The 'Other' Famous Hail Mary Pass
December 14, 1980
With a mere 12 seconds left, the Minnesota Vikings trailed the Cleveland Browns 23-22, the ball sitting on their own 20-yard line after a touchback on the kickoff following the go-ahead FG for Cleveland. The 1980 Vikings, led by QB Tommy Kramer, RB Ted Brown, WRs Ahmad Rashad and Sammy White, and LB Scott Studwell, were not the team of the Purple People Eaters anymore. In fact, they trailed in this game due to a lousy missed PAT. But as many in the stands at Metropolitan Stadium prepared to head for the parking lot, these Vikings staged the quickest and most dramatic comeback in team history.
The Vikings broke the offensive huddle, lining up Rashad, White, and WR Terry LeCount to the right, in Hail Mary formation known to the Vikings as Squadron Right. QB Tommy Kramer dropped back, looked downfield to the right, but then fired over the middle at medium range. TE Joe Senser had released and hooked about 12 yards down- field. Kramer's pass hit Senser in the hands, and as soon as he caught it, and before a Cleveland LB could tackle him, he shoveled the ball off to the trailing RB Ted Brown. Brown's defender got picked by the pile of Joe Senser and his tackler, and he was free up the left side of the field. He dashed up to the Cleveland 47 yard line, and even though he could've easily gotten 15 more yards, perhaps even 20, Brown saw the game clock above the end zone toward which he was sprinting and alertly got out of bounds with 1 precious second left.
Kramer looked to the sideline and got the play from coach Bud Grant. Again, Grant called for the Squadron Right formation, and this time Senser and Brown stayed in the backfield to block. Cleveland rushed only their 4 down linemen, keeping the rest of their men deep downfield. Rashad, White, and LeCount raced down the right sideline Rashad outside, White inside, LeCount in the middle. Kramer dropped back to his own 45-yard line, and then stepped up into the pocket and let the ball fly toward the sky. It peaked, then came down at the 5-yard line, just as the 3 Vikings WRs and a half-dozen Cleveland DBs reached the same spot. WR Terry LeCount jumped as high as he could, as did 3 or 4 defenders. The ball was tipped, and Ahmad Rashad, forgotten by Cleveland, just inside the sideline and behind the group of players leaping, reached out with his right hand and pulled the tipped ball to he chest, backing into the end zone as he did so.
Metropolitan Stadium erupted, roaring as they saw Rashad hold the ball up and then get smothered by White and LeCount. The stadium literally shook as the entire Vikings team ran down the sideline to mob Rashad in the corner of the end zone. People living across Cedar Avenue from the old Met, in east Bloomington, could hear the crowd screaming all the way to their yards.
While nothing could ever replace the bitter taste that another Hail Mary from 5 years before left in their mouths, from this day forward, the term could be used to remind Vikings fans of one of the greatest plays in team history, and in so doing, help the memory of that other day fade all the faster.....
1999 Sportz Ink, Inc.
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