Cowboys “Hail Mary” Hard to Beat


Dec 14, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Heisman Trophy winner and Naval Academy alumnus Roger Staubach is seen here on the sidelines prior to the start of the 114th Army-Navy game at Lincoln Financial Field. Navy Midshipmen defeated Army Black Knights 34-7. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

With the Super Bowl right around the corner, there have been several NFL  “best of” lists floating around. When it comes to which play in NFL history is the most famous, this Cowboys fan knows there is only one answer… “Hail Mary”. The longtime Dallas faithful can probably remember where they were on that wintry December afternoon when Roger Staubach slung a prayer down the field to Drew Pearson to send the Cowboys toward their eventual Super Bowl meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Minnesota Vikings out of the playoffs.

When I lived in Minnesota for a while, I found out that the Mall of America sits on the ground where the Vikings’ old home, Metropolitan Stadium, once stood. I told anybody in the tundra who would listen that there ought to be a plague hung in the massive mall to designate the hallowed spot where that most famous of plays happened, but they didn’t take very kindly to that advice…

Although the term can be traced back to the 1930s, it became the popular designation for a long, low-probability pass that is attempted at game’s end when Staubach, in a post-game interview said, “I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.”

With such a vaunted history backing it up, it was a bit disconcerting to hear that a number of sporting experts consider “The Catch” made by Dwight Clark in the 1982 NFC Championship Game between the San Francisco 49ers and our beloved ‘Boys to be ahead of the “Hail Mary” in NFL history.  Unfortunately, it isn’t hard to recall where I was when that black mark in Cowboys lore occurred either.

It would seem to me, though, that a great many infamous plays are as memorable as “The Catch”…unless you are a 49ers fan, of course.

Pittsburgh Steelers’  terrible towel wavers would probably want to throw “The Immaculate Reception” made by Franco Harris in the 1972 Divisional Playoff Game against the Oakland Raiders in for consideration. The New York Giants’ followers might remember the “helmet catch” made by David Tyree that sealed the G-Men’s Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots in 2008. That one is a little iffy, though, since it doesn’t have an official name.

Speaking of the Patties, fans in New England might have a case for Tom Brady’s fumble-that-wasn’t which robbed the Oakland Raiders of a win in the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff Game. That one doesn’t have a name either really, but it was the driving force in bringing “The Tuck Rule” into the NFL. While the play certainly is memorable…just ask the Raiders, who haven’t made a dent in the playoffs since…it didn’t leave a positive mark so let’s take it out of consideration.

When I think about it, several of the NFL’s teams have a hat in the ring when it comes to most memorable play.

There is the John Elway “Helicopter” that sent the Broncos #7 spinning toward his long-awaited Super Bowl win against the Green Bay Packers. In turn, it also gave Broncos owner Pat Bowlen the chance to utter his famous, “This one’s for John…” post game remark. The folks in Tennessee Titans’ land can point to “The Music City Miracle” that extended the Buffalo Bills string of bad luck and propelled the Titans to Super Bowl XXXIV.

Let the fans in all those other cities have their bit of glory. Let the analysts squawk about “The Catch” all they want. We in Cowboysland know the truth…It all goes back to “Hail Mary.”