second pass to Shevin Wiggins was deflected, then before the ball touched the ground, Wiggins kicked the ball towards the back of the end zone where teammate Matt Davidson scoped the ball up just before it hit the ground. The touchdown sent the game into overtime, when the top ranked Cornhuskers won. Nebraska went on to share the national title that season. This play is also known as the Flea Kicker. It is generally[citation needed] not considered a Hail Mary pass as it was very short — attempted within the red zone — and was more of a traditional, scripted pass play that just ended up having an unusual result.
  • 2003Arizona Cardinals vs. Minnesota Vikings: The Cardinals stunned the Vikings on a 28-yard touchdown pass as time expired from Josh McCown to Nate Poole to win 18–17. The pass, which was made in just McCown's third start, appears to have been intended for strictly for Poole, one of two reasons it is not historically viewed as a Hail Mary (the other is that it was a relatively short play, as Hail Mary plays have usually traveled at least 50 yards to completion). The loss was costly for the Vikings as they not only lost the game, but lost the NFC North title to the Packers and were eliminated from playoff contention. The reception is noted for the fact that under NFL rules at the time, Poole was given the touchdown reception even though he did not get both feet inbounds because he was shoved out of bounds by a Viking defender after making the catch and getting 1 foot in; the league has since changed this rule, and under current standards the pass would have been incomplete.[49]
  • 2005Capital One BowlIowa vs. LSU: With 14 seconds left, Iowa quarterback Drew Tate completed a 56-yard touchdown pass to Warren Holloway, left open due to an LSU defensive breakdown, to give Iowa a 30–25 victory on the game's final play.[50] This play is usually not considered a Hail Mary pass per se and varies from the traditional definition of one in that the throw was intended for a specific receiver and not tossed "up for grabs."
  • 2009Minnesota Vikings vs. San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers were up 24–20 with 11 seconds left in the game. The Vikings had the ball at the 49ers' 32 yard line. Brett Favre rolled out right and avoided a defender by using a pump fake. Then, he threw it from about the 39 yard line and connected to Greg Lewis in the very back of the end zone. Lewis just got both of his feet in, making a spectacular catch. This play isn't considered a Hail Mary because there were two seconds left on the clock, and another play (which would have been a Hail Mary attempt) would have been run by Minnesota if Lewis' reception had been called off.[citation needed]
  • 2013 — AFC Divisional Playoffs — Baltimore Ravens vs Denver Broncos: With 45 seconds and counting and at their own 30 down by 7, the Ravens needed a miracle against the Broncos in a divisional playoff game. Joe Flacco launched the ball to Jacoby Jones on the right sideline, who caught it at the Broncos' 20 yard line and Jones scampered in for the touchdown. This would send the game to overtime and the Ravens would kick a field goal in the second overtime, and would eventually win Super Bowl XLVII. This play, known as the Mile High Miracle, was not a Hail Mary was because the play called in the situation might have been too deep; also, the play did not consist of several players jumping up for the ball, or "up for grabs".
  • 2013Fordham vs. Temple: With Temple leading 29-23, Fordham quarterback Michael Nebrich, with 13 seconds left, rolled to his right after taking the snap and then threw a 29-yard TD pass to wide receiver Sam Ajala with 4 seconds left, giving the Rams a 30-29 victory with the extra point, their first ever victory over an FBS opponent.[51] The play cannot be considered a Hail Mary because it took place on third down,[52] meaning that Fordham would have had one more chance at a touchdown had the pass been incomplete.
  • 2013Florida State vs. Boston College: With the game tied 17-17, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston took the snap with 1 second left at the Seminole 45 in the first half, dodged several tacklers, and threw a bomb to Kenny Shaw that was caught at the 2 yard line before Shaw dove for the end zone. The Seminoles would eventually win by a final score of 48-34, en route to winning the BCS Championship Game. This is not considered a Hail Mary play because although the pass was completed as the half ended, it did not consist of several players jumping up for the ball (there was only one safety on Shaw when he made the catch).

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