Is Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary the greatest walk-off winner in NFL history? (Shutdown Corner)

The NFL has had three walk-off winners is a row. The odds of that happening are pretty long, and they’re astronomical when we think about the circumstances that led to them. The Denver Broncos trailed the 10-0 New England Patriots 21-7 in the fourth quarter last Sunday night and won in overtime on C.J. Anderson’s game-winning run. The Cleveland Browns were lining up for a game-winning field goal on Monday night, and the Baltimore Ravens won instead on a “kick six” blocked field goal returned for a touchdown. [ Yahoo Daily Fantasy: $10 could win you $50K in our $350K contest for Week 13 ] And then there was the Green Bay Packers’ Hail Mary on Thursday night to beat the Detroit Lions . The “Rodgers Mary”? That nickname work for everyone? Green Bay was at its own 21-yard line with six seconds left and won. A face mask penalty gave Rodgers a shot to hit tight end Richard Rodgers in the end zone. It was a play we’ll always remember as long as NFL football is played. But is it the greatest walk-off winner in NFL regular-season history? It says something about NFL history that it’s not. It’s not even the best Hail Mary touchdown. Heck, it’s not the greatest walk-off winner in Green Bay Packers history. Or even the second best. Here are the notable regular-season walk-off winners (it’s too tough to compare these to legendary playoff winners like the “Music City Miracle”) in NFL history, with a group of memorable honorable mentions and then the five best ever. And plays like “Miracle at the Meadowlands” doesn’t count, because there was still time on the clock when Herman Edwards ran it in for the Philadelphia Eagles to beat the New York Giants. Category of its own Fail Mary It’s hard to say it’s “great,” because it was a total sham. The replacement officials completely botched it, giving Golden Tate a gift touchdown for the Seahawks on a terrible call. But, it was memorable I guess. One oh-so-close great play River City Relay The New Orleans Saints’ crazy multiple-lateral play to score on the final play against the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2003 would have been in the top five, and maybe No. 1, had John Carney made the extra point. But after one of the craziest plays in NFL history, Carney missed the gimme to tie the game. Technically it wouldn’t have been a walk-off winner, just a play to send the game to overtime. But there was no way we weren’t including this. The honorable mentions, in no particular order Kick sixes: Before the Baltimore Ravens, the Denver Broncos did it twice The Ravens’ walk-off winner on a blocked field goal was pretty awesome. But in 1985 , the Broncos had a truly incredible finish. In overtime against the San Diego Chargers, the Broncos got a blocked field goal and safety Louis Wright was headed in for a score. But the play was whistled dead because the Broncos called timeout right before the play. The Chargers got another chance, and the Broncos blocked it again. Dennis Smith got the block, Wright scooped it and scored. Amazing. The Broncos’ 1985 win and the Ravens’ win on Monday night are the only times in NFL history a game has ended on a blocked field goal for a touchdown. Beat the clock: Le’Veon Bell runs it in You don’t see many running plays beat the clock in regulation. But the Pittsburgh Steelers gambled in Week 5 this season, lining up Bell for a direct snap. Bell jumped over a defender and fought his way into the end zone for a thrilling walk-off run as time expired. Tom Dempsey’s 63-yard kick Dempsey’s record for longest NFL field goal was tied and eventually broken by Matt Prater’s 64-yard kick, but Dempsey’s is still the most amazing because it won the game. In 1970 the New Orleans Saints trotted out Dempsey for the final play, for what would be the longest field goal in NFL history to that point. Dempsey barely hit it to give the Saints a great 19-17 win. It has to be considered the greatest kick in NFL regular-season history. New Browns get their first win In 1999, the Cleveland Browns came back to the NFL. And while they haven’t had a ton of highlights since then, their first win was. The Browns were looking at an 0-8 start to their first season when they trailed in the final seconds at the New Orleans Saints. The Saints hit a go-ahead field goal with 21 seconds left. But Tim Couch hit a 19-yard pass, giving him a chance for one throw to the end zone. And Kevin Johnson caught it , a 56-yard Hail Mary to give the Browns their first ever win. Bengals bungle it, Jerry Rice wins it In 1987, the Cincinnati Bengals thought they could run out the final seconds against the San Francisco 49ers on a run play deep in their territory. But they were tackled with one second left. The 49ers had a shot to win, and the great Rice caught a 25-yard touchdown as time expired . If this happened today, they’d have to invent a second Internet for all of the apoplectic tweets over Bengals coach Sam Wyche’s decision. Kickoff return walk off The first kickoff return touchdown to start overtime happened on Thanksgiving in 1980. The Chicago Bears rallied from a 17-3 deficit at the Detroit Lions (they were killing their fans even back then) and Dave Williams took the overtime kickoff 95 yards to give the Bears the win . Chad Morton also returned the opening kickoff of overtime for a touchdown to give the New York Jets a win over the Buffalo Bills in 2002. Billy “White Shoes” Johnson scores … right? In 1983, Johnson caught a Hail Mary pass against the San Francisco 49ers. The problem was, he caught it at about the 5-yard line after it was tipped. He still needed to get in the end zone, so he made a couple moves, and as he was being tackled he stretched the ball over the goal line. Nowadays, there’s probably zero chance this score would stand after a replay review, because it sure seemed he was down before he scored. But, it stood.  The Rodgers Mary It was fun, it’s the freshest in our minds, but Rodgers to Rodgers to beat the Lions at the buzzer doesn’t stack up to these five …  The best walk-off winners in NFL regular-season history 5. Another blocked field goal for a touchdown … by the kicking team In the 1980 opener, Green Bay Packers kicker Chester Marcol lined up for a game-winning field goal in overtime, and it was blocked. But it was blocked right back to Marcol, who likely out of sheer terror took off with the ball around the left side and scored a touchdown to beat the Chicago Bears. It’s an absolutely crazy, mostly forgotten play that will probably never be repeated. Insanity. 4. Ahmad Rashad’s one-handed Hail Mary catch The Minnesota Vikings’ famous Hail Mary in 1980 was set up by another crazy play, a hook-and-ladder play that moved the team from its own 20 to the Cleveland Browns’ 46-yard line with five seconds left. Then on the last play, Tommy Kramer threw it up, the pass was tipped, and Ahmad Rashad grabbed it with one hand and scored for the greatest Hail Mary in NFL history. It clinched the NFC Central title for the Vikings. 3. Holy Roller This is the only play on the list that resulted directly in a rule change. In the 1978 season opener, the Oakland Raiders were trailing to the San Diego Chargers. Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler was getting sacked and fumbled (or, more accurately, tossed the ball forward) and after some fumbling around (or, more accurately, another Raiders toss of the ball), tight end Dave Casper recovered in the end zone for the win. After that season, the only player who could advance a fumble in the final two minutes is the player who originally fumbled the ball. 2. He did what? The Antonio Freeman overtime game-winning catch against the Minnesota Vikings in 2000 ranks high because nobody could quite figure out what happened until we saw the instant replay on “Monday Night Football.” That’s how crazy the play was. Vikings cornerback Cris Dishman almost intercepted the pass in the rain, as Freeman was sliding on the ground. The ball bounced off Freeman’s body, he had the focus to reach out and catch it before it hit the ground, and Freeman ran into the end zone while everyone was confused. Al Michaels’ classic “He did what?” call as he watched the replay is an all-time great NFL moment. 1. DeSean Jackson’s walk-off punt return What made Jackson’s classic play so great is that it finished what could be the best regular-season game in NFL history. The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants were battling for a playoff spot in Week 15 of the 2010 season. The Giants led 24-3 at the half, but Michael Vick had an unbelievable second half (one of Vick’s greatest performances, though it was overshadowed by what happened at the end) and even though they trailed by 21 with less than eight minutes left, the Eagles battled back to tie the game. Then the Giants, with just a few seconds left, punted to Jackson for some reason. A few quick moves and one great block later, Jackson became the first NFL player to return a punt to win a game with no time left. – – – – – – – Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

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