NFL | Apr 28, 2023

Top 8 Hail Mary throws in NFL history

By Harry Bazley

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The Hail Mary pass is one of the most exciting plays in football, where a quarterback throws a deep pass to the end zone, hoping for a miracle catch. Over the years, there have been countless Hail Mary attempts in the NFL, but some stand out far more than others...

Honourable Mentions

Now, there have been many successful Hail Mary's over the course of the NFL, making it tough to narrow them down to just 8. So, to honour some of the plays that fell just short of the list, here are a few honourable mentions:

  • Tim Couch to Kevin Johnson

  • Kyler Murray to Deandre Hopkins

  • Shaun Hill to Titus Young

These plays are miracles within their own right, but when you factor in the game scenario they don't quite make the cut for the top 8. So, without further ado let's get into the 8 best Hail Mary's in NFL history.

8. Aaron Rodgers to Richard Rodgers, 2015

In 2015, Green Bay achieved a 6-0 record but lost their following three games, and four of their five games before playing in Detroit on a Thursday night.

During the game, Devin Taylor, a defensive end for the Lions, committed a 15-yard facemask penalty against Aaron Rodgers at the Packers' 24-yard line, which prolonged the game. In the closing moments of the game, Aaron Rodgers and Richard Rodgers, the tight end, connected on a 61-yard Hail Mary, which currently holds the title for the longest Hail Mary in NFL history. Rodgers expressed his confidence in the play's success, stating that he had aimed for a specific height to allow his teammates to be in position to catch the ball.

The postgame show's commentator, Jim Nantz, famously dubbed the play the "Miracle in Motown.

7. Aaron Rodgers to Jeff Janis, 2015 playoffs

Just five weeks after the Motown Miracle, the Packers found themselves in another do-or-die situation, vying for a spot in the NFC Championship game and yet again, Aaron Rodgers shows off his arm strength to create one of the greatest Hail Mary's in history.

Down 20-13 with only 1:55 left on the clock in the 2015 NFC Divisional Playoffs, the Packers were left with no timeouts and starting at their own 14-yard line. Despite facing a daunting 2nd-and-15 from the Cardinals' 41-yard line with just four seconds remaining, the Packers managed to convert the play thanks to an incredible Aaron Rodgers-to-Jeff Janis Hail Mary. The ensuing PAT brought the game to overtime, but unfortunately for the Packers, the Cardinals quickly secured the win with a swift three-play, 80-yard touchdown drive.

6. Kyler Murray to Deandre Hopkins, 2020

This pass from Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins in 2020 is perhaps the most memorable play of the young quarterback's career. On November 15th, 2020, the Cardinals faced the Buffalo Bills and with the game tied at 30-30 and just seconds left on the clock, the Cardinals were left with the ball on their own 25-yard line.

On the next play, Kyler Murray, the Cardinals' quarterback, dropped back to pass and was under heavy pressure from the Bills' defense. He scrambled to his left and, while running towards the sideline, launched a deep pass towards the end zone.

DeAndre Hopkins, the Cardinals' star wide receiver, was surrounded by three Bills' defenders but managed to out-jump them and come down with the ball for a touchdown, giving the Cardinals the 32-30 victory.

5. David Garrard to Mike Thomas, 2010

As Week 8 of the 2010 season commenced, the AFC South division had all four teams closely trailing each other by a single game. The winner of the Jaguars-Texans match would remain within one game of the leading Colts.

Despite heading into the second half up 17-3, Jacksonville struggled to maintain their advantage and faced the possibility of overtime with three seconds left on the clock. However, they clinched a Hail Mary touchdown in the final moments, with a little help from Texans' safety Glover Quinn, who inadvertently batted David Garrard's pass into the hands of the 5-foot-8 receiver Mike Thomas.

4. Tim Couch to Kevin Johnson, 1999

Following a three-year break, the resurrected Cleveland Browns achieved their inaugural victory of the new era in an impressive manner. In their first seven games, all of which they lost, the Browns only managed to score a total of 53 points.

However, in their eighth game against the hapless Saints, they exploded for 14 points within the first 59 minutes. As time ticked down, they added seven more points to their tally with a remarkable Hail Mary pass from Tim Couch to Kevin Johnson.

3. Tommy Kramer to Ahmad Rashad, 1980

As Week 15 of the 1980 season approached, the Cleveland Browns found themselves needing a victory against the Minnesota Vikings to secure their place in the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Vikings needed to win to maintain their one-game advantage over the Detroit Lions in the NFC Central division. With only 14 seconds left on the clock, the Browns were on the brink of clinching their playoff spot.

In an effort to catch up, the Vikings executed a 34-yard hook-and-ladder play, bringing them to the Browns' 46-yard line. Rather than attempting a field goal to tie the game, quarterback Tommy Kramer and wide receiver Ahmad Rashad pulled off a stunning play known as the Miracle at the Met.

2. Aaron Rodgers to Randall Cobb, 2013 playoffs

In a wild-card game against the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers needed a win to secure a playoff spot. With just 46 seconds left in the game and facing a fourth-and-eight, Aaron Rodgers launched a Hail Mary pass that was caught by Randall Cobb for a 48-yard touchdown. The Packers went on to win the game and eventually reached the divisional round of the playoffs.

1. Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson, 1975 playoffs

Perhaps the most famous Hail Mary of all time, this play has become known as the "Original Hail Mary." With just 24 seconds left in the game, the Dallas Cowboys trailed the Minnesota Vikings by three points. On fourth down, Roger Staubach launched a deep pass to Drew Pearson, who made a spectacular catch and ran in for the game-winning touchdown. The play has since become a legend in NFL history and is arguably the best game winning Hail Mary touchdown ever thrown.

That rounds up our official list, but there's one more play that can't be forgotten...

The Fail Mary

We couldn't cover the top Hail Mary's in NFL history, without mentioning the Fail Mary - one of the NFL's most controversial plays.

The "Fail Mary" occurred during a game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers on September 24, 2012. With seconds left in the game, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw a Hail Mary pass into the end zone, which was 'caught' by wide receiver Golden Tate. However, it was unclear whether Tate had simultaneous possession of the ball with Packers defender M.D. Jennings, who also appeared to have caught the ball.

After a lengthy review, the replacement referees who were officiating the game ruled that Tate had caught the ball, and therefore it was a game-winning touchdown for the Seahawks. The play was highly controversial, as many argued that Jennings had in fact intercepted the ball, and that the referees had made the wrong call. The incident sparked intense debate about the use of replacement referees in the NFL, and the need for more experienced officials to be on the field.