In honor of yesterday’s David Garrard to Mike Thomas tipped game winner, here is a list of the best Hail Marys in NFL history. To make this list, I required that a) it came at the end of the second half (as opposed to the many that have occurred before halftime); b) it won the game in regulation, and c) it came from near mid-field (so Brett Favre’s pass last year doesn’t qualify as a desperation Hail Mary like the ones on this list). What’s amazing – with the rarity of the walk-off Hail Mary – is that two different quarterbacks appear on this list twice.
6. Cleveland versus Jacksonville, December 8, 2002. Tim Couch to Quincy Morgan. 50 yard pass. The play was reviewed to see whether Morgan maintained possession. It appeared as though ball might have hit the ground, but Ron Winter upheld the call on the field.
5. Atlanta versus San Francisco, November 3, 1991. Billy Joe Tolliver to Michael Haynes, 44 yard touchdown. This game ultimately knocked the 49ers out of the playoffs for the only time between 1983 and 1998, and put Atlanta in the playoffs.
4. Atlanta versus New Orleans, November 12, 1978. Steve Bartkowski to Alfred Jenkins, 57 yard touchdown. Atlanta beat New Orleans 20-17 in this game on the play known as “Big Ben.” A few weeks later, the Falcons beat the Saints by the identical score, when New Orleans was called for defensive pass interference on yet another Hail Mary, and the Falcons scored from the 1 yard line. The Falcons made the playoffs at 9-7, while the Saints finished 7-9.
3. Cleveland versus New Orleans, October 31, 1999. Tim Couch to Kevin Johnson, 56 yard touchdown. The new version of the Cleveland Browns got their first ever win on the hail mary that beat the Saints, who botched clock management before trying the game-leading field goal with enough time left to give the Browns a chance.
2. Atlanta versus San Francisco, November 21, 1983. Steve Bartkowski to Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, 47 yard touchdown. Like the Garrard to Mike Thomas play, this was another tipped ball that fell to White Shoes Johnson in the field of play, and he was able to barely get across the end zone.
1. Dallas versus Minnesota, 1975, December 28, 1975. Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson, 50 yard touchdown. It may not have been as chaotic or desperate as some of the other game winning Hail Marys, and Drew Pearson caught it in the field of play and then ran into the end zone. It is, though, the original, and is still a point of contention for Vikings fans.
[photo via Getty]