What Is A Hail Mary In Football

A hail mary is a deep often last-second throw towards the endzone. These plays are done in dire situations in which a long-distance touchdown is the offensive teams only chance to get back into the game.

The name Hail Mary is a reference to the catholic prayer of Hail Mary due to the plays low chance of success. In other words, the quarterback is “throwing up a prayer”.

On this play, all the receivers will run deep routes into the opposing team’s endzone. On these plays, the quarterback will attempt to throw a deep high ball into the endzone. This allows the players a chance to get into position for the catch.

Due to the receivers running similar routes and the defenders expecting the play, a hail mary often results in a large number of players jumping up for the ball. These make it difficult for a player of either team to catch it.

Though every once in a while the ball finds itself in the hands of a receiver for a game-winning touchdown.

Other desperation plays like a hail mary include the hook and ladder play as well as the statue of liberty trick play.

Who Threw the longest hail mary of all time

When it comes to throwing the longest hail mary of all time there are two separate records. The longest throw of all time in this category goes to Baker Mayfield. On this play Baker Mayfield attempts the pass and throws the ball over seventy yards.

Not only is it the longest hail mary attempt of all time it is also the longest throw in NFL history. The only issue is no one was able to catch this pass. Making it the longest failed hail mary throw of all time.

The longest completed hail mary of all time belongs to Arron Rodgers and Richard Rodgers.

This pass travelled a total of sixty-one yards making it the longest of all time. This pass also won the game for the packers in the last second leading it to be referred to as the miracle in Motown.

Who Threw The First Hail Mary?

The first Hail Mary pass ever thrown was on December 28, 1975. The pass was thrown by hall of fame quarterback Roger Staubach. A last-second pass was thrown to receiver Drew Pearson.

After the game when Staubach was interviewed about the pass he said “I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.” This sentence coined the term and established the first use of this term in football history.

How Long Is The Average Hail Mary?

The average hail mary distance since 2009 has been 44.7 yards past the line of scrimmage. Keep in mind the passing yardage in the examples above considers the total yardage the ball travelled not the distance from the line of scrimmage.

The fact that the average hail mary travels of 44 goes to show that most teams are not in field goal range. This goes to show that the majority of Hail Mary’s come out of desperation.

hail mary pass

How Often Do They Work?

Since hail marys have become commonplace in the NFL only roughly nine percent of Hail Mary’s have worked successfully in the NFL.

This is an incredibly low number but is fairly expected due to the desperation of the play. When a hail mary occurs there is no question of what play is coming.

NFL defences have specific plays and personnel ready to defend against hail marys whenever they arise. This makes it very difficult to pull one off successfully.

Why Even Attempt It

We know a hail mary is a desperation play. But why do teams decide to run this play instead of one of the many others they use to score touchdowns throughout the game? Below are a few reasons why Hail Marys are the play of choice when desperate.


Time is arguably the biggest factor in attempting this pass. There is no other play in the playbook that can get the ball into the end zone faster than a Hail Mary. You may have plays with a higher probability of success but these plays will take up too much time.

Turnover On Downs

Another common use of this play occurs when a turnover on downs situation is looming. If it is fourth and long and you need to score a Hail Mary is often the top option. This is because fourth and long plays already have very low probabilities.

That being said to use this play on fourth down you will likely have to be concerned about time as well. These plays only occur when fourth and long while needing to score on the drive.

Pass Interference Potential

One more reason that coaches utilize this play is for the potential pass interference call.

A pass interference call in the end zone is going to take you down right to the one-yard line. Even if there is no time left on the clock the refs will allow you one attempt from the one-yard line.

These penalties are more likely to happen if you have multiple players in the end zone during the play. Though these penalties are even more unlikely than a successful catch they still increase the odds of this play working.

What Other Plays Can Teams Attempt Instead Of A Hail Mary

When it comes to dire situations in football there are not many options better than the hail mary. But for teams not feeling confident in a deep pass there are a few other plays to choose from.

The Hook And Ladder

The hook and ladder in football is a fun trick play teams may opt to use when looking for a desperation touchdown. The hook and ladder involve a receiver starting the play by running a comeback route.

As the player catches the pass he will then lateral the ball to a player running a crossing route underneath him. Since the player is not as far down the field the receiver is able to pass him the ball via a backwards pass.

Most defensive players should now be flat-footed after the catch on the comeback route. This gives the player running laterally across the field a chance to get to the sideline.

The odds this play will result in a touchdown is still quite low but there have been many occasions in which this play has worked in the NFL.

End Of Game Laterals

One more end of game play that is used in desperate situations is simply referred to as the end of game lateral play.

This play does not tend to have too much structure to it aside from the fact the goal is to get the ball in the endzone.

It usually starts with a short pass that will pick up a few yards. The offensive players will then move down the field and lateral the ball to one another whenever they are about to be tackled.

The players will often try a wide lateral pass that spans the width of the field. This will get the ball to a player with fewer defenders on his side of the field.

This style of play very rarely works but has been successful on a few occasions in the NFL. Similar to hail marys plays flea flickers or other lateral plays present a risk that teams will often not like to take.

This lateral play is only run when the clock is about to strike zero. Since the players are going to be lateralling the ball several times there is a decent chance of a turnover.

For this reason, this play is only run when the team must score a touchdown that play.

That is all on the hail mary in football learn more about other plays such as the dive running play or the tricky triple option.

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