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Keep your eyes on the ball in a Hail Mary

Posted by John Reed on

I just watched the Packers-Giants game. congrats to the Packers. Well-played game.
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I saw one stupid mistake that coaches need to drill out of the players. In Hail Mary passes, defenders and receivers seem to focus on each other rather than the ball. At times, all the players are in a scrum five yards from where the ball comes down. In this game, just before half, one Packers player was trying to stay in the scrum but got pushed out by a Giant.
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As it turned out, the Giant doing the pushing should have had his eyes on the ball. The Packer receiver caught it like a punt returner—on his belly button. In a crowd, high man wins, unless the crowd is not even where the ball comes down. The receiver seemed as surprised by where the ball came down as the Giant who pushed him.
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To coach this, get a mantra like “eyes on the ball.” Then rep the hell out of it.
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Full Hail Mary plays take a long time and you have a lot more time to line up and snap again. Screw lining up and snapping. That’s not the problem.
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Just stand on the 10-yard line, but a half dozen receivers and DBs in the end zone and throw high lob passes to them as fast as you can. Video each, then replay it with a projector onto the exterior gym wall or some such and make sure each player has his eyes on the ball and is maneuvering to ground zero. You can also design it to have a couple of guys staying out of the scrum so they can catch the bounce.
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The purpose of the drill and reps is to make sure all eyes are on the ball and all effort is to catch the ball and not become distracted or preoccupied with the adjacent teammates and opposing players.
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Then, before the snap in a game, the players use the mantra to remind each other: “Eyes on the ball! Eyes on the ball!”

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