Because what really does that phrase mean? With that in mind, here are six of the most Unbelievably Believable plays in NFL history.
And without further ado ...
Honorable mention: The Catch
With 58 seconds left in the 1981 NFC Championship Game, the San Francisco 49ers had the ball on the Dallas Cowboys' 6-yard line. As quarterback Joe Montana was swarmed by the Doomsday defense, he heaved the ball toward the back of the end zone and into the hands of Dwight Clark to give San Francisco a 28-27 lead. The Cowboys did have time left on the clock, and a saving tackle from Eric Wright on Drew Pearson on the next play from scrimmage set up Danny White's dynasty-killing fumble, though a new dynasty was born in the Bay Area.
6. The Music City Miracle
Following the Buffalo Bills' kickoff on the final play of an AFC wild card game, Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson took a field-wide lateral from tight end Frank Wycheck and raced 75 yards for the winning score. What made the outcome more delicious was that Bills coach Wade Phillips had benched quarterback Doug Flutie for the game after Rob Johnson performed well in a meaningless Week 17 contest after their playoff slot had been determined. Phillips was seconds away from being justified for an unjust move. The Football Gods said otherwise.
5. David Tyree's Catch in Super Bowl XLII
Talk about your desperation heaves. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning fought through a number of defenders and launched the ball toward a little-known David Tyree, who pins it to his helmet while New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison desperately tries to knock it away. This is what happens to Harrison when he tries to play by the rules. The play set up Plaxico Burress' winning touchdown reception to end the Patriots' bid for perfection.
4. The Holy Roller
The Oakland Raiders were once known as not necessarily rule breakers, but a team that sometimes stretched the rules. In fact, quarterback Ken Stabler might not have broken the rules when he intentionally fumbled (he admitted to this) the ball forward against the San Diego Chargers. But the move allowed running back Pete Banaszak to knock it into the end zone so tight end Dave Casper could fall on it for a touchdown and one of the most bizarre wins (and best radio calls) in NFL history. A rule was later added to make such plays illegal.
3. The Hail Mary
The one and only. Seriously, every desperation pass is now lazily referred to as a "Hail Mary." But it's not. This is the only one. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Drew Pearson in the closing seconds of a 1975 NFC divisional playoff game. After the game, Staubach referred to the pass as a "Hail Mary" and the legend was born. Vikings fans still say that Pearson pushed off and they might have a point, but the touchdown still stood for the Cowboys. And again, the phrase "Hail Mary" should only refer to this play.
2. The Immaculate Reception
This might be hard for you youngsters to believe, but there was a time when the Piitsburgh Steelers were a downtrodden franchise and the Raiders were among the NFL's elite. But when Steelers running back Franco Harris caught a ball that had ricocheted off John "Frenchy" Fuqua's hands via the Raiders' Jack Tatum and raced into the end zone, a dynasty was born.
The only thing that could have made this play more memorable would have been if the referee had buried his head into the replay booth for five minutes -- if there were a replay rule at the time -- and later emerged to explain that there was no conclusive evidence, and the play would stand. Because that would have been totally awesome.
1. The Tuck Rule
This game had everything you would want: a snow storm, in the playoffs, and the Raiders losing. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady appeared to have fumbled in the closing minutes to give Oakland the win. But the now-famous NFL Rule 3, Section 21, Article 2, Note 2 said otherwise. Brady went on to lead New England to the win and ultimately a Super Bowl win over the St. Louis Rams. Adam Vinatieri's winning boot in the Super Bowl deserves an honorable mention here.