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February 7, 2010 9:48 PM   Subscribe

Is a recovered onside kick such as at the beginning of the 2nd half of tonight's Super Bowl when the ball is touched by the receiving team before it travels 10 yards but not recovered by them considered a turnover by the receiving team?

My friends I were a little sick of just betting on the score and the whole boxes thing watching tonight's Super Bowl. We also set up a whole bunch of side bets such as 1st team to call a time out, 1st team to complete a forward pass, 1st team to lose yardage on a rushing play, 1st quarter the TV would cut to a live shot of Bourbon Street, 1st team to have an injured player cause a stoppage in play, and 1st team to have a turnover lost/recovered. It turns out regardless of the answer to my question, the Colts have the first turnover and the Saints have the first turnover recovered. Either it was on the onsides kick or they subsequently had the next turnover.

I searched the NFL site. The official box score does not mention turnovers. It does have a category for fumbles and it has no fumbles listed. The two arguments being made for and against are this: It could not have been a turnover by the Colts as they never had possession to lose. It is not a turnover but simply an onsides kick recovery. The turnover folks think that at the point that the Colts player touched the ball and failed to maintain control, he turned the ball over because it never went 10 yards and therefore could not be recovered by the Saints without him having touched it. So, by virtue of touching it, he turned it over.

Further, on a kickoff in the NFL, who has possession of the ball and when does that possession occur? Does the kicking team have possession until it is controlled by the receiving team, does the receiving team have possession by virtue of the fact that it is their ball to lose or does no one have possession on a kickoff until someone gains control?

Is there anyway to have a turnover other than on a fumble or interception? Is a blocked kick considered a turnover if it happens on either 1st, 2nd or 3rd down? For eample, in an overtime game a team may attempt a field goal on 3rd down in case there is a bad snap and they will fall on the ball and try again on 4th down. If the kick is blocked on third down and recovered by the defense is that considered a turnover? I assume a blocked kick on fourth down is just an unsuccessful kick and the kicking team turns the ball over to the other team on downs.

It appears to me that as long as the ball travels 10 yards anyone can recover it so no one has possession and cannot turn it over if they do not touch it. It is only a turnover if it does not travel 10 yards but is touched by the receiving team and subsequently controlled by the kicking team.
posted by JohnnyGunn to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total)
 
It's not a turnover.

Neither team possesses the ball until one of their players controls it.

The ball either has to go 10 yards (it did, BTW) or touch any part of a Colts player (which it did, but in this case it's not relevant). The Colts player never possessed the ball, so it's not a turnover.

Punts are obviously different -- it's not a live ball until a receiving team's player touches it.

Is there anyway to have a turnover other than on a fumble or interception?

Not that I can think of.

Is a blocked kick considered a turnover if it happens on either 1st, 2nd or 3rd down?

No, it's considered a blocked kick, though the ball is live if the defense touches the ball (see Leon Lett vs Miami).
posted by dw at 9:59 PM on February 7, 2010


It appears to me that as long as the ball travels 10 yards anyone can recover it so no one has possession and cannot turn it over if they do not touch it. It is only a turnover if it does not travel 10 yards but is touched by the receiving team and subsequently controlled by the kicking team.

You are right on this -- the ball must either travel 10 yards or touch a receiving team player before the kicking team can touch the ball -- but it's not a turnover. It's a recovered onside kick.
posted by dw at 10:05 PM on February 7, 2010


Is there anyway to have a turnover other than on a fumble or interception?

Sure, if it is turned over on downs. Outside of that, no. Or at least no bookie I know would consider it a turn over. Consider this: a safety is not a turn over even though points are scored by the team who does not possess the ball. To be a turn over one most have possession of the ball, the kick off determines who will get possession.
posted by geoff. at 10:05 PM on February 7, 2010


Lets say you try a field goal, it comes up short and the other team catches the ball - isn't it the case that the other team gets the ball live and isn't that a turnover?
posted by shothotbot at 10:11 PM on February 7, 2010


Here is the argument being made that it IS a turnover on an onside kick if it goes less than 10 yards and is touched by the receiving team: If the receiving team does not touch it, then the kicking team cannot recover it. By touching it and not "receiving" it, they created a situation whereby the kicking team may recover it and thus the receiving team turned it over. Or, when the ball travels less than 10 yards, it is the receiving team's ball to lose.

My contention is that while this is a correct assessment of the rules, it is simply not called a turnover, it is as dw pointed out called an onside kick recovery. It is simply a term used in football.

I would like to find a cite or rule that I can point to tell my friends they are all wrong.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:15 PM on February 7, 2010


By touching it and not "receiving" it, they created a situation whereby the kicking team may recover it and thus the receiving team turned it over.

This presumes that the receiving team has possession the moment the ball is touched. They don't.

The point being missed here is that possession is defined as being in control of the ball (subjectively determined by the ref) with two feet inbounds. Having the ball bounce off your shoulder pads means you never had it to be turned over.

This is similar to an incomplete pass. If a receiver lets the pass bounce off his hands and hit the ground, it cannot be recovered as a fumble -- the receiver never had it in the first place, and therefore cannot fumble it.

All you have done by touching a kickoff before it travels 10 yards is made it a legal kick, and a legal kick is a live ball, period.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:38 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lets say you try a field goal, it comes up short and the other team catches the ball - isn't it the case that the other team gets the ball live and isn't that a turnover?

Yes, the receiving (defensive) team gets the ball live, but not, it's a not a turnover. It's considered a kick from scrimmage ... so in other words, a missed field goal that lands inbounds and doesn't touch a goal post operates under the same rules as a punt.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:47 PM on February 7, 2010


One last thing that was answered...

I assume a blocked kick on fourth down is just an unsuccessful kick and the kicking team turns the ball over to the other team on downs.

Like before, this is a kick from scrimmage -- the same rule as a punt. When it's blocked, it's live, and can be advanced. If the kicking team gets its kick blocked, miraculously recovers it, and still fails to advance it sufficient yards, then it's a turnover on downs.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:58 PM on February 7, 2010


At the very least, point your friends to ESPN's box score, and note in the team stats that the Colts committed only one turnover...that, of course, being Peyton's late interception.

If you have a copy of the broadcast, the announcing crew also mentions that the INT was the first turnover of the game (yes, I know it's Nance-Simms, but they get their stats from presumably more reliable sources).
posted by hiteleven at 11:28 PM on February 7, 2010


Lets say you try a field goal, it comes up short and the other team catches the ball - isn't it the case that the other team gets the ball live and isn't that a turnover?

No, that's not a turnover. It's a scrimmage kick, and you can return it.

Here is the argument being made that it IS a turnover on an onside kick if it goes less than 10 yards and is touched by the receiving team: If the receiving team does not touch it, then the kicking team cannot recover it.

There is only one plausible scenario where this could be a turnover:

New Orleans kicks off from the 30. Colts player catches it inside the 40 and starts to advance it. He fumbles the ball. Saints recover fumble.

The receiving team must GAIN CONTROL of the ball in order for there to be a turnover. The ball touching or striking any part of any receiving team player is NOT control. A receiving team player MUST take the ball and secure it. Once the player secures the ball, if at any point before he is ruled down he releases the ball through his own negligence or his opponent's action (e.g. punching the ball out), then it is a fumble. If the kicking team recovers this fumble then it is a turnover.

Tonight a Colts player tried to secure the onside kick, but the ball bounced off his hands and I believe helmet. He never secured the ball. Because of this, it was never his ball to lose, therefore he could not turn it over. It didn't matter if he was at the 43 or inside the 40, it's still not possession. And turnovers require possession.
posted by dw at 11:42 PM on February 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thank you all.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 6:27 AM on February 8, 2010


I would like to find a cite or rule that I can point to tell my friends they are all wrong.

The NFL rules are awfully complicated, and infrequently and illicitly published. Given that, here is what the 2006 rules say:
Notes: Change of possession includes:
(1) recovery of loose ball by team not putting ball in play;
(2) forward pass interception;
(3) free kick or kick from scrimmage recovered and/or advanced by the receiving team or that goes out of bounds; and
(4) touching of a scrimmage kick by the receiving team beyond the line of scrimmage that is recovered by the kicking team.
Since they explicitly identify (4) for a scrimmage kick, and don't for a free kick like in the Super Bowl, that would imply that it was not a change of possession, i.e. "a turnover".
posted by smackfu at 7:32 AM on February 8, 2010


Is a muffed punt not considered a turnover either?
posted by jckll at 8:43 AM on February 8, 2010


A punt is a scrimmage kick, so that's covered by #4.
posted by smackfu at 9:34 AM on February 8, 2010


Is a muffed punt not considered a turnover either?

Define "muffed."

Did the center snap it over the punter's head, or something similar? That's a fumble, which can be recovered and advanced by either team. If the kicking team does not advance it beyond the necessary yards to make a first down, it's a turnover on downs.

Or did the punter actually kick it, and shank it, so it doesn't really go anywhere? That's a valid kick, covered by the rules above.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:40 AM on February 8, 2010


Muffed punt is basically the returner touching the ball to make it live without gaining possession.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:47 AM on February 8, 2010


I was under the impression a muffed punt only refers to one thing: the punt returner touching the ball but not catching/returning it. IE it slides right through his arms, or he is tackled and drops it as soon as it hits his hands, etc.
posted by jckll at 11:32 AM on February 8, 2010


A muffed punt could be the ball slipping through his hands or the ball glancing off his helmet. Either case, it's a live ball.

If a returner is tackled before he has a chance to attempt to field the ball, that's not a muff; that's a penalty for interference.
posted by dw at 2:28 PM on February 8, 2010


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