A play in football where the quarterback heaves a pass into a usually distant endzone without really aiming at any particular receiver. Usually the absolute last-ditch scoring option used at the end of a game (or less frequently, a half), because everybody knows it's coming and the defense can simply bat the pass down. The name comes from the canonical prayer uttered by the quarterback before launching it.

Contrast the bomb, which is (usually) thrown with a realistic, if less-than-usual, chance of being completed and at one particular receiver.

The term 'Hail Mary' was first used in reference to a football pass play in a 1975 NFC playoff game when Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach connected with Drew Pearson for a shocking, game-winning, 50 yard reception. The Minnesota Vikings seemed to have the game under control, but with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter Staubach launched a seemingly desperate bomb that he later described as a "Hail Mary pass", and Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson appeared to push off Vikings cornerback Nate Wright ;o) to catch the underthrown ball for the game-winning touchdown. (what can I say, I'm a Vikings fan)

Cowboys fans will enjoy the following URL which contains a great description of this historic football play.

And an audio clip of Drew Pearson describing the controversy of whether he pushed off or not can be heard at

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