The Hail Mary might just be the greatest sight in the American Football playbook and yet there has only been 33 thrown successfully since the term was first coined 45 years ago. We decided to count down five of the greatest and find out what the best Hail Mary pass of all-time was.
Best Hail Mary pass of all time | Top 5
5. Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins (2020)
That’s right, kicking off our list of the top five Hail Mary passes of all-time is the play that inspired us to write this article. Kyler Murray had a decent rookie year last season but the pressure ramped on him ahead of the new campaign with the arrival of Hopkins giving him an experienced and exciting target to hit. It was that duo that combined for a moment of ecstasy a couple of weeks ago.
The Cardinals started the game against the Buffalo Bills slowly before a stirring third quarter gave them hope. When the Bills jumped into 30-26 lead with just 34 seconds left on the clock it looked to have been in vain. Murray had different ideas though and found Hopkins with a 43-yard pass to win the match for the Cardinals. It was Murray’s only touchdown pass of the game.
4. Andy Dalton to AJ Green (2016)
Sometimes a Hail Mary wins the game at the death, sometimes it takes you to the Super Bowl and sometimes it is just impressive because it is. For this one the game itself was a crushing 31-17 defeat for the Cleveland Browns but that’s not what everyone was talking about afterwards. Oh no, all they wanted to talk about was the catch by Bengals wide receiver AJ Green at the end of quarter two.
The Bengals were already leading with half time imminent but Dalton pitched a 48-yard diagonal towards Green. The 2011 first round pick was surrounded by four Brown defenders but got his fingertips to the pass. He flicked the ball into the air before clutching it into his chest at the third time of asking as he fell to the ground. The throw was good. The hands by Green were incredible.
3. Tim Couch to Kevin Johnson (1999)
If that Dalton-Green combo has just awoken bad memories for Browns fans then, hopefully, our Hail Mary bronze medal conjures happier ones. The Cleveland franchise were celebrating their return to the NFL after four years away but things were not going to plan. Their record stood at 0-7 with the side uncompetitive in most fixtures. Thankfully, when they met the New Orleans Saints in week eight it was a clash of two out of form sides.
Couch and Johnson teamed up in the third to give Cleveland the lead for the first time in the match but two field goals made it 16-14 Saints with under 30 seconds remaining. 0-8 looked to be a banker. The Browns had nothing to lose. Couch went big from 56-yards and Johnson was there to receive again. The Browns had their first win since returning to the NFL.
2. Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson (1975)
Here it is, the pass that started it all. The NFC divisional playoff was always going to bring fireworks as the Minnesota Vikings and the Dallas Cowboys locked horns but few would have predicted what unfolded. Both sides were solid defensively and uninspiring going in the other direction. The final quarter started with the scores locked at a low scoring 7-7.
The Cowboys edged in front via a field goal but Brent McClanahan went over to make it 14-10 Vikings. There was still five minutes to play but the game had been so tight that it looked inevitable that Dallas’ Super Bowl aspirations were over. Then it happened. Time was running down, 30 seconds, 29, 28, 27, 26, 25, 24 and then boom. Staubach from nowhere. 50-yards to Pearson for the win. It was the Cowboys quarterback who referred to it in the post-match interview as a Hail Mary before claiming he ‘just threw it and prayed’. His prayers were answered and a the Hail Mary was born.
1. Aaron Rodgers to Richard Rodgers (2015)
It is fitting that Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers tops our list and is honoured with the best Hail Mary pass of all-time. After all, he has thrown three Hail Mary’s in his career. It’s his first one from a 2015 match against Detroit Lions that we rank as the best Hail Mary of all-time though. The first half of the game had seen the Packers struggle with the Lions roaring into a 17-0 lead.
The second half was drastically different with the third finishing 14-3 Packers. When the Lions scored a field goal to make it 23-14 with four minutes left, the Packers looked done. It soon became squeaky bum time though. Rodgers scrambled for a touchdown before the extra point followed up. The Packers were still trailing but only narrowly. Then the Hail Mary happened. Devin Taylor was penalised at the death giving Rodgers and co one last chance; the QB took it as he hurled 61-yards to his namesake tight end, Richard. It’s the longest game winning Hail Mary pass ever. Deservedly number one.