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Riddle me this, Ditka!
February 8, 2010 8:18 AM   Subscribe

American Football rules question: If the quarterback overthrows a pass to a receiver in the end zone and the ball bounces off the field goal post and is then caught by the receiver (the ball never hit the ground nor is the receiver out of bounds). Is the catch fair?
posted by analogue to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
No, it's a dead ball as soon as it hits the post.
posted by mkultra at 8:22 AM on February 8, 2010


No. When they moved the goal posts to the back of the end zone, they were no longer in play. When a passed ball strikes the goal posts it's dead.
posted by dw at 8:24 AM on February 8, 2010


As the others have said, Any forward pass becomes incomplete and ball is dead if:

(a) Pass hits the ground or goes out of bounds.

(b) Pass hits the goal post or the crossbar of either team.

posted by nightwood at 8:31 AM on February 8, 2010


So do they just have a special case in the rules for when a kick bounces off the posts and is good?
posted by smackfu at 8:33 AM on February 8, 2010


So do they just have a special case in the rules for when a kick bounces off the posts and is good?

That's not a pass though, so completely different sets of rules apply. Just like you can't throw the ball through the goalposts to score a field goal on a regular play.
posted by kmz at 8:37 AM on February 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Note that in Arena Football, when a forward pass bounces off of the equivalent of the goal posts (the nets), it is still live and can be caught by either team.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:37 AM on February 8, 2010


So do they just have a special case in the rules for when a kick bounces off the posts and is good?

Essentially, on any play that is not a field goal or extra point attempt, the goal posts are out of bounds. Just like the stands, or the sidelines, or anything else not on the field of play. Once the ball touches anything that is out of bounds, the play is dead.

On a kick attempt, however, the goal posts are in bounds.

I am not positive about this one, but I believe this is why, in theory, a FG attempt that bounces off the goal posts could be caught and returned by an opposing player. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by jckll at 8:46 AM on February 8, 2010


Any punt or missed field goal that touches a goal post is dead.
posted by nightwood at 9:04 AM on February 8, 2010


I can't find any rule books to back me up, but it is my understanding that, since the goal post was moved to the back of the end zone, if it hits the uprights or the cross bar, it is considered out of bounds/dead ball, and can't be run back.

However, if an attempt goes short and does not hit the goal post, it can be returned...which is how the record for a touchdown run is 109 yards in a game with 100 yeard field.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:08 AM on February 8, 2010


which is how the record for a touchdown run is 109 yards in a game with 100 yeard field.

This is much more likely to happen on a kickoff.
posted by rokusan at 11:10 AM on February 8, 2010


This is much more likely to happen on a kickoff.

I wonder if we'll see more return attempts in the future on long FGs. It's less likely that a missed FG attempt would be playable, but if it is, the personnel on the field and the game context are very different. For a FG, you've got a long snapper and lots of OL-types in to block, just so the kick can get off. Much harder for them to run down a talented returner. Whereas for a kickoff, the kicking team has coverage specialists on the field.
posted by expialidocious at 11:33 AM on February 8, 2010


Of the four longest returns in NFL history (3 returns for 108 yards and 1 return for 109 yards), 3 of them were returns of missed field goals and one was a return of a kickoff.
posted by nightwood at 11:42 AM on February 8, 2010


My gut tells me that's a small sample size problem, nightwood. By which I mean, if you let go of the "four longest" cherry and get ahold of more data... well, the number of 100+ yard kickoff returns must (?) be higher than 100+ yard field goal returns, no? The number of yards over 100 is more a matter of random luck.

But I can't find a big enough table or database to check. NCAA might be an even better source.
posted by rokusan at 12:40 PM on February 8, 2010


I think it is more likely the longest returns are going to be from field goals because the kicking team has many big slow blockers instead of an entire team of fast coverage guys. So if a kick-off is to the back of the endzone (105+ yards), it is usually a better bet to take the touchback. But if it's a short field goal, most of the opposing team is big and slow and beyond the 20 yard line, so it's a good bet that even from the back of the endzone you can get past the 20.

But yes, of all 100+ kick returns, I expect most are from kick-offs, but I expect most of those to be around the 100-102 yd range.
posted by nightwood at 12:55 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Here's youtube of a 108 yard return.)
posted by maxwelton at 12:56 PM on February 8, 2010


My gut tells me that's a small sample size problem, nightwood.

Some more stats, a bit out-of-date:

Longest kickoff return for a TD
Longest missed FG return for a TD
Longest punt return for a TD

It seems like a fairly random thing, where whether it is a record (108 yards) or not (104 yards) is completely dependent on the kicker rather than the return man.

Although it is interesting there is only one punt return for more than 100 yards.
posted by smackfu at 1:54 PM on February 8, 2010


Although it is interesting there is only one punt return for more than 100 yards.

Two key reasons:
1. Your average punt goes 40-45 yards; kickoffs go 60-70 yards. The 15-30 more yards on a kickoff means a little more time to set up the return team's coverage scheme, and it also means that the returner will be at full speed by the time they reach the kicking team's tacklers. So a punt returner will be closer to the goal line than a kick returner, but he'll also be closer to the defense and may not hit full speed until after he clears the main wave of tacklers.

2. Because punts aren't live balls, the return team doesn't need to immediately possess the ball lest the kicking team pick it up and advance it. Thus, if a punt looks like it's headed for the end zone, a returner doesn't need to take it; he can just let it hit in the end zone for a touchback (and the ball placed on the 20). This is why now you'll often see return men run from the ball if it's going to hit inside the 10. And again, because the defense is closer, running the ball out of the end zone is very risky and could mean you're pinned inside the 20, if not the 10.
posted by dw at 2:22 PM on February 8, 2010


"which is how the record for a touchdown run is 109 yards in a game with 100 yeard field.

This is much more likely to happen on a kickoff."

I saw that game. It was only a few years ago, if memory serves correct. I believe it was a field goal attempt. With a punt or kickoff, the receiving team is expected to either call for a fair catch or try to catch and return the ball... but it's rare that someone catches a field goal attempt and tries to return it. By the time anybody realized the ball had been caught, it was too late. The guy caught it and was already headed to mid field before the opposing team realized they needed to block. 109 easy yards (easy, except for the running 109 yards part, of course).
posted by 2oh1 at 7:02 PM on February 9, 2010


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