On a cold December Sunday at Minnesota’s Metropolitan Stadium in 1975, the Vikings were on the verge of winning an NFC divisional playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys. There were 24 seconds left and Cowboys’ quarterback Roger Staubach needed a miracle if he had any hopes of winning the game. On a fourth down play that looked hopeless, Staubach launched the ball up in the air towards wide receiver Drew Pearson. Against all odds, Pearson caught the 50-yard throw and walked right into the end zone to win the game for the Cowboys, stunning the Minnesota crowd and sending the Cowboys to the NFC Championship game.
Staubach said to reporters after the game, “I just closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary,” praying that Pearson would catch the ball and score a touchdown. Ever since Staubach mentioned his last-minute prayer, football teams at every level have called plays where the quarterback lofts up the football for anyone to grab in the end-zone a “Hail Mary” pass. Most recently quarterback Aaron Rodgers has become well-known for the surprising success rate of his “Hail Mary” passes, often winning games (or pulling ahead) in the final seconds.