Play of the Game: Hail Dexter For TD

From Soldier Field, Chicago

QUARTER – 2nd Quarter, 2 seconds to play in the first half.

SCORE – Chicago held a 3-0 lead.

DOWN & DISTANCE – 3rd down-and 10 yards to go, at the Bears 38-yard line.

DEFENSIVE SET – Prevent, safeties deep.

OFFENSIVE SET – Five receivers, with four wide guys and RB Dexter McCluster.

For the two years that Dexter McCluster has been with the Chiefs, in every Friday practice before a game, they have practiced the Hail Mary throw to the end zone.

For two years, McCluster would run hard down the field to get himself in his assigned position, just inside the goal line. His job was to look for deflections.

And for two years, McCluster never caught a deflection. Not once. The ball always seemed to be knocked down away from him, or caught by the defense or another offensive player. “It never happened,” McCluster said. “I never made a catch.”

Until Sunday afternoon that is, when McCluster saved his first catch on the Hail Mary for a very important touchdown – a 38-yard scoring play that would end up being the only touchdown of the game and give the Chiefs a 10-3 victory over the Chicago Bears.

“You just can’t ever stop running down there and doing what you need to do,” said McCluster. “You just never know what play it’s going to be that’s going to decide the game. You just have to stick to it and make sure you are where you are supposed to be.”

McCluster was right where he was supposed to be. His job is to make sure he’s in the end zone and then keep an eye out for a bouncing ball. That came Sunday when Chicago LB Brian Urlacher went up and knocked the ball towards the ground. Until Urlacher got his hands on the ball, McCluster did not know where the ball was coming down. But as he ran down the field, he lined himself up directly opposite of Urlacher.

And when the ball was swatted toward the ground, McCluster “slithered in” according to head coach Todd Haley and made the catch.

“About 100 times (he’s knocked down that type of pass) and the guy happens to catch that one,” Urlacher said. “It’s the first time anyone’s caught one. I don’t know if it went straight down or backwards. I guess I should have caught it or tried to. It’s not what we do; I’ve never done that. I just tried to knock it down.”

Added safety Chris Conte, who was in on the play jumping next to Urlacher: “We were doing what we were supposed to do. We were supposed to knock the ball down and he (McCluster) didn’t get boxed out. That’s what happened.”

Somewhere in the fast reservoir of NFL plays and games there’s probably a number of Hail Mary passes that have worked. The odds are never good, but there is a connection every once in awhile and that’s why teams continue to throw the play as the last resort in a half or a game.

“The goal was to try to get into field-goal range,” Haley said. “I conferred with Hoff (special teams coach Steve Hoffman) and I didn’t like the look in his eyes, so we went to the jump ball. You never know what you are going to get there, but it all worked out.”

A field goal would have been around 56 yards and in his pre-game warm-up, Succop had not hit anything beyond five yards. With strong winds on the floor of Soldier Field, it made a field goal try problematic.

So they went with the Hail Mary.

“Just exactly like we drew it up,” said QB Tyler Palko with a smile. “Obviously those types of things you just try to spread the defense out. The offensive line has to do a good job to buy some time to let your guys get down there and then you have to let your guys make a play down there. Those types of plays, I know I can buy some time with my athletic ability and at least give us a shot at the end zone.

“Dropping back, having (Julius) Peppers and (Israel) Iodonije screaming in trying to kill you, I just scurried up in there and tried to get the ball off to give the receivers a chance. You never know what can happen.”

Haley had seen it before. In fact, he saw it right there inside Soldier Field in the same north end zone and in almost the same position when he was the wide receivers coach of the Bears.

“In 2001 we (Bears) called the same play in the same spot, and James Allen a running back caught it for us against Cleveland that helped us come back for a big win,” Haley said. “It’s amazing Dexter caught it in the same spot. I always talk about that play. I have a still shot of the scoreboard from that game when we were way behind, and we came back to win.”

That one was even a bit more dramatic. The snap came with just 8 seconds to play in the game, and the Bears down by seven points. They had been down by 14 points with less than two minutes to play and this was the final play, a win or a loss. QB Shane Matthews heaved it 34 yards into the end zone where Browns DB Percy Ellsworth leaped and knocked the ball down, right into the hands of Allen for a touchdown.

The Bears came back and won the game in overtime on an interception return for a touchdown by S Mike Brown. That helped the team on a 13-3 season.

The Chiefs are not in 13-3 range, but no one looks at a play like that and turns it down.

“You just have to believe, and every time one of those plays happens, it reinforces the belief that anything is possible,” said McCluster.

On the first Sunday in December, all things were possible at Soldier Field.

9 Responses to “Play of the Game: Hail Dexter For TD”

  • December 4, 2011  - Chuck says:

    Well so far for the 2.5 million the Chiefs are paying Orton we have seen “one play”.

  • December 4, 2011  - Tenand6 says:

    Well-written, Bob. Amazing play.

  • December 4, 2011  - aPauled says:

    Discipline, discipline, discipline…we don’t see much of that from this Offense, but McCluster showed discipline and reacted on this play. 10 points doesn’t win many games. Nice job by the Defense.

  • December 4, 2011  - Tim says:

    Certainly a highlight. What’s the old cliche…success is when preparation meets opportunity.

  • December 4, 2011  - Johnfromwichita says:

    I don’t want to be a Bear’s fan tonight. Not enough beer in Chicago to wipe that image out of their minds.

  • December 4, 2011  - johnfromfairfax says:

    If you’re the ugliest guy in school you probably aren’t taking the beauty queen to the prom. You go with ugly to get there. I don’t know about you guys but I’ll take ugly every time to get to the dance. As far as Orton, that’s two QB’s we’ve gotten broken this year. Who’s responsible for talent acquisition for the offensive line on our team? That’s who I’d like to speak to first.

  • December 4, 2011  - ED J says:


  • December 5, 2011  - Chiefs End Losing Streak With 10-3 Victory Over Bears : says:

    [...] PLAY OF THE GAME – Hail Dexter play provides winning difference. [...]

  • December 5, 2011  - cychief24 says:

    JohnFFF- I agree, our 3 best O-lineman are Asamoah at LG, Hudson =Bench, Gaither =cut. Meanwhile Lilja is running out of gas, Albert is a RT out of position, Weigmann is just plain feeble at this point, and Richardson is awful.

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