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The Five Best Hail Mary Passes In NFL History

Amanda Campbell provides an overview of the five best football passes in NFL history.

American football is one of the most popular sports in the world. As a result, it is also one of the most commonly bet on sports worldwide. You can check out NFL lines for more specific information.

Many football techniques stand out in any game. The Hail Mary pass is one of the most impressive and widely underused manoeuvres.

This is one of the most dramatic passes in any sport. So much so that it has become renowned as a crowd-silencing all-or-nothing move, rightfully earning a spot as one of football’s greatest last-minute passes.

Here are some of the best Hail Mary passes in NFL history that you must know.

Roger Staubach To Drew Pearson (The Original)

Date: December 28, 1975
Final Score: Dallas Cowboys (17) vs. Minnesota Vikings (14)

The Hail Mary play didn’t coin its name until this iconic game.

Picture this: the Cowboys and the Vikings were locked in a tight divisional playoff game with only a handful of seconds remaining. This is when Roger Staubach, a Dallas legend, threw a 50-yard "bomb" over to Drew Pearson for the game-winning touchdown (TD). It wasn’t the traditional Hail Mary that we know in games played today.

If you wonder how the phrase came about, we can thank Staubach. He is quoted as saying, “... you could call it a Hail Mary. You throw it up and pray.” The phrase has stuck ever since.

Tommy Kramer To Ahmad Rashad (Miracle At The Met)

Date: December 4, 1980
Final Score: Minnesota Vikings (28) vs. Cleveland Browns (23)

Vikings quarterback Tommy Kramer played a great game against the Cleveland Browns. The 46-yard TD pass to Ahmad Rashad resulted in a miracle victory at the Metropolitan Stadium.

Kramer lofted a 46-yard pass on "Squadron Right”, which is a play that Rashad reeled in and caught with only one hand to achieve the victory. This left a short enough distance (456 yards) for Kramer to heave the ball towards the end zone.

Ahmad Rashad stepped in to catch the ball, clinching the victory for the Vikings and guaranteeing their spot in the playoffs.

Tim Couch To Kevin Johnson

Date: October 31, 1999
Final Score: Cleveland Browns (21) vs. New Orleans Saints (16)

After a four-year break, the Cleveland Browns were mid-celebration after returning to the NFL. However, things were not going according to plan.

Tim Couch and Kevin Johnson worked together to provide Cleveland with the first initial lead they so desperately needed during the match in the third. However, two separate field goals within a short time frame changed the score favouring the Saints with just half a minute remaining.

At this point, the Browns had nothing left to lose. Couch went all out from around 56-yards. Thankfully, Johnson was already there waiting to receive the last-second 58-yeard Hail Mary in the end zone. As a result, the Browns clinched one of their first wins in years.

Aaron Rodgers To Richard Rodgers (The Miracle In Motown)

Date: December 3, 2015
Final Score: Green Bay Packers (27) vs. Detroit Lions (23)

Rodgers' walk-off Hail Mary in a December football matchup against the Detroit Lions showcases why he has a reputation as the Hail Mary master.

After a controversial call on a previous facemask play, Rodgers launched the ball for a 61-yard TD to Richard Rodgers II, who leapt in front of all defenders, caught the ball at full extension, and came down almost unchallenged for the catch.

The throw was high enough almost to hit the Ford Field rafters and resulted in the Packers' win. This incredible Hail Mary is the most symbolic game-winning move of this kind in the history of the NFL.

Aaron Rodgers To Jeff Janis (NFC Divisional Round)

Date: January 16, 2016
Final Score: Arizona Cardinals (26) vs. Green Day Packers (20)

Aaron Rodgers has rightfully earned his second mention on this list after making yet another impressive Hail Mary touchdown to send this game to overtime.

His miracle 59-yard touchdown heave resulted from an incredible throw from fourth-and-20 from the Packers' end zone.

A largely unknown player caught the pass at the time, wide receiver Jeff Janis, who drifted to the end zone and came down with a TD over two defenders to catch the ball. Rodgers and Janis had hardly played directly alongside each other until now.

The touchdown and extra point tied the score at 20. Despite the Cardinals winning the game in overtime, the Packers wouldn’t have stood a chance without the superhero performance of Rodgers.


These are 5 of the best Hail Mary passes in the history of the NFL. Hail Mary passes are challenging to accomplish and require lots of momentum and razor-sharp player focus to execute them properly.

Hail Marys are very long forward passes typically made in a moment of desperation. As convenient as they can be, they are not always successful moves to carry out and have a minimal chance of completion.

Page Reference

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  • CAMPBELL, A. (2022) The Five Best Hail Mary Passes In NFL History [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

About the Author

Amanda Campbell is a freelance writer.