Hail Mary is a term peculiar to the game of football. What would the player do when the when the game is nearing its end or on the last leg of the half, the team is nowhere near the goal range and is left with time for just one play. It would be time to try the Hail Mary where the ball is tossed up towards one edge of the end zone with several players trying to receive it while the defenders try to intercept it.
More recently the term Hail Mary pass is used in more generalized terms to refer to any last minute effort to score a victory though with slim chances of success.
The phrase Hail Mary was coined by Roger Staubach , the quarterback of Dallas Cowboys after throwing the football to Drew Pearson in the NFL divisional playoff match in the year 1975-76. The move turned out to be a winning touchdown pass. A Hail Mary is considered an offensive move where the quarterback sends the ball up with no specific receiver being targeted but just hoping that one of his team members would successfully catch it.
The defensive team may rearrange its strategy to knock down a Hail Mary pass. A number of defensive backs may be positioned to cover the different zones. A couple of them may devise to run toward the quarterback to mount pressure on him. In the event of a Hail Mary pass taking place, the defensive team ties to cover the receivers and stop the ball. However this can be done only after the ball arrives so as not to be termed as pass interference.
In case the defensive lands up aggressively covering the receiver, he may be charged with a pass interference call. At this point the game cannot end on a penalty, so in this situation the ball would be positioned a few yards away from the goal line. The offense has one last go to gain a touchdown.
In the 1980 game at Holiday Bowl, BYU has only four minutes to play the game in which it was already down by twenty points (25-45).At this crucial juncture, Jim McMahon,the quarterback scored a Hail Mary against Clay Brown leading to a tie. Kurt Gunther scored the ‘extra point’ leading BYU to its first Bowl victory. BYU defeated SMU scoring 46-45. BYU fans have fondly named this winning match as the “Miracle Bowl.
Another notable example of the Hail Mary Pass would be the match played between Miami of Florida and Boston College in 1984. Doug Flutie, the quarter back of Boston College team successfully launched a Hail Mary pass in the last few seconds and clinched a major win against the Miami team. Some kind of divine intervention some would say for lofting the ball into the winning end zone.
The Hail Mary pass in football is like a prayer which is used only as a last resort nearing the end of a game. It doesn’t work to be overtly optimistic of the Hail Mary pass as just a fraction of them are successful.