Gus Frerotte's 99-yard touchdown pass to Bernard Berrian last Sunday was the 11th touchdown pass of 99 yards in NFL history.
There are several contributing factors that make a 99-yard touchdown pass an extremely rare occurrence:
One is the impossibility of it happening based on field position. Simply put, offenses rarely have possession of the ball at their own 1-yard line.
Anatomy of a Play
Two is the coach's fear factor. Fear of dropping the quarterback into the end zone, fear of not having space for the punter, fear of taking a risk. Because of the fear factor, teams usually run the ball from the 1.
Three is the lack of players with the speed/talent ratio to score from 99 yards out. Many teams don't have an offensive player fast enough to outrun a defense for that great a distance. Even if they do, he might not be talented enough with his other skills (hands, route-running, agility, etc) to get open, catch the ball, make someone miss and be in position to run away from everyone.
Four, and most importantly, is the defense! Let's say an offense has the ball at the one, with the guts to call a pass play and a player good enough and fast enough to score, there are still 11 highly skilled athletes on the other side of the line of scrimmage who are paid to prevent that from happening.
Add it all up and a 99-yarder is a once-in-a-lifetime play for the players involved.
Last Sunday, it was a perfect storm of circumstances for the Vikings. Their defense made a goalline stand giving the offense the ball on the 1-yard line. Vikings coach Brad Childress and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell had the guts to throw the ball deep out of the end zone, Berrian is fast enough and talented enough to make a play and run away from a defense, and Chicago had an individual blow his assignment at a critical moment.
The whole key to the play was Bears cornerback Charles Tillman. He was faced with a dilemma. Two vertical routes, Berrian's down the sideline and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe's down the seam, were attacking Tillman's deep third responsibility. Tillman's job was to stay as deep as the deepest, which meant staying with Berrian. But because the Vikings have shown a tendency to throw the ball down the seam to Shiancoe, Tillman guessed and jumped inside, just as Frerotte was heaving the ball over his head to Berrian.
It was a phenomenal throw by Frerotte, hitting Berrian perfectly in stride. If Berrian had been forced to slow down and wait for the ball, Tillman could have caught him from behind and the 99-yarder likely wouldn't have happened.
It was an historic play that turned the tide in a huge game between two rivals battling for the lead in their division. It's the kind of play we live for on Anatomy of a Play!