15 of the Strangest Things That Can Legally Happen In Football

A few weeks ago a blogger named Skip Oliva compiled a list of “Eight Crazy Constitutional Scenarios,” in which he laid out a list of several surprisingly radical things that could happen in the United States without running afoul of our founding document (at least not technically). At the time, I desperately wanted to blog about the list and maybe try to add to it, but was still on my self-imposed winter blogging break. And now that I’m back, I’m discovering that it’s much harder to come up with scenarios like these than I expected. Still, if there are two things I love in this world besides the Beatles, it’s loopholes and lists of trivia. So instead of constitutional trivia, I offer you this list of totally ridiculous things that can happen in an American football game. You know, so that you have something to keep an eye out for this coming Sunday if for some reason the half time show is lame and the commercials don’t live up to the hype.

Disclaimer: I am not an authority on the rules of football, so this should not be considered authoritative. If you’re an NFL ref reading this on your iPhone from the sideline of the big game, please stop. It will not help you as much as you think it will. Okay, now, on to the unlikely-but-possible scenarios, approximately in order of increasing awesomeness:

15. A Team Can Score 3 Points Without Kicking A Field Goal

I put this one at the bottom because it’s the one that the most people probably know about. It’s the one that, if, say, you’re a grad student trying to compile a list of weird NFL rules and you start asking all your football-savvy friends for their input, will come up over and over again even though its one of the few things you already knew. Still, if you haven’t encountered this before it’s rather nifty. It turns out that, after a punt or a kickoff that was fielded by fair catch, the team receiving the kick actually has two options: they can run a play from scrimmage (also known as “doing normal football things”) or they can attempt a type of free kick called a “fair catch kick.” If the kick goes through the uprights, they score three points. Of course, in this day and age it almost never happens that a team receives a fair catch in good enough field position that they would rather try a free kick than just run some plays, but it happens occasionally towards the end of a half, particularly if there simply isn’t time to run any other kind of play. In 1969 a fair-catch kick was actually the game-winning score in a game for the Chicago Bears, and a year later the Redskins just missed a similar kick that would have broken the tie. Since then, only one more fair-catch kick has been successful (by the 76 Chargers), although a number have been tried. Here’s CU Alum Mason Crosby trying one two years ago with the Packers from 69 yards, and coming just short. What a shame.

By the way, it may seem like splitting hairs to say that this isn’t a field goal, but as you can see in the video the two are actually fairly different. A free kick is basically a kickoff, although in a fair-catch kick you’re not allowed to use a tee. Nevertheless, because there’s no snap to worry about, and because the defense must line up at least 10 yards away, it’s much easier for the kicker to get a running start and really take a whack at the ball. I suspect someday we’ll see some points scored from 65 yards or more on one of these.

14. A Team Can Automatically Lose the Coin Toss

This one’s a lot more straightforward. You know what happens if you don’t get the right players on the field fast enough, right? You’re called for delay of game, which usually means a 5 yard penalty. But if in particular you delay the game by not bringing your team out fast enough at the start of the game, or if your team captain doesn’t take the field in a timely manner for the coin toss, the rulebook says you automatically forfeit the toss and the other team is given the choice of whether to receive. Seems weirdly specific to me, but they must have figured they needed it on the books at some point…

13. A Team Can Attempt a Punt and Wind Up With a First Down (without gaining any yards or drawing a penalty)

If it’s fourth down and long, you punt the ball. If the punt is blocked, then even if you recover the ball, you probably didn’t gain enough yards for a first down, and the other team will take over anyway. But there’s an exception, and that’s if the ball manages to cross the line of scrimmage and touch a defensive player. In that situation, it’s considered a live punt, no matter whether the ball travels 20 yards past or whether it simply rolls an inch past the line of scrimmage and touches a linebacker’s toe. Once that happens, like any punt that is touched by the receiving team, it becomes a live ball. If one of the linemen on the kicking team happens to fall on it, it’s their ball again. And here’s the thing: since they technically DID punt the football, but just recovered it right away, they get a whole new set of downs, even if they didn’t actually gain any yardage.

This actually happened a few years ago in a chargers game, much to the frustration of the Chiefs, who they were playing. Fortunately I was able to find a description of the play on an NFL fan blog, which also gives a good explanation why this is a sensible rule.

12. A Team Can Get a Second Chance at an Onside Kick

Usually, if you’re in a situation where an onside kick is called for, and you don’t manage to recover it, you’re done for. Unless, for some reason, the ball goes out of bounds without being touched or fails to go the necessary 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. If those things happen on a regular kick, it’s a huge penalty and the other team gets the ball anyway. But strangely, if it happens on an onside kick you’re assessed a measly 5 yard penalty and just get to kick again! Don’t worry however; just like in tennis, you only get two. After the second one goes out of bounds, the other team takes over at the spot of the kick.

11. A Player Can Be Penalized For Playing Leapfrog

Actually, they can be penalized for any attempt to “push or pull against another player in an effort to gain extra height or speed.” It’s called “Illegal Leverage,” and it’s meant to prevent players from trying elaborate things to block a field goal, but I like the thought that two disgruntled players goofing around and playing leapfrog during a kickoff could suddenly cost their team 15 yards. And while we’re at it, why don’t we allow the players to give each other boosts in an effort to block more kicks? I’m pretty sure more blocked kicks and more human pyramids made of 300-pound linebackers would be GREAT for the game…

10. A Team Can Completely Botch The Snap Without Any Worry That They Will Lose Possession

Of course, the boring way to do this is just to have a good offensive line. But lets say you’re the quarterback, you’re just starting to get set under the center and suddenly you see that he’s started to snap the ball before you were ready. Maybe you were playing at the old Mile High Stadium by the south stands, and the noise made it impossible for him to hear your snap count, who knows. Whatever the reason, you have nothing to fear, just widen your stance and get your hands the heck out of the way. That’s because, as Brian Griese figured out while playing for Chicago a few years back, there’s a rule on the books that says if the quarterback is lined up under the center (not shotgun) and the snap goes clean between his legs without being touched, it’s not a fumble. It would be if it goes past his hip, or if it goes over his head, whether or not he touches it. But for some reason, the through-the-legs snap is magically protected and can’t be recovered by the defense. Of course, his center is going to be called for a false start, but at least you can take your time recovering the ball

9. A Team Can Attempt a Field Goal More Than Once In a Single Set of Downs (Without Penalties)

Usually, a field goal is absolutely the end of a drive. Usually you score three points. Less often, you miss and turn the ball over on downs. Even less often, it’s blocked, but if it is, the defense automatically recovers if it goes out of bounds, and only the defense can attempt to recover the ball once it’s crossed the line of scrimmage.

Of course, it’s possible that the defense recovers and then immediately fumbles again, but that’s no fun. What’s also true is that as long as the ball hasn’t crossed the line of scrimmage, the kicking team can still recover the ball, and they can advance it. So it’s possible a team could attempt a field goal on fourth down, and if the ball is blocked and bounces backwards, the punter could recover the ball and run (or even pass!) for the first down instead. But perhaps even more intriguingly, if the team attempts the field goal on, say, first or second down, and the above scenario plays out, they can just fall on the ball and try again one play later! Bill Cohwer, known to have an encyclopedic knowledge of football rules that rivals his temper in scope, has taken advantage of this fact on a number of occasions, kicking a field goal on second or third down just in case it is blocked. Usually it doesn’t matter, because as soon as the ball crosses the line of scrimmage the drive is over–in other words, if you miss a field goal on second down you don’t get to try again. But if, heaven forbid, it’s blocked, and you can recover behind the line of scrimmage, it might just make the difference between winning and losing, and Bill Cohwer’s strange habits might just make him look like a genius.

8) An Eligible Receiver Can Be Intentionally Knocked to the Ground Deep Downfield Without Drawing an Interference Flag

If you’re a wide receiver in an offense in punting formation, be careful. After all, as Note5 of Article 5 of Section 2 under Rule 8 clearly states, “Whenever a team presents an apparent punting formation, defensive pass interference is not to be called for action on the end man on the line of scrimmage.” Now, if you’re actually planning to punt, this is no big deal, because you expect to get roughed up as part of the receiving team’s blocking strategy. But, as Eric Bassey found out during an unfortunate game in 2008, the phrase “apparent punting formation” means it applies to fake punts too. Which means that if you expected yourself to be the surprise intended receiver, you may instead find yourself receiving a surprise injury time out, because that cornerback can do whatever he wants to you.

7) A (College) Offense Can Line Up In Such a Way That the Defense Has No Idea Who the Elligible Receivers Are

Alright, this is where things start to get awesome. About two years ago, some very inventive coaches in a high school league in California invented something called the A-11 offense. A-11 refers to “all eleven,” and it refers to the number of players on the offense that the defense has to be prepared to cover. Of course, at least five of the players on field for the offense must be offensive linemen, who are inelligible to catch a pass and therefore shouldn’t be a real threat. But in high school and college ball, the only way the defense knows who is a lineman and who is a receiver is by their position on the field and the number on their jerseys. And because of a loophole in the rules at the time, as long as a team is in a “scrimmage kick” formation (i.e., lined up like they’re punting), the usual jersey rules don’t apply. That means you can put nine men all in a row on the line of scrimmage with a quarterback and a running back alone in the backfield. You have to tell the referee that five of the men up front are linemen, but this information isn’t announced to the defense. Until the moment the ball is snapped, they won’t have any idea who to cover and who to try to pass rush against, which will force them to play it absurdly safe or risk getting burned in a big way. Plus, since your quarterback will be lined up way back where the punter should be (farther back than even a regular shotgun), he’ll have some extra time to get a pass off even if someone comes through unblocked.

Tragically, two years after this offensive trick emerged it was made illegal by the federation that governs high school football. It lives on in college, however, albeit in a weakened state. College rules say that you are not allowed to line up in a punt formation unless a kick seems like “a reasonable possibility,” which basically restricts the use of the A-11 offense to fourth down. Nevertheless, its power to surprise and befuddle a defense might make it a good way for a team to pick up a clutch first down when facing dire straights, and it’s probably a lot better than a fake punt if you’ve practiced with it enough.

There’s a lot of information on the A-11 offense available on the web, but if you want more details you should start here and here. A clip of the A-11 in action can be seen below. I encourage you to try it out in your next pickup game; its almost like the creation of an all-new sport. See also the “Emory and Henry” formation.

6) A Team Can Be Awarded a Touchdown Without Ever Crossing the Goal Line

It’s in the list of penalties: for a sufficiently despicable enough personal foul (the official term is “a palpably unfair act,”) that likely deprived the offense a touchdown, the officials can award them one anyway. Think of it as goaltending, but in a football setting. Of course, football is a rough game so it takes quite a bit of effort to be “palpably unfair.” The example given in the book is for the case where a player on the sidelines runs onto the field and tackles a player on his way to the end zone. But it’s not explicit about the fact that the player must have had an unimpeded path to the goal line, they just need to have been “able to score.” So the next time you’re illegally betting against an NFL team that you’re an athletic trainer for, remember the surest way to guarantee a touchdown on a big play is to go and try to make the stop yourself.

Also, if you’re one of the league’s chubbier coaches (Holmgren, I’m looking at you) you should do this as well, if only for how incredibly funny it will look for the rest of us.

5) A Team Can Accidentally Disqualify Its Top Two Quarterbacks From Playing

After the infamous 1990 “body bag game” between the Redskins and Eagles, in which injuries piled up on both sides and the Redskins starting and backup QB’s were both knocked out of play, the NFL changed the rules to allow teams to keep a third-stringer around at quarterback position. Along with this rule, however, came a caveat: if you put your third stringer in at any point before the end of the third quarter, your top two quarterbacks may not return for the rest of the game. And as far as I can tell, it doesn’t say he has to come in at quarterback. So be careful– if your third string guy tells you at the very beginning of the game that he knows a great trick play where the quarterback tosses him the ball in a fake reverse and then he throws it deep to Randy Moss, don’t let him talk you into it. It’s all a ploy on his part to get himself a big stretch of playing time.

4) A Player Can Be Credited With a Receiving TD and a Passing TD… on the Same Play.

This is another one that has actually happened, albeit at the high school level. It seems that last year, an all-star named Joe Sobucki from a high school in Pennsylvania lined up in the backfield, took the snap, threw a short screen pass to his tailback, and then ran forward to help block. Only at that point, his tailback noticed he was in trouble and lateraled back to Sobucki… who promptly broke free of the pack and ran for 79 yards to the endzone. The result had the defense scratching their heads, but also the statisticians charged with keeping track of the players numbers. The eventual verdict was this: Since Sobucki had thrown the initial forward pass, and since the result of the pass was that a touchdown was scored 86 yards later, he would be given credit for throwing an 86 yard TD. Since he did not catch a forward pass, but only a lateral, he would not be given credit for a catch. However, somebody had to be given credit for the touchdown run, and the only logical somebody was still Sobucki, who was given 79 receiving yards and a “receiving touchdown,” all on a play where he had zero “receptions.” Video of the play is available in the link above.

3) A Player Can Gain His Team Up To 40 Yards of Field Position Without Taking a Single Forward Step

This one is just brilliant. in a 2008 game against the Bills, Leon Washington of the Jets was back deep to receive a kickoff when he noticed that the kick was a little sloppy and headed towards the sideline. Washington knew, like most people do, that if the kickoff went out of bounds before he touched it, the Bills would be given a penalty for kicking out-of-bounds. And he knew it would be a big penalty, too; out-of-bounds kicks give the receiving team their choice of the ball at the place where it went out, or at the 40 yard line (which is almost always better). So Washington prepared to let the ball sail outside of the white lines.

As the ball got closer, however, he realized he’d slightly misjudged the kick. Or perhaps the wind had given it a slight nudge towards the center of the field. Either way, it was looking like it was going to bounce inside, and that was a very bad situation for Washington. At that point, he was back at his own eight yard line, and it seemed like his options were bleak. It was too late to call for a fair catch, and he wasn’t in a good position to attempt a run. If he didn’t touch the ball it might go out of bounds, but there was just as good a chance it would bounce back inwards, maybe even backwards, where some Buffalo player could down it at the five (UPDATE: My friend Chris astutely points out that I must have been thinking of a punt when I wrote this. On a kickoff, the ball is live after it has travelled ten yards, even if untouched by the receiving team, so letting it bounce would definitely not have been an option for Washington).

And then Washington remembered that there is more than one way for a ball to be declared “out of bounds.” It can go out on its own, of course. But it can also be ruled out if it touches a player who is already out of bounds. And while going out of bounds and coming back in is a big penalty (going out, coming back in and then touching the ball is an even bigger one), there’s nothing against the rules about going out and staying out. So Washington put his right foot on the sideline, making himself an out-of bounds player. Then with the rest of his body he leaned in as far as he could towards the field, and snatched the ball, making what would have been a perfectly legal kick that could have been downed deep in Jets territory an illegal out-of-bounds kick that the Jets would get almost all the way near midfield. It was a clever play worth 32 yards of field position, and it could have been worth as many as 40. And it didn’t require any running on Washington’s part at all.

2) A Team Can Win an Overtime Game by Nine Points

This one wasn’t possible in the past, but starting this very year the NFL has adopted a new set of overtime rules for that apply to playoff games only. Instead of pure sudden death (which gave too much of an advantage to whoever won the coin toss, it was deemed), now it takes more than just a field goal to win an overtime game. Now, only a touchdown on your opening drive is good enough to win it. But unless that happens, both teams are guarunteed the “opportunity of a possession.” The intention is that if all you can do is score a field goal, the other team has a chance to try to do you one better and score a touchdown to win the game immediately. If they can’t score at all, of course you win. But if they also manage a field goal, then overtime continues, sudden-death style until the next time someone puts points on the board.

That means, of course, that if you get the ball first in overtime and score a field goal, then the other team gets the ball back and you have a chance to try to force a turnover. If you do, in most cases the game ends immediately, because they had their one possession and they blew it. But lets say it’s a nice clean open field pick. Obviously the smart thing to do is just down yourself and let the game be over. But the instinct to “run it back” has got to be pretty powerful. And the NFL rules have always been clear about the fact that the game doesn’t end until the last play ends, no matter how long that play might take, nor whether there’s any time on the clock. So if you’re already up three in overtime and you snag a pick and run it back, the game doesn’t end until you hit the endzone, at which point your team is ahead by nine. Of course, forcing a safety in a similar scenario would also allow you to win by five, and would probably be much more likely. But not nearly as cool.

By the way, oddities like this in the new postseason overtime rules have been criticized a bit lately, but even if it needs a bit of tweaking to make the wording airtight I think the new system is a clear step in the right direction. I’ve always hated the sudden-death NFL rules, but I didn’t like the old college “extra quarter” very much either (too boring) and I don’t much care for the new “everybody gets a try from the twenty” plan which just feels weirdly constructed and unlike a regular game of football. To me, the new NFL system is a brilliant compromise.

1) A College Team Can Score Only a Single Point in a Game (Without a Forfeiture)

This one tops the list for me, hands down, because I have a personal connection to it. As a little kid learning the rules of football, I used to like to try to figure out which scores were “possible” in a football game. For example, at first glance it seems like it would be hard to score four points, but of course you can do it with two safeties. It’s incredibly rare (it has happened only once, and that was in 1923 when the Chicago Cardinals lost to the “Racine  Legion,” whoever that is) but the point is it can happen. And if you think about it long enough, trying out any of the unusual numbers you don’t “usually” see in football like 11 and 16, you’ll quickly begin to convince yourself that just about any score is possible, however unlikely. I spent quite a bit of time as a kid (while walking to school or trying to get to sleep, usually) trying to think of an impossible football score. Incidentally there’s quite a good mathematical lesson in all this: sometimes it’s just easier to prove that something is true than it is to try to find a counterexample. Since you can score two points in football, you can score any even number of points just be getting enough safeties. And since you can also score three, you can score any odd number of points as well, just by scoring the right number of safeties and then scoring a field goal. Silly eight-year-old Colin.

But I’m digressing. There is, of course, one rather trivial “impossible score,” of course, and thats just plain “one.” After all, if you have to score in units of two, three, six, seven, or eight, then you can’t very well wind up with just one. But it turns out that, at least where college ball is concerned, there’s actually something wrong with that assumption.

I’m not talking about the fact that when a team forfeits a game in college ball the official score is recorded as 1-0. That’s just stupid, and it isn’t really the score of “the game,” it’s just a bookkeeping trick so that a team doesn’t get any more credit than necessary for a win it didn’t have to work for. No, it can be done in an actual hour of play. The team would necessarily lose (i.e. you can’t win the game by a score of one to nothing), but their final score could be just “one.” Let me explain.

First, some background. In college football, there exists a strange rule called a “conversion safety,” which is just what it sounds like: a safety that occurs during the attempt at a one or two-point conversion. This itself is extremely rare, and has occurred only once. The most likely scenario for such a thing is that, during a regular extra-point attempt, the kick is blocked and the defense recovers in or near the endzone. Hoping to run it back, they do not kneel down and take the voluntary touchback. Instead they start to run, maybe dipping back into the endzone to try to find an opening. They are then tackled unexpectedly.

Since they were tackled in their own end zone, it’s a safety. But (I suppose since they were at the disadvantage of being forced to start so close to their end zone for a PAT attempt) it’s only worth one point. In this situation, however, the result would simply be that the original team would be up 7-0, since they scored 6 points on the touchdown and 1 point on the conversion safety. Interestingly, the same thing can happen in pro football, but only during a two-point conversion, and it is still only worth one point. It has happened, but if it ever does I expect it will create a strange situation of its own, like a team trying to score the game-winning two-point conversion and suddenly discovering they’ve only managed to tie!

Still, neither of these situations is what concerns us now. In the above scenario, the offense scores one point, but only after already having scored six, just like a regular extra point kick. That’s no fun. And in the NFL, that’s the only way a conversion safety can play out. The defense cannot score a conversion safety.

In college, however, that’s not true. It would be absurdly unlikely that such a thing could occur, but it’s technically possible (something to try next time you’re playing NCAA football on your Xbox, maybe). Picture this: The game is scoreless. Two arch rivals have been slugging it out all game, and it’s been a taught defensive contest. Finally, one team breaks through on a big play and scores a touchdown. They lead, six nothing. They go for two, just to rub it in (I did say they were bitter rivals), but the receivers run the wrong routes, and it’s a busted play. The safety on the other team sees the fear in the quarterback’s eyes and steps right in front of his desperation pass, snatching it out of the air and taking off down the sideline. The quarterback, realizing he is going to return it for a touchdown and in all likelihood take the lead, takes off after him. This being college, the quarterback actually has some speed and agility, so he starts closing the distance. The safety doesn’t notice; he has tunnel vision, both literally from his helmet and figuratively because he is determined to score the go-ahead touchdown against his hated rivals, especially after their little “running-up-the-score-and-going-for-two” stunt. “I’ll show them,” he thinks, and to rub it in he starts to slow down. He stretches the ball out to his side and strikes a Heisman pose, just two yards from the end zone. That’s when the quarterback finally catches up.

The ball is swatted loose*. There’s a quick moment of confusion as the safety spins around to see what is going on. The quarterback tries to dive for the ball but the safety is in the way; he loses his footing and falls to the ground. The ball has now bounced into the endzone– not the end zone on the other end of the field, where the two-point conversion was attempted, but the end zone on the other side. The Quarterback’s end zone. He knows what’s at stake here. If the safety regains possession, it is at minimum a tie game. He scrambles forward, dives on the ball. He tries to get up; the play is not over yet. Maybe he can run it all the way back and still get that too point conversion…

But it is too late. The safety has finally regained his wits, and he pounces, downing the quarterback in his own end zone. That’s a safety, for sure, but since it occurred during a conversion, it’s not a real safety. It’s a conversion safety, and it’s only worth one point. that makes the score six to one.

Both teams fight valiantly for the rest of the game, but no more points are put on the board. The emotions on both sides are simply running too hot; the offense is making mistakes, the defense is fired up and sacking quarterbacks left and right. A last second free-kick stunt is attempted from 69 yards (see above), but it falls just short. The buzzer sounds. The game is over.

And 8-year-old Colin is thrilled to discover that it really is possible to score only one point.


* See comments below: the situation at the end would have to play out slightly differently (and even more improbably). But the one-point safety can still technically occur as a team’s only score.

About Colin West
Colin West is a graduate student in quantum information theory, working at the Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics at Stony Brook University. Originally from Colorado (where he attended college), his interests outside of physics include politics, paper-folding, puzzles, playing-cards, and apparently, plosives.

80 Responses to 15 of the Strangest Things That Can Legally Happen In Football

  1. Pingback: One Crazy List Begets Another… – Under Penalty of Catapult

  2. JD says:

    Racine Legion, a professional football team from Racine Wisconsin. Their color isCrimson and white, and these are other name they have gone by:
    Racine Regulars (1915)
    Racine Battery C (1916-18)
    Horlick-Racine Legion (1919-1922)
    Racine Legion (1922-25)
    Racine Tornadoes (1926)

    • Matt Gilliam says:

      For #15 it is indeed a field goal if you score by using a place kick for a free kick. If you do it on an ordinary play it’s using a place kick for a scrimmage kick. Either way, a kick that passes through the uprights and scores three points is indeed, a field goal.

  3. Chuck says:

    In the last scenario…first off, if the safety fell on the ball it would only be 2 points. You only get 2 points for scoring a TD on a conversion regardless of who scores it. Secondly, the scenario you described would be a touchback. If the other team has possession (which was gained when the safety picked up the ball) and is going for a touchdown and fumbles into the endzone where it is recovered by the other team, or out of the endzone it would be a touchback. In the last scenario the QB would have to pick up the ball, run out of the endzone into the field of play and then run back into the endzone and be tackled for a safety.

    • Colin West says:

      These are both good points! Thanks for correcting me here. I got a bit carried away with my dramatic license and wasn’t thinking about the other details along the way. I suppose the safety could also just fumble shy of the endzone, and hope the quarterback foolishly but instinctively picked it up, then try to chase him backwards into the endzone.

      Of course, none of these things is even remotely likely, but that’s the fun of exploring the boundaries of the football rules! And in a league where some of the players don’t even know that a regular season game can end in a tie, maybe that should happen more often…

      • Chuck says:

        No problem, as a referee I enjoyed reading this. The only other thing…the onside kick rules have changed. You no longer are awarded a ‘re-kick’, not sure when this was originally written. Either way, good stuff here.

        • Asher says:

          In the NFL you can still get a second try if your free kick is too short.
          “If the kicking team either illegally kicks off out of bounds or is guilty of a short free kick on two or more consecutive onside kicks, receivers may take possession of the ball at the dead ball spot, out-of-bounds spot, or spot of illegal touch.”

          • chunkala says:

            I think you’re quoting the old rules because I swear they changed it to only 1 kick unless it was illegally touched by receiving team.

    • afjksdfsdjkl says:

      Wrong. If you have the ball and leave the end zone and then run back into your own end zone and are tackled it’s a safety not a touchback.

    • johnny jack says:

      Quite right. I was wondering what the hell he was talking about.

    • Mr Football says:

      Chuck he is right. You are only awarded 1 point because the qb was tackled in the endzone on a two point conversion. It has only happened twice in collage football but you can look it up and actually see the play.

    • The other way you could score 1 is if during the return the returner decides he wont make it and attempts a drop kick and gets 1.

  4. eric says:

    Awesome article dude!!

  5. Larry says:

    I have a question in regards to the conversion safety scenario. Lets say the team that blocked the extra point recovers the ball in the field of play, runs back into the endzone, for whatever reason, fumbles the ball and the kicking team recovers the fumble. How many points are awarded for this?

    • Steve says:

      2 points, because it’s still a conversion, and the original kicking team would have recovered it in the end zone after the defense had possessed it. Imagine a team going for 2 and having a pass picked off, but the cornerback fumbles on the 5 yard line and the tight end recovers it and gets in the end zone. He’d get 2 points for that.

  6. TDT says:

    Note< after a college team scores a TD it attempts a PAT. The PAT is blocked and the dfense runs it all the way back 98 yds. The defense is awarded 1 point, yes??

    • Alex says:

      That would be worth 2 points in college. The College Rules on a conversion seem to be about the same as a regular field goal attempt other than the points so think of it as a blocked field goal that’s returned with the exception of the number of points. TD is worth 2 instead of 6. Field goal (extra point) is worth 1 instead of 3, and safety is worth 1 instead of 2.

  7. Pingback: Think You’re Savvy on the Rules of Football? Think Again! | Pig Nation Football News, Gear, Junk & Crap

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    I’m brand new to running a blog however I do write in my journal every day. I’d like to start a blog so I can share my own experience and views online.
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  9. Ray says:

    It would be a little more likely like this:

    Two teams have been having a very defensive game and the score is 0-0 with around 3 minutes left in the game. On the very first play of the game, the kicker was injured during the kickoff and is out for the game. Now, with 3 minutes left, one of the teams finally show a little bit of offense and manage to score a touchdown. Its time for the punter to line up for the extra point. Now, the punter is not very good at field goals and misses the PAT, however he is pounded from the side by a 350 lb lineman that he did not see coming and a flag is thrown for a late hit. He would get another shot at the field goal, but after that hit, the punter no longer knows what planet he is on and is not able to attempt another field goal. The coach, knowing that there is still time left in the game, decides that he is more likely to get a 2 point conversion that get the field goal, so he sends out his offense. The play is botched and the quarterback fumbles the ball on the snap. The blitzing linebacker picks up the ball and heads to his end zone. 2 yards away the halfback catches up to him, and being a linebacker and holding the football like a piece of cake, he fumbles it into the end zone. The halfback picks up the ball, and being a halfback, decides to run it back. He steps out the end zone, tries to juke the linebacker and then takes a step backwards back into the end zone and gets tackled. The defense would be awarded one point. There are no other scores for the rest of the game and it ends 6-1.

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  13. dylan says:

    in the last scenario in the cfl if a punt, or a missed field goal goes through the end zone or the returner gets tackled with it in the end zone the kicking team gets one point.

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  15. Uncle Chas says:

    The free kick after a safety is a field goal but a drop kick is not. And 1 was done in the NFL recently

    I didn’t know about the conversion safety though – nice one…

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  17. Tate says:

    Ok these were soo cool! Thanks for sharing!

  18. Montana Fox says:

    You didn’t even mention the drop-kick field goal. That’s a cool one too. Didn’t used to be rare, but it is now.

  19. Michael says:

    Iowa beat PSU 6-4 in 2004

  20. bob says:

    Combining #1 and #2, a college OT game can be by 10 points (TD+2 on first possession, safety on second)

    • bob says:

      and, as a bills fan, I was getting excited when I saw the bills about to get an onside at the 5, then I got pissed at Washington…
      On that note, buffalo could have scored a TD on a kickoff, too

  21. You said that scoring one point has only happened once, but you didn’t name the game….what is it?

  22. Rick says:

    I have a weird scenario question. Wonder if you’ve thought of this one:
    On a personal foul happening after a scoring play the penalty is assessed on the kickoff. What happens to that 15 yard penalty if the kickoff is returned for a touchdown? Is it impossible for the receiving team (who should be penalized for the prior play) to score a touchdown on the kickoff? Or does it just “roll” to the next kickoff? Or is it assessed on the extra point try?

    • Alex says:

      I think “on the kickoff” in this context implies kicking from 15 yards farther forward or backward, so a penalty will always be enforceable on a kickoff and will never have to be rolled over.

  23. Greg Maness says:

    Sept. 21, 1984 … Final Score: Calhoun Falls (SC) — 4 … Elbert County (GA) — 0 … … … Two safeties was the only scoring. Elbert County is my old school and if I had not been at the game at the famous Granite Bowl in Elberton, I would believe the score, either. It was 2 – 0 at half-time, by the way.

  24. Grandpa says:

    When I was a teen back in the ’60s, I read a book on football follies. It referenced a 4-0 game. Afterwards, when the winning coach was asked about the unusual score, he replied, “We had them licked with that first safety but we just wanted to run up the score on them.”

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  28. Jamie says:

    Another possible conversion safety….. the ball carrier gets spun around, confused, and runs back through his own end zone. Or some combination involving a fumble and a “wrong way” run.

    • Kiznal says:

      20 false starts in a row on a PAT attempt could back the team up all the way to just in front of their own endzone.

      I’m still laughing trying to picture the returning team simply performing a drop kick instead of trying to run it back for a touchdown

  29. draftdaydame says:

    Reblogged this on footballfemme and commented:
    Food for thought

  30. Jestin Haugh says:

    You can’t return a 2 point conversion attempt for a regular TD worth 6 points, you would only be awarded 2 points!

  31. Woody Nelson says:

    Neat blog – keep up the good work!

    A few years ago my HS team lost a game when the other team received their own punt (no defensive touching of the ball) and scored a touchdown! There was a fierce wind and a poor punter. The punt never crossed the line of scrimmage but instead blew back to the kicking team who took it and ran 60 yds for a TD. Our defense thought it was a downed kick and didn’t even try to tackle him. But the rule (at least in HS) only states that the ball is dead if the kicking team touches the ball after the neutral zone.

    • Old Man Carey says:

      That happened to our officiating crew twice in one game. It was windy and fortunately we had reviewed that rule in our crew pre-game. . .

  32. Old Man Carey says:

    here’s a couple odd ones I wish you had mentioned. . .high school rules. 1) you don’t have to hike the ball between your legs. The Center can hike it sideways like we do in sandlot football if he makes it a continuous motion 2) In Federation (high school rules), the team that is scored upon designates which team kicks off on the subsequent kickoff. rule 8-3-9. After a try, the opponent of the scoring team shall designate which team will kick off…maybe never happened in modern football but it could have last season in a game in which I was one of the officials.

    A big time city school was playing a team from outside the big city and was winning 70-0. By the 3rd quarter they had put their scrubs in the game, and the hapless small-towners managed to score a touchdown. Big School could have done the sportsmanship thing and envoked rule 8-3-9 and kicked off to the Small Down And Outers, giving them another chance to score. . . but no, they apparently weren’t aware of that rule.

    • Old Man Carey says:

      and one more odd one. . .you can hand the ball forward to a lineman during a scrimmage down as long as he has turned and is facing his own goal line and is 1 yard behind the Line of Scrimmage. Example. . . Center snaps the ball to QB, then stands up and turns around to face his own goal.. QB fakes a few handoffs to backs criss-crossing, then sneaks the ball back to the Center. . As long as the C doesn’t stuff the ball under his shirt, he is good to go.

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  34. graham64 says:

    There is no rule to stop a team attempting a field goal on any of the four downs that they have to make 10 yards. If they attempt a field goal on a 1st, 2nd or third down, and the kick is blocked, but they maintain possession, they can try again. If a team is trailing and needs to kick a field goal to tie or win, it makes sense to try on the third down if they are within range, so that they have the option of an attempt on 4th down if the attempt is blocked.

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  36. Little known is that you can call a fair catch on any kick. In high school I was nerd and special teams captain. I called one on an attempted on side kick. The kicker tried to pooch it over the front line, where I was. I called a fair catch and got hit. Possession plus 15 yards, and we could have free kicked for an easy field goal, but with under a minute left we just ran out the clock.

  37. KD says:

    For #5, it must be that the 3rd stringer has to be put in at quarterback. Joe Webb is the Panthers’ 3rd string quarterback and he frequently plays on special teams without disqualifying Cam Newton or Derek Anderson.

  38. Bri says:

    I was sucked into some clickbait recently that says the team that’s just been scored upon also has the right to perform the following kickoff. I’m wondering if that’s still on the books. Especially after this weekend’s Pats-Jets game. Pats might have been better off kicking off with 18 seconds left DEEP (Jets no timeouts needing a TD), versus allowing the Jets to try an onside kick (which they recovered but didn’t score after).

  39. JD says:

    If jammie collins leap for a blocked extra point touched an opposing lineman, would it be a penalty?

  40. Wayne Griffin says:

    If punting team is the first team to touch the ball is it dead? example if punter punts and it it heading for end zone member of punting team jumps without touching end zone bats ball back into field of play can return team grab it and run or is it a dead ball?

  41. Rob Long says:

    Very interesting post! What’s the weirdest score in any football game ever in your opinion? Ive heard there was a game between Cumberland vs Georgia Tech where GT won like 220-0 or something without even passing.

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  43. Kevin Johnson says:

    returning a conversion for a td is only 2 points

  44. Erin Stoops says:

    I actually want to know if a punting team can score 3 points if upon punting the ball goes through the uprights.

  45. Trenton says:

    In regards to the A-11 offense, a properly coached defense will be able to tell who is eligible pretty easily.

    Only players off the LOS and the END player on the LOS are eligible. So if you have two receivers side-by-side, both on the LOS, only the one farthest from the ball is eligible. If the inside receiver runs down the field, then the defense can just ignore him. He can’t touch the ball, and if a pass is thrown beyond the LOS, then it’s a penalty for ineligible receiver downfield.

    Now, the ineligible receiver can still run downfield and be fine if the pass is BEHIND the LOS, but either way, the defense can ignore him.

    In the video there, I watched about 15 plays and was able to pick out the eligible guys every time (they actually got away with an ineligible receiver downfield on one play where it was supposed to be a pass behind the LOS but it ended up being caught about 1 yard beyond the LOS).

    The trick in that offense is the motion and movement, not the formation.

  46. T says:

    @#2 Can you also then win an overtime game by just one point, if you’re ahead by a field goal, intercept a pass, and down it for a safety?

  47. Bob Shmurda says:

    Ik this is an old thread but just had to put this out there(if its not already),but according to the rules cant any player with possecion walk on all fours as long as the ball doesn’t touch the ground.I know there is a 99.99% chance this wont happen but wouldnt it be neat to see a QB,HB,or WR monkey hopping around.Or By some crazy chance imagine this 1 yard to the endzone.You have a crazy huge lineman.QB hands it of to him he get down on all fours.The def Piles ,push ,pulls ,holding the ball above ground with all his might,and basicly crawling for a TD without any part of him besides his hands and feet touching the ground.Lol ik this is a stupid scenerio but it would be somewhat ammussing to see a bunch of def. Being dragged like middle schoolers.

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  49. chrispdube says:

    Actually, it’s not as silly as it sounds. There HAS been a play in a Super Bowl, of all things, that with slight modification, and today’s rules, would have been a conversion safety.

    In the second Dallas Cowboys – Buffalo Bills Super Bowl, Leon Lett got a turnover and I believe it was Don Bebee tore across the field after him. When Lett reached the 5 yard line he spiked the ball like he got a touchdown.

    Had Bebee recovered that ball in the end zone, by today’s rules would have been a conversion safety (assuming Buffalo was originally going for 2).

    Still, it IS exceptionally rare.

  50. chrispdube says:

    Actually, it’s not as silly as it sounds. There HAS been a play in a Super Bowl, of all things, that with slight modification, and today’s rules, would have been a conversion safety.

    In the second Dallas Cowboys – Buffalo Bills Super Bowl, Leon Lett got a turnover and I believe it was Don Bebee tore across the field after him. When Lett reached the 5 yard line he spiked the ball like he got a touchdown.

    Had Bebee recovered that ball in the end zone, by today’s rules would have been a conversion safety (assuming Buffalo was originally going for 2).

    Still, it IS exceptionally rare.

    PS: After writing this, I rewatched this play on Youtube. Leon Lett lifted the ball to celebrate his “TD” on the 5. Bebee knocked it out of his hands and the ball went through the end zone and out of bounds. Under rules at the time, it was a touchback with Buffalo getting the ball at their own 20.

    Had that been a 2 point conversion attempt it would been a conversion safety.

  51. jj says:

    not sure if this was said before but im pretty sure for the #14 coin toss scenario, there is a bigger penalty than you mention. the team who doesnt show up loses both half choices. the team that is there can elect to receive both halves.

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