The Famous Hail Mary Pass
Mention the term "Hail Mary" to any longtime Vikings fan and he'll think of one of two plays. You'll know which by the physical reaction. If it's the Tommy Kramer to Ahmad Rashad TD to beat Cleveland 28-23 in December 1980, he'll have a big smile, fondly remembering the old Met shaking in celebration. If, however he flashes back to the 1975 NFC Divisional Playoff versus the Dallas Cowboys, you had better have an airsick bag at the ready, or preferably something to punch. To explain, let us flash back ...
It is December 28th, 1975. The place Metropolitan Stadium, Bloomington, Minn. The Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys, and their respective defenses The Purple People Eaters and The Doomsday Defense had fought to a 10-7 Dallas lead for most of four quarters of football. Finally, with 1:51 left in the game, Fran Tarkenton's Viking offense capped a drive with a TD, to go ahead 14-10. Dallas now needed another TD of their own, and with the Purple People Eaters in their finest form, the partisan crowd could taste a third consecutive Super Bowl for their Norsemen.
QB Roger Staubach took over the Dallas offense at their own 15-yard line. He did an admirable job in the face of Marshall, Page, Eller, and Larsen, moving the Cowboys to midfield in nine plays, all the while fighting sore ribs made tight by the cold Minnesota winter wind. But Dallas was out of time-outs and there was now less than 30 seconds on the game clock. One sack or even a completion in the middle of the field, and time would be all but exhausted. It seemed the effort would be fruitless.
Lining up once again in shotgun formation, Staubach took the snap, pump-faked left, then turned to his right and fired the ball deep downfield. Cowboys WR Drew Pearson was out there, being shadowed by Vikings CB Nate Wright. Both turned to the outside to follow the flight of the ball, Pearson cutting under Wright. But Wright would slip on the frozen turf. Nevertheless, he seemed to be in position to stop the pass. As the ball came down, Pearson pushed off of Wright and caught the pass, trapping it against his hip at the 5-yard line. As Pearson strode into the end zone, free safety Paul Krause hurdled over Wright, screaming at field judge Armen Terzian for the interference call that was never made. And an orange whizzed by Pearson at the goal line. For his wonderful effort, Terzian was struck in the head and cut open by a whiskey bottle thrown from the stands. The old Met crowd, celebrating another Super Bowl just a moment before, was now quiet, seething in anger and gaping in stunned disbelief.
In a post-game interview, someone described the play to Staubach, who had been hit immediately after throwing the ball and didn't see its ending. "You mean he [Pearson] caught the ball and ran in for the touchdown?" Staubach asked. "It was just a Hail Mary pass; a very, very lucky play." After some time had passed, the play was part of history, new grudges were set, and the NFL had washed its hands of the embarrassing matter. Drew Pearson finally admitted to former Viking RB Chuck Foreman (who played in the game) that he did indeed intentionally commit offensive pass interference against Nate Wright. This does serve as a form of redemption, but it is too little, too late, and certainly not forgiven.
1999 Sportz Ink, Inc.
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