Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Hail Mary pass
In American football, a Hail Mary pass is a forward pass made in desperation, with only a very small chance of success. The typical Hail Mary is a very long forward pass thrown at the end of a game where there is no possibility for any other play to work. The phrase derives from the name of a prominent Roman Catholic prayer to the Virgin Mary and comes from a translation of the opening words of the prayer in Latin, Ave, Maria. The point is that the success of such a pass is so unlikely that it would need divine intervention to work.
Although the Hail Mary has a low percentage chance of completion, it is generally a standard play in every playbook at the professional and college level. Generally, three or more eligible recievers are lined up on the short side of the field and all run a flag pattern . Generally, the running backs are kept in to block. The quarterback throws towards the end zone and hopes that the pass is completed.
Defending against the Hail Mary is straightforward. The first priority is to ensure the defensive backs are in zone coverage , and that they keep the receivers well in front of them until the ball is thrown. Second, generally no more than four defensive linemen rush the quarterback, with all the linebackers dropping back to prevent a shorter pass. Hail Mary passes are most successful when the defence is in the wrong alignment. If the defence is in man-to-man coverage, and a receiver manages to break coverage by getting further downfield than the nearest defensive back, the chance of success is greatly improved.
The famous Doug Flutie Hail Mary pass succeeded primarily because the defence of the University of Miami stood on the goal line to keep the receivers in front of them, and failed to cover a post route being run by Gerard Phelan . Miami's defence was based on the assumption that Flutie would be unable to throw the ball as far as the end zone, but Flutie hit Phelan in stride against a flatfooted defence a yard deep in the end zone.
The term "Hail Mary pass" was coined by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, referring to his desperation (and Catholic beliefs), game-winning touchdown pass in an 1975 NFC semifinal playoff game.
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