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Longest pass from quarterback to receiver


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#1 Mark L. Ford

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 10:04 AM

Here's a question that calls upon the collective anecdotal knowledge of the PFRA membership: What appears to have been the longest pass ever thrown in the NFL?

I know, the official record is 99 yards, set many times, based on the yardage gained-- which takes into account the additional yards gained by the receiver after he caught the ball, and doesn't reflect how far behind the line of scrimmage the quarterback had been when he threw. There's no statistic for longest distance traveled from the point where the quarterback hurled the ball, to the point where the receiver caught the ball.

One contender for longest pass and catch would be November 13, 1966, Dallas at Washington-- it's said that the Cowboys were on their own five yard line, Don Meredith hurled the ball downfield and Bob Hayes caught it on Washington's 12 yard line, 83 yards away from where it was thrown. Hayes then ran the rest of the way for the touchdown so it was a 95 yard pass play (I'd leave it to the mathematicians among us to figure out the distance the ball traveled in the air, taking into account things like parabolas and trigonometry). However, I can't find confirmation even for the anecdote in contemporary news accounts.

Can anyone here recall seeing, or hearing about, a pass that would rival the Meredith to Hayes throw? Thanks.

#2 evan

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 11:49 AM

A couple that come to mind:

There was a nationally televised game I think it was on MNF, in the mid-1970s where James Harris, provided ridiculous protection from the Rams' offensive line, stood in the pocket long enough to overthrow Harold Jackson on a pass that went end zone to end zone - 100 yards. It might have been against the Eagles or Lions. This is from my memory, but I've always wondered if that could be documented.

At least one broadcaster mentioned how Steve Bartkowski threw a ball 100 yards in the air in college at Cal.

Dan Pastorini could throw a ball 90 yards without even trying very hard. In the 1978 wild card game against Miami I think he threw one that went 80-85 yards.

I would think that legendary big arms like Namath, Bukich, Bradshaw, Bert Jones and others may have had similar types of massive heaves.

Jeff George in a pre-draft workout threw a pass that went 84 yards in the air and I believe hit a receiver in stride, adding to the lore that led him to be the top overall pick. I think George cancelled workouts after that, wanting the luster of this throw to last as long as possible.

#3 Mark

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 12:18 PM

One contender for longest pass and catch would be November 13, 1966, Dallas at Washington-- it's said that the Cowboys were on their own five yard line, Don Meredith hurled the ball downfield and Bob Hayes caught it on Washington's 12 yard line, 83 yards away from where it was thrown. Hayes then ran the rest of the way for the touchdown so it was a 95 yard pass play (I'd leave it to the mathematicians among us to figure out the distance the ball traveled in the air, taking into account things like parabolas and trigonometry). However, I can't find confirmation even for the anecdote in contemporary news accounts.

Can anyone here recall seeing, or hearing about, a pass that would rival the Meredith to Hayes throw? Thanks.



I've seen the NFL Films highlight of that pass and I'm pretty sure it didn't go nearly that far in the air. Maybe 40-50 yards as I recall.

#4 Rupert Patrick

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 12:21 PM

As far as completed pass from QB to Receiver, I think Randall Cunningham once threw one about 84 yards in the air. I think John Elway also completed one which traveled about the same distance.

#5 SixtiesFan

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 03:02 PM

I just dug out my video (from Rare Sportsfilms) of the 1963 Cleveland Browns highlight film. In the 13th game of the season, the Browns lost in Detroit 38-10, knocking them out of the race that year. In the second quarter, Frank Ryan hit Gary Collins with a TD pass to make the score 14-10. The line of scrimmage was about the Lion 49. Ryan evaded pressure back to his 36. He then stepped forward and unleashed the ball from his 38. Gary Collins caught the ball a yard deep in the end zone, making it a 63 yard throw in the air. This is the distance the narrator gave and the film confirms it.

I'm sure there have been passes as long or longer but this is one I have on film.

#6 Mark L. Ford

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 03:55 PM

I've seen the NFL Films highlight of that pass and I'm pretty sure it didn't go nearly that far in the air. Maybe 40-50 yards as I recall.

It's verified that it was a 95 yard pass play, so Meredith had to be on his own five yard line-- did it appear from the clip that Hayes ran a long way to the end zone? Granted, he could have sprinted 45 yards in the same amount of time that I would be able to run 12...

#7 Teo

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 03:58 PM

The longest reception I recall was the famous 65-yard pass from Doug Flutie to Gerard Phelan in the BC-Miami in 1984.

#8 Mark Durr

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 05:01 PM

As far as college football goes, there was also the so-called "Miracle at Michigan" in 1994 -- a 64-yard (from scrimmage) Hail Mary pass from Kordell Stewart to Michael Westbrook. The ball was tipped, but still had to travel at least 70 yards in the air...

#9 BD Sullivan

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 05:15 PM

It's verified that it was a 95 yard pass play, so Meredith had to be on his own five yard line-- did it appear from the clip that Hayes ran a long way to the end zone? Granted, he could have sprinted 45 yards in the same amount of time that I would be able to run 12...


You can judge for yourself (play in question starts at :23), but the throw is definitely not more than 50 yards:



#10 Teo

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 06:29 PM

Another college pass is this in 2005 from Washington's Isaiah Stanback against Arizona, it travellled 70 yards in the air:



#11 Rupert Patrick

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 07:24 PM

You can judge for yourself (play in question starts at :23), but the throw is definitely not more than 50 yards:



It's about 50 yards, as Meredith was about 4-5 yards deep in the end zone and Hayes caught it at about the Dallas 45.

#12 Mark L. Ford

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 07:30 PM

You can judge for yourself (play in question starts at :23), but the throw is definitely not more than 50 yards:



I appreciate the link and I've watched it a few times. I'm inclined to think that it might be from a 1967 game, based on the early version of the slingshot goal posts that were required starting with that season. That begs the next question-- did any NFL team use the slingshot post before it became the rule? It wasn't required, but as far as I know, it wasn't prohibited either.

#13 BD Sullivan

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 07:57 PM

I appreciate the link and I've watched it a few times. I'm inclined to think that it might be from a 1967 game, based on the early version of the slingshot goal posts that were required starting with that season. That begs the next question-- did any NFL team use the slingshot post before it became the rule? It wasn't required, but as far as I know, it wasn't prohibited either.


That was the longest TD pass of his career and the only one over 90 yards. In looking for any info online, all I see is that the 83-yard throw is part of Cowboy "lore"--otherwise known as a Texas tall tale.

#14 Mark

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 09:17 PM

I appreciate the link and I've watched it a few times. I'm inclined to think that it might be from a 1967 game, based on the early version of the slingshot goal posts that were required starting with that season. That begs the next question-- did any NFL team use the slingshot post before it became the rule? It wasn't required, but as far as I know, it wasn't prohibited either.


No that's the same highlight I saw from the 1966 Cowboys 31-30 win. Hayes also caught a long 52 yard pass earlier in the game. As I recall that was also a long pass and it may have been cuaght at around the 13. I wonder if someone got the beginning of the 95 yarder and the end of the 52 yardr confused in their memory.

#15 ronfitch

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Posted 28 February 2011 - 09:50 PM

A couple that come to mind:

There was a nationally televised game I think it was on MNF, in the mid-1970s where James Harris, provided ridiculous protection from the Rams' offensive line, stood in the pocket long enough to overthrow Harold Jackson on a pass that went end zone to end zone - 100 yards. It might have been against the Eagles or Lions. This is from my memory, but I've always wondered if that could be documented.

At least one broadcaster mentioned how Steve Bartkowski threw a ball 100 yards in the air in college at Cal.

Dan Pastorini could throw a ball 90 yards without even trying very hard. In the 1978 wild card game against Miami I think he threw one that went 80-85 yards.

I would think that legendary big arms like Namath, Bukich, Bradshaw, Bert Jones and others may have had similar types of massive heaves.

Jeff George in a pre-draft workout threw a pass that went 84 yards in the air and I believe hit a receiver in stride, adding to the lore that led him to be the top overall pick. I think George cancelled workouts after that, wanting the luster of this throw to last as long as possible.


Not in the same category, but this all reminds me of someone I once read about Ray Guy of the Raiders. As I recall, every once in a while the Raider QBs would hold a distance match in practice and would invariably head off to the locker room, one-by-one, head hanging in shame, as Guy could out-throw nearly any QB in camp during his time with the team.

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#16 evan

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 10:08 AM

Not in the same category, but this all reminds me of someone I once read about Ray Guy of the Raiders. As I recall, every once in a while the Raider QBs would hold a distance match in practice and would invariably head off to the locker room, one-by-one, head hanging in shame, as Guy could out-throw nearly any QB in camp during his time with the team.

Several NFL announcers mentioned Guy could throw 70 yards. He was the Raiders' emergency QB. The four tackles he broke against the Steelers on a broken play that he gained over 20 yards on in 1973 was awesome. He also had that punt that traveled 93 yards in the air in college. Possibly the only punter in NFL history that kept fans in their seats to watch him, instead of heading to the bathroom or the beer line.

#17 evan

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 10:11 AM

The longest reception I recall was the famous 65-yard pass from Doug Flutie to Gerard Phelan in the BC-Miami in 1984.

It's absolutely true by the way that Flutie took something off the ball on the Phelan pass to keep it in the end zone. Although he was short, he had freakishly big hands (kind of like Bob Cousy's freakishly long arms helped him) that helped him grip the ball and just unload it. Kind of the opposite of Daunte Culpepper's freakishly small hands that led to tons of fumbles. Flutie also would be the Patriots' designated heaver on Hail Mary passes before halftime during his short stint there in the 1980s, since he could out-throw Grogan, Eason and anyone else.

#18 evan

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 10:43 AM

In Super Bowl X, Bradshaw's TD pass to Swann covered 65 yards in the air, launched from the Pitt 30 to the Dallas 5 when Swann caught it. That ball was put at a pretty low trajectory too, Bradshaw could have easily thrown it a lot farther.

#19 Teo

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Posted 01 March 2011 - 05:54 PM

In Super Bowl X, Bradshaw's TD pass to Swann covered 65 yards in the air, launched from the Pitt 30 to the Dallas 5 when Swann caught it. That ball was put at a pretty low trajectory too, Bradshaw could have easily thrown it a lot farther.


You're right, here's the play:



The Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson 88-yard Td pass against Washington last year travelled more than 60 yards, but wasn't as long as Bradshwaw to Swann:



#20 LJP

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 06:25 PM

On 15-Oct-1935 during the Chicago Bears - Washington Federals exhbition game at Oriole Park, Baltimore, Bears End Fred Crawford apparently threw a pass from his own 1-yard line that Eddie Kawal caught on the Washington 16-yard line, good for 83-yards.