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Some context for Denver's game-winning Hail Mary


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I'd read that Kyle Orton's 87-yarder was the longest game-winning TD in the final minute in NFL history. The data dominator only goes back to 2002, but I figured I'd run some queries and see if I could draw up some more fun context for that 87 yard hail mary.

Only three times since 2002 has a team won the game with an 80+ yard TD pass that came after at least 59 minutes of game time had elapsed. One, of course, was Kyle Orton's 87 yard hail mary to the slowest receiver on the field. The other two were an 82 yard TD from Tom Brady to Troy Brown against the Miami Dolphins on October 19th, 2003, and an 82 yard pass from Brett Favre to Greg Jennings against (fittingly enough) the Denver Broncos on October 29th, 2007. Both of those other passes, however, came in overtime, and were not therefore true "hail mary" attempts; the offense could have easily continued moving down the field at a leisurely pace had the pass fallen incomplete.

If we limit the comparison to true "hail mary" attempts (final minute of the 4th quarter, team with the ball trailing by 1-8 points), Orton's completion wasn't just the only one of its kind longer than 80 yards... it was the only one of its kind longer than 70 yards, and the only one of its kind longer than 60 yards. If you look for plays greater than 50 yards, another "hail mary" pass finally shows up... but, unbelievably, it wasn't actually a game-winner. On October 22nd, 2006, the Philadelphia Eagles trailed the Tampa Bay Bucs 14 to 20 with less than a minute to go when Donovan McNabb threw a 52-yard TD to Brian Westbrook. Never ones to be upstaged, the Bucs responded by kicking a game-winning 62 yard field goal as time expired to cap possibly the wildest final 60 seconds in modern NFL history and walk away with a 23-21 win.

One final "hail mary" shows up at exactly 50 yards from the unlikeliest of sources (well, I suppose Orton to Stokley is the unlikeliest of sources, but this one's a close second). On December 8th, 2002, the Cleveland Browns were in a dog-fight for a wildcard spot in the loaded AFC but saw their hopes slipping away when Tim Couch threw a 50-yard hail mary to Quincy Morgan with less than a minute left, stealing the win. They went on to win the final AFC Wildcard on tiebreakers after finishing at 9-7 in a 4-way tie with Miami, New England, and Denver.

Just goes to reinforce what an absurd longshot that TD really was.

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I'd read that Kyle Orton's 87-yarder was the longest game-winning TD in the final minute in NFL history. The data dominator only goes back to 2002, but I figured I'd run some queries and see if I could draw up some more fun context for that 87 yard hail mary.Only three times since 2002 has a team won the game with an 80+ yard TD pass that came after at least 59 minutes of game time had elapsed. One, of course, was Kyle Orton's 87 yard hail mary to the slowest receiver on the field. The other two were an 82 yard TD from Tom Brady to Troy Brown against the Miami Dolphins on October 19th, 2003, and an 82 yard pass from Brett Favre to Greg Jennings against (fittingly enough) the Denver Broncos on October 29th, 2007. Both of those other passes, however, came in overtime, and were not therefore true "hail mary" attempts; the offense could have easily continued moving down the field at a leisurely pace had the pass fallen incomplete.If we limit the comparison to true "hail mary" attempts (final minute of the 4th quarter, team with the ball trailing by 1-8 points), Orton's completion wasn't just the only one of its kind longer than 80 yards... it was the only one of its kind longer than 70 yards, and the only one of its kind longer than 60 yards. If you look for plays greater than 50 yards, another "hail mary" pass finally shows up... but, unbelievably, it wasn't actually a game-winner. On October 22nd, 2006, the Philadelphia Eagles trailed the Tampa Bay Bucs 14 to 20 with less than a minute to go when Donovan McNabb threw a 52-yard TD to Brian Westbrook. Never ones to be upstaged, the Bucs responded by kicking a game-winning 62 yard field goal as time expired to cap possibly the wildest final 60 seconds in modern NFL history and walk away with a 23-21 win.One final "hail mary" shows up at exactly 50 yards from the unlikeliest of sources (well, I suppose Orton to Stokley is the unlikeliest of sources, but this one's a close second). On December 8th, 2002, the Cleveland Browns were in a dog-fight for a wildcard spot in the loaded AFC but saw their hopes slipping away when Tim Couch threw a 50-yard hail mary to Quincy Morgan with less than a minute left, stealing the win. They went on to win the final AFC Wildcard on tiebreakers after finishing at 9-7 in a 4-way tie with Miami, New England, and Denver.Just goes to reinforce what an absurd longshot that TD really was.

Thanks for the nice analysis and context. Nice comparisons. The Favre to Jennings TD was fantastic, but this was just absurd. Besides Clevland the schedule is really brutal. If Cincy pulls a win versus Baltimore of Pittsburgh it would be huge. I think there might be a good line for Bengals at home versus the Steelers W3.
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The play wasn't a hail mary

I agree. A traditional hail mary is one where the QB launches the ball as far as he can and some number of offensive players all try to congregate in the vicinity of the pass in the hopes of getting a lucky catch. It is usually attempted on the last play of a half.That wasn't at all what happened here. It was second down and the Broncos weren't going for it all. They were just trying for a first down - just like the other long plays you mentioned here. Seriously there is no difference in what the teams were trying to do.What makes this play absurd is that it was a complete fluke play in which there was a deflection of the ball and it ended up in the hands of someone who was never supposed to be in the play at all. It's not a hail mary - just a fortunate bounce - much closer to Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception" (which most people also don't consider a "hail mary".
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The play wasn't a hail mary

I agree. A traditional hail mary is one where the QB launches the ball as far as he can and some number of offensive players all try to congregate in the vicinity of the pass in the hopes of getting a lucky catch. It is usually attempted on the last play of a half.That wasn't at all what happened here. It was second down and the Broncos weren't going for it all. They were just trying for a first down - just like the other long plays you mentioned here. Seriously there is no difference in what the teams were trying to do.What makes this play absurd is that it was a complete fluke play in which there was a deflection of the ball and it ended up in the hands of someone who was never supposed to be in the play at all. It's not a hail mary - just a fortunate bounce - much closer to Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception" (which most people also don't consider a "hail mary".
:excited:
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Cutler's the one who needs the prayer flags; 4 INT's, ouch!

That was a very heady play by Stokley. It was definitely a right place right time moment but he also deserves credit for not giving up on the play.

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The play wasn't a hail mary

I agree. A traditional hail mary is one where the QB launches the ball as far as he can and some number of offensive players all try to congregate in the vicinity of the pass in the hopes of getting a lucky catch. It is usually attempted on the last play of a half.

That wasn't at all what happened here. It was second down and the Broncos weren't going for it all. They were just trying for a first down - just like the other long plays you mentioned here. Seriously there is no difference in what the teams were trying to do.

What makes this play absurd is that it was a complete fluke play in which there was a deflection of the ball and it ended up in the hands of someone who was never supposed to be in the play at all. It's not a hail mary - just a fortunate bounce - much closer to Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception" (which most people also don't consider a "hail mary".

i read somewhere the play yesterday is now being called the Inaccurate Reception.
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