Hail Marys: NFC North games full of grace

September, 26, 2012
9/26/12
10:30
AM ET
As we move on from Monday night's fiasco at CenturyLink Field, we should note the outlying success of Hail Mary passes in recent NFC North games.

(I realize many of you have other names for the play that ended in Golden Tate's game-winning reception for the Seattle Seahawks. "Fail Mary" is a good one, but for the purposes of this post, please just bear with me.)

According to research from John McTigue of ESPN Stats & Information, there have been 66 Hail Mary attempts since the start of 2009 games; the play is defined as a throw at the end of a half where multiple receivers and defenders have a chance at the ball. Five of those 66 attempts have been completed, and four of them have involved NFC North teams.

The chart provides the details. The Packers have allowed two of the completions: Monday night and before halftime of their 2011 divisional playoff loss to the New York Giants. The Detroit Lions scored on one to forge a tie in regulation last Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, and the Chicago Bears gave up one in last season's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Tuesday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy was asked if he preferred defenders to bat down a Hail Mary pass or attempt an interception, as safety M.D. Jennings did Monday night. McCarthy said he wants players to follow their instinct and noted the pitfalls of both strategies: An interception could develop into simultaneous possession, which awards the ball to the offense. A batted ball could be caught for a touchdown off the ricochet -- precisely as Lions receiver Titus Young did last Sunday.

McTigue's research reveals that plenty of players are looking for interceptions on Hail Mary passes; 22 of those 66 Hail Marys have been intercepted. That rate of 33.3 percent is much higher than the typical rate of interceptions for all passes in the league, which in 2012 is 2.7 percent.

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