The Best Hail Mary’s in NFL History

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Andrew Doughty @DoughtyBetMGM Jun 15, 2021, 1:21 PM
Jeff Janis of Green Bay Packers catches a 41-yard touchdown against Patrick Peterson of Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 16, 2016. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.
(Photo by: Harry How/Getty Images)

Entering the Arizona Cardinals’ Week 9 home game vs. the Buffalo Bills, Kyler Murray had zero career Hail Mary pass attempts at any level of football. If Murray had listened to Kliff Kingsbury, he would’ve entered Week 10 with zero career Hail Mary pass attempts.

Trailing 30-26 with 11 seconds remaining, the Cardinals had zero timeouts and faced 1st-and-10 from the Bills’ 43-yard line. Kingsbury called a 20-yard pass play (inspired by the Aaron Rodgers-to-Jared Cook play against the Cowboys in the 2016 playoffs) to a presumably wide-open Andy Isabella, who’d step out of bounds and give the Cardinals one play to win the game.
However, if DeAndre Hopkins was open in the end zone, Kingsbury told Murray to “let her rip.” Hopkins wasn’t open; three Bills’ defensive backs blanketed the 6-foot-1 receiver. Murray didn’t listen, “let her rip,” and improved the Cardinals’ Super Bowl odds.

The Murray-to-Hopkins touchdown sits alongside these game-winning Hail Mary’s as the greatest in NFL history.

Jeff Janis (Packers) vs. Cardinals – 2015

Five weeks after the Miracle in Motown, the Packers were in need of another Hail Mary, this time with an NFC Championship ticket at stake.

Trailing 20-13 with 1:55 remaining in the 2015 NFC Divisional Playoffs, the Packers took over at their own 14-yard line with zero timeouts. After converting 4th-and-20 earlier in the drive, the Packers faced 2nd-and-15 from the Cardinals’ 41-yard line with four seconds remaining. The Aaron Rodgers-to-Jeff Janis Hail Mary (and subsequent PAT) forced overtime, though the Cardinals quickly won with a three-play, 80-yard touchdown drive.

Richard Rodgers (Packers) vs. Lions – 2015

Green Bay started 6-0 in 2015 but dropped their next three games and four of five games entering a Thursday night game in Detroit. After Lions’ defensive end Devin Taylor extended the game with a 15-yard facemask penalty against Aaron Rodgers at the Packers’ 24-yard line, Rodgers’ and tight end Richard Rodgers connected on a 61-yard Hail Mary, which remains the longest Hail Mary in NFL history. 

“I knew by the height I put on it that we were going to have a chance to have some guys around it,” Rodgers said after the game. “I was looking at Davante [Adams] after I threw it, and I was pretty excited to see Richard jump in there and catch it.”

The play was called the “Miracle in Motown” by Jim Nantz during the postgame show.

Golden Tate (Seahawks) vs. Packers – 2012

Golden Tate of Seattle Seahawks makes a catch against Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 24, 2012. Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images.
(Photo by: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Week 1 of the 2001 NFL season was officiated by replacement officials after the NFL locked out officials amidst failed talks for a new bargaining agreement. High-level college football officials worked the 15 NFL games that week before a deal was reached prior to Week 2.

Eleven years later, the NFL locked out officials again amidst failed talks, though the league didn’t have high-level college football officials this time.

Titus Young (Lions) vs. Titans – 2012

Often lost in the Hail Mary shuffle because both the Lions and Titans were miserable in 2012, Shaun Hill’s 41-yard connection with Titus Young as time expired capped a 14-point comeback in the final 18 seconds. 

The touchdown forced overtime, which led to one of the Lions’ 12 losses on the season.

Mike Thomas (Jaguars) vs. Texans – 2010

Kevin Walter of Houston Texans catches a touchdown pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on November 14, 2010. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.
(Photo by: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Entering Week 8 of the 2010 season, all four AFC South teams were within one game of each other, and the winner of the Jaguars-Texans would stay within one game of the division-leading Colts. 

After blowing a 17-3 first-half lead, Jacksonville had three seconds from midfield to avoid overtime. They did so with a Hail Mary touchdown as Texans’ safety Glover Quinn batted David Garrard’s into the hands of 5-foot-8 receiver Mike Thomas.

“I don’t have the words to explain this,” Quinn said after the game.

Kevin Johnson (Browns) vs. Saints – 1999

After a three-year hiatus, the reincarnated Cleveland Browns earned their first win of the new era in spectacular fashion.

The Browns scored 53 points in their first seven games (all losses) before erupting for 14 points in the first 59 minutes of a Week 8 game against the woeful Saints. They scored seven more points on a Tim Couch-to-Kevin Johnson Hail Mary as time expired.

Billy Johnson (Falcons) vs. 49ers – 1983

Three years before the first replay review system was used in the NFL, the 49ers would’ve loved another look at Billy Johnson’s Hail Mary dash.

Trailing the 49ers, 24-21, on Nov. 20, 1983, the Falcons needed an end-zone shot from quarterback Steve Bartkowski. They didn’t get it, but they still won after Johnson provided the best Hail Mary run in league history.

Ahmad Rashad (Vikings) vs. Browns – “The Miracle at the Met,” 1980

Entering Week 15 of the 1980 season, the Browns needed a win over the Vikings to clinch a playoff spot, while the Vikings needed a win to maintain a one-game lead over the Lions in the NFC Central. And with 14 seconds remaining, the Browns were all but guaranteed that playoff spot.

A 34-yard- hook-and-ladder play brought the Vikings to the Browns’ 46-yard line. Instead of attempting a game-tying field goal, Tommy Kramer and Ahmad Rashad created the Miracle at the Met.

Drew Pearson (Cowboys) vs. Vikings – The Original “Hail Mary,” 1975

Seeking an upset of two-time defending NFC champions in the first round of the 1975 playoffs, Cowboys’ quarterback Roger Staubach founded the Hail Mary.

Trailing 14-0 at midfield in the final seconds, two plays after converting a 4th-and-16, Roger Staubach heaved a prayer (literally) toward the end-zone, where Drew Pearson caught it for the game-winning touchdown. 

“I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary,” Staubach said after the game.

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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor, a college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @adoughty88

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Andrew Doughty

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Andrew Doughty is the Web Content Lead for BetMGM. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he previously wrote for Sports Illustrated and HERO Sports.

Andrew Doughty is the Web Content Lead for BetMGM. A graduate of the University of Kansas, he previously wrote for Sports Illustrated and HERO Sports.