The phrase “Hail Mary” was first used by Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Stauback. He used the phrase after winning a divisional playoff game in the year 1975 by throwing a deep ball up for grabs, which turned into the game winning touchdown pass.
Hail Mary is a fitting name for this play because it is used as a last resort at the end of a football game. The wide receivers do not have any kind of set routes. Their goal is to get down to the end zone and attempt to catch the ball from the quarterback. In other words, the Hail Mary pass is like a prayer in which the offensive team hopes for a miracle.
Although defensive players have just about the same chance to catch a Hail Mary pass as the offensive team, a typical strategy for the defensive is just to knock the ball to the ground. They do not try to catch it because it may pop the ball back into the air, giving the offensive players another chance to catch it.
Usually, when a team attempts a Hail Mary pass, the defensive team goes into a prevent defense coverage. This results in nearly all of the defensive players playing deep, and in this case, that is in the end zone.