Hail Murray!: Inside the catch heard around the NFL


A race in the AFC East, the first 9-0 start for the Steelers, Ben Roethlisberger apparently does not need practice, the AFC North is over, the Raiders are legit, the Eagles are not, here come the Giants (?!), the Pack survives, kickers are amazing, a three-way tie in the NFC West, the Bucs are absurd, a monsoon assists the plucky Patriots, and, gulp, End Times for Brees?

This day wasn’t supposed to have drama like this. Anytime the Game of the Week is Bills-Cards, drama might be in short supply. But let’s get back to Glendale, Ariz., to the Cardinals Radio Network, with Dave Pasch and Ron Wolfley setting the scene as the clock shows :11.

Pasch, calm voice: “Hopkins to the left. Three receivers to the right. Cardinals trail by four. They’re out of timeouts, 11 seconds left in the game. First down at the Buffalo 43. Now the Bills drop two men back, 25 yards downfield. Murray back to throw.”

:11, :10 . . . “When I got ready to take the snap, I’m trying to diagnose the defense, see if there’s any holes. Anything easy. I still figured I probably had two plays, two shots at it. The play was designed to roll out left, like I said, and they did a good job of containing,” Murray said.

Murray was sitting in a room just outside the Cards’ locker room, talking to me, watching the highlights of the game on TV. This helped. Now he could see what he’d just felt over an hour ago.

Pasch, voice elevating: “Flushed out, rolling left, in trouble. Slips a tackle”.

:09 . . . Buffalo defensive end Mario Addison, quick but not Kyler-quick, drew a bead on Murray as he gamboled left.

“The game’s on the line,” Murray said. “I can’t get tackled here. There was no chance he was tackling me. No chance.”

:08 . . . “The angle he took at me, I’m fortunate he took that angle,” Murray said. Addison touched Murray but didn’t have a good shot at him really, and flew past. Murray took another step, then turned upfield, maybe eight yards from the Cardinal sideline at about the Arizona 48-yard line.

Meanwhile, it looked like the three receivers to the right of the formation were occupying four defenders. Hopkins, who streaked down the left flank, took two DBs with him. As Murray suspected, there was a safety lurking in midfield, clearly waiting for the ball to be launched to Hopkins. It was three Bills defenders on one great receiver. It was a game of chance.

Pasch, voice another octave higher: “Gotta launch it.”

:07 . . . Murray, sounding surprised: “I looked downfield, I locked in on Hop. And what was weird was, he was the only player on our team in the end zone.” Hail Marys count on traffic, and the benefits of crowds. Why? The more people in red jerseys in the end zone, the better chance for a fluky pop-up touchdown.

One guy in the end zone? Not good.

But that one guy? Good.

Hopkins caught 115 balls in 2018 for Houston, with zero drops. Since PFF has been keeping stats on drops in 2006, no wide receiver ever had a season with 110 receptions or more with zero drops. So, in training camp last year, I asked Hopkins about the secret of his hands.

“My brother and I used to watch a lot of Jet Li movies, so we used to always do quick things like kickboxing or catching things with our hands,” Hopkins said. “One thing I remember we always used to do—we always used to catch flies with our hands. I was the only one that could catch them. I actually studied it, and I grew with it. I was like, ‘How do I catch flies?’ Flies always fly up. I would always just hit over it. And I thought: If I can catch flies, I know I can catch anything.”

Flies always fly up. I would just hit over it.

:06 . . . So now, Hopkins nestled himself two yards deep in the end zone. Murray, after running left and turning slightly upfield, had to turn his body forward, so he’d be able to maximize his arm strength and get the ball to the end zone. He cocked his arm to throw, right at midfield, as Buffalo defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson sped toward him. Murray threw a rainbow-ball, falling out of bounds, hoping not to get leveled by the 290-pound Jefferson.

Think of the throw.

“I’ve never done a Hail Mary before,” Murray told me.

Running to his left, evading one rusher, turning slightly upfield and getting ready to let the ball go, knowing he had to throw it almost exactly 50 yards in the air, arced high so that his 6-1 wide receiver would have a shot at it. “Obviously in that situation you can’t overthrow it,” Murray said. The throw had to have air under it, and it had to be in the 10-yard space of the end zone or, very possibly, game over. It’s a throw that’s best made from the pocket, with some time to rev up the arm and figure how much arc to use. Throwing to a target 51 yards away while falling out of bounds? Challenging.

“I felt really good about it when it left my hand,” Murray said. “I knew it would get to the end zone.”

Pasch, getting excited: “Left side – into the end zone – jump ball – annnnd it is … “

:05, :04 . . . Down it came, aimed about two yards deep in the end zone. Three Bills were in a triangle around Hopkins: safety Jordan Poyer in front, his right hand gloved in white reaching high as the ball fell to earth; cornerback Tre’Davious White to the left, grasping two hands up near Hopkins’ hands but not quite as high, looking like he was trying to compete with Hopkins to high-point the ball; and then, in back and slightly to the right, safety Micah Hyde, with his right hand trying to knock the ball away when it landed.

Pasch: “Is it caught? Is it caught?”

:03 . . . As he tumbled out of bounds, Murray looked downfield and saw two black gloved hands rising. “We were joking about it in the locker room,” Murray said. “Like, there were all these white gloves, and everybody just saw two black gloves come out from that pile. They were above everybody else’s hands. Hop wears like 5X’s so yeah. Crazy.”

Hopkins’ black Nike gloves (with the Jumpman logo), size 5XL, were highest of the four men jumping for the Murray fly ball. Murray got a hand on either side of the ball, and vice-gripped it for the catch, then pinned the ball to his torso, and the three men fell to earth.

Pasch, yelling: “OH MY GOODNESS It’s caught! DeAndre Hopkins caught it! He caught it! Touchdown! With one second left! I can’t believe it! You’ve gotta be joking me! Hopkins reaches up with three defenders around him! And pulls it in! And the Cardinals lead it! 32-30! With a second left!

:02 . . . The side judge, Dave Hankshaw, signaled TD. The back judge, Keith Ferguson, soon followed with his signal.

“They [the Buffalo defenders] were in position,” Hopkins said later. “It was just a better catch by I.”

By I. That’s what he said.

“I never panic when the ball is in the air,” Hopkins said.

As Hopkins fell, Hyde, the safety, still tried to poke it away. Hopkins firmly pressed the ball to his legs with his right hand; it wouldn’t move.

Analyst Ron Wolfley, screaming: “You can’t cover Nuke! You’re not gonna be able to cover him! Throw the ball long! That’s what Kyler Murray did! He extended the play with his legs! And just chucked that thing up into the air! Into the desert sky, baby! And D-Hop brought it down – touchdownnnnnn!” 

Murray never saw the end of the play till well after the game. When we spoke, he was on a landline just off the locker room, watching the highlights of the game.

“That’s my first one [Hail Mary],” he said.

“Never had one in high school, even?” I said.

“No. Never,” he said.

“Have you had a moment like this?” I said. “You’ve played at a very high level of high school in Texas, and college at Oklahoma.”

“Well,” he said with a chuckle, “in high school we had a lot of moments. Never like this one, though. Last-second, I mean, this is the highest level. Hail Mary, last play of the game. [There was an inconsequential kickoff left.] I really have had a lot of moments in my life . . . but this one, none can compare.”

Read more from Peter King’s Football Morning in America column here.

Super Bowl squares 2023: Explanation, how to play, rules and printable template


Star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts are set to go head-to-head today, Super Bowl Sunday, when the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.

Even if you’re home watching on the couch, you can still get in on the action by filling out your squares, which has become a Super Bowl tradition.

What are Super Bowl squares and what is the format?

A board features 10 rows and 10 columns, adding up to 100 squares total. One of the teams is assigned the rows, while the other team is assigned the columns.

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Each person in the pool then chooses one (or multiple) squares, depending on your pool’s rules. In some pools, squares are randomly assigned, while you may choose your own square in other pools.

After all the squares have been filled, numbers between zero and nine are randomly chosen for each row and column.

How do Super Bowl squares work? How do I win?

Each square has a corresponding row and column number. At the end of each quarter, the player whose two numbers match the end digits of each team’s point total will win.

RELATED: Why does the Super Bowl use Roman numerals for naming?

For example, if the score at the end of the first quarter is Chiefs 13, Eagles 7, the player whose box corresponds with “3” for Kansas City and “7” for Philadelphia would win.

Most pools pay out for the final score at the end of each quarter, for a total of four winners (1st quarter, halftime, 3rd quarter, final score). Some pools pay out for every score throughout the game.

Where can I find a template for Super Bowl squares?

NBC Sports has provided a template below, complete with a 10 by 10 grid. Fans can click here to print this template out to use for their Super Bowl squares.

How can I watch and live stream Super Bowl 2023?

  • When: Sunday, February 12, 2023
  • Where: State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona
  • TV Channel: FOX
  • Follow along with ProFootballTalk and NBC Sports for NFL news, updates, scores, injuries, and more

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season and Playoffs, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

Marry Your Passion With Your Curiosity: Panelists Discuss Building Your Brand in Leadup to Super Bowl LVII


Fans in every color jersey of the rainbow internationally will tune into Super Bowl LVIII this Sunday. Ahead of the game, NBCU Academy partnered with PNE Showcase and Arizona State University to bring students and professionals an inside look at the people who color outside the lines for the National Football league.

The three powerhouses co-hosted the Building and Being Your Brand seminar in hopes of helping students and other national professionals identify their brand and the best ways to communicate the pillars of their brand to the masses.

There are just under 4,000 people employed by the NFL, which makes for hundreds of job paths within the league. As the panel began, NFL international marketing and player relations manager Emily Wirtz spoke about how her roots in Germany translated into the role she has now.

The first door opened for Wirtz in the NFL was as a digital video editor and producer. Wirtz transparently admitted she did not feel qualified for the job but with an extra push from her father, she decided to still go after the interview.

“My dad told me that even if I do not land the job, it will at least be good interview practice,” Wirtz said.

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Wirtz still thanks her father to this day. Her video supervisor learned she spoke German and instantly recommended her for a role within the NFL’s global expansion. She would go on to execute the first NFL game in Germany. Germany’s first official exposure to American football at the highest level sold out of millions of tickets in three minutes.

“When we are on the way to these international games in London, Germany and Mexico City, the NFL staff, we’re usually on a big bus or van,” Wirtz said. “In the van it’s about 40 of us and we’re literally trying to find a fan in one of the jerseys of all 32 teams. When we see someone we are like Chargers, Rams or whatever the team is! Every international game I’ve been to, all 5, we’ve been able to spot someone in each jersey.”

By showing up as her authentic self, Wirtz was able to leverage her job. All five of the panelists promoted a “helmet-off” approach to the game. This idea promotes getting to know the stories of the players to help advance the game.

Director of NFL college and club social marketing Sana Merchant-Rupani discussed taking on tasks that require you to grow. Before joining the league, Merchant-Rupani worked in digital marketing at Empire State Realty Trust. In the position, she was tasked with creating an Instagram presence for the company.

Merchant-Rupani had no experience with Instagram when taking on this task but it directly led her into her current role.

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“You have to marry your passion with your curiosity,” Merchant-Rupani said.

Senior manager of NFL game operations Karley Berry further emphasized Merchant-Rupani’s message by presenting the contrast. Berry posited that if a job is presented to someone and they check off all the job requirements, then the job is not for them.

The entire audience was initially confused by the statement but as Berry went on, she explained you must take a job that will offer you something new and will leave you with an extra skill you did not have going into the position.

Prior to stepping into the game operations realm, Berry took her first step into the football world when she was a recruiting assistant at Penn State University.

Growing up around Nittany Lion football her entire life, she knew the brand of the university’s football team. While in State College, PA, she challenged the recruitment staff to go after men with outstanding character.

“When we would go on home visits, I would make sure to pay attention,” Berry said. Berry wanted to be intentional with her tactics and believed the best players were those that were good people on and off the field.

Merchant-Rupani, Berry and Wirtz all used elements of their personal brand to succeed in their current spaces to get to their dream work destination. This message was passed on to the audience through painting their journey through experiences.

“We all know about Patrick Mahomes. There are other stories,” senior manager of NFL social marketing Jordan Dolbin said.

RELATED: Chiefs Super Bowl history

Dolbin called on storytellers to push their limits. She wanted to ensure she was challenging audience members to go beneath the surface of the performers with the best stat numbers.

She brought up a story she came across during her Super Bowl preparation that was a “where are they now’ approach to telling the stories of all the players that caught interceptions against Maholmes in high school.

“Now, that is the story I will remember when this is all over,” Dolbin said.

Cincinnati Bengals special teamer Trayveon Williams added his experience to the panel, emphasizing exploring his other interests outside of football. He also commended today’s players for the tenacity in their approach to leaving a legacy outside of football.

The panel agreed collectively their main reason for taking time away from all the Super Bowl work obligations and festivities was to provide the representation they did not see while carving out their career paths.

NBCU Academy will be virtually hosting the Next Level Summit on March 22, 2023.

Author’s Note: Alexis Davis is currently in her last semesters in Walter Cronkite’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She received her bachelor’s from North Carolina A&T State University in multimedia journalism in May 2022. Davis is a featured writer for the MEAC conference. Davis also switches between play-by-play announcer, analyst and sideline reporter for the PAC-12 conference’s app. She also hosts a podcast focusing on international basketball players and their fashion experiences called What’s in Your Bag?