Hail Roger, Hail Drew … Hail Mary

Drew Pearson completes 50-yard touchdown vs. Minnesota Dec. 28, 1975, in "Hail Mary" pass sequence in NFC Playoff game at Bloomington, Minn. (Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys)


(Photos courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)

Talk of Fame Network

What began as a desperation heave has now become part of NFL lore — the Hail Mary pass.

We saw Aaron Rodgers throw two of them for the Green Bay Packers this season, one that beat Detroit on the final play of regulation in the regular season and the other that forced an overtime against Arizona on the final play of regulation in the playoffs.

But it all started back in 1975 on a touchdown pass from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson. We asked our listeners and readers of The Talk of Fame Network in last week’s poll to identify the greatest divisional round playoff game ever and the Hail Mary propelled the Cowboys-Vikings tilt to the top.

That 1975 NFC title game received 33.3 percent of the vote, followed by the 1971 Christmas Day double-overtime between Miami and Kansas City at 25 percent.

The 1981 San Diego-Miami game received 16.7 percent of the vote, followed by the 2012 Baltimore-Denver game at 16.7 percent, the 1972 Immaculate Reception game between Oakland and Pittsburgh at 8.3 percent and the 2003 Indianapolis-Kansas City no punt game at 2.1 percent.

Talk of Fame Network co-host Rick Gosselin cast his ballot for the Christmas day game — the longest game ever played — while fellow host Clark Judge voted for the Immaculate Reception.

“When you think of unforgettable finishes … at least when Aaron Rodgers isn’t involved … it’s this play,” Judge said. “It was so stunning, in fact, that the Raiders still haven’t stopped talking about it, and Pittsburgh fans don’t want to forget it. And they won’t. There’s a life-sized figure of Franco snatching the ball out of the air in the Pittsburgh airport. I’m still waiting on the Ed Podolak, Kellen Winslow and Joe Flacco figures to appear at their local flyways.”

Co-host and former Raiders beat writer Ron Borges also went with the Immaculate Reception.

“Had that play gone the other way, as it should have since Franco hasn’t caught that ball yet, maybe the dynasty of the 1970s is the Raiders and not the Steelers,” Borges said. “But it didn’t, and so it wasn’t. That’s life as well as football. Shift one moment and many other moments change.”

Here’s the 1975 scenario for the Hail Mary: The Vikings were the Central Division champions and the top seed in the NFC with a 12-2 record. The Cowboys qualified for the playoffs as a wild-card at 10-4. The underdog Cowboys took a 10-7 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Vikings scored a late touchdown on a line plunge by Brent McClanahan for a 14-10 lead.

The Cowboys started the game-winning drive at their own 15 with 1:50 to play. Staubach hit Pearson with a fourth-and-17 for a first down to move the ball to midfield with 37 seconds left. On second down, with 32 seconds left, Staubach threw the bomb to Pearson, who untangled himself from Pro Bowl cornerback Nate Wright to make the catch inside the 5-yard line, then backpeddled into the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown.

Staubach, a devout Catholic, said he just threw the ball and said a Hail Mary. Pearson answered that prayer with his catch.

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  1. Scott Dochterman
    January 20, 2016

    I’m partial to the Chiefs-Colts game because I covered it that day, but there’s really not a loser on the list. I was a little surprised not to see the “Sea of Hands” on the list, but the divisional round always has great games.

    Pearson made some excellent points about his Hall of Fame candidacy. No receiver made bigger plays in bigger games in the NFL’s greatest decade than Pearson. He not only made big plays for Roger Staubach, he made them for Clint Longley and in multiple playoff games for Danny White like at Atlanta in 1980.

  2. Anonymous
    January 20, 2016

    You mean Drew Pearson’s push off?

    • Rasputin
      January 20, 2016

      Nope. Watch the replay closely. Nate Wright tripped himself up and fell. There was no push off by Pearson.

  3. Rasputin
    January 20, 2016

    Most deserving Landry era Cowboys still not in the HoF:

    1. Chuck Howley
    2. Cliff Harris
    3. Drew Pearson

    They were excluded due to the long running and well documented anti-Cowboys bias. That bias seems to have eroded some (though not completely) in recent years, but I won’t consider Canton legitimate and the disgraceful legacy of the bias a thing of the past until, at a minimum, the above three men are enshrined. How about getting some of these guys in, Rick? One would think it would be an advantage having a city’s HoF representative on the senior committee.

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