Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Making Progress: Part 3 of 3

Today we wrap up our three-part series on forward progress with a discussion of how it impacts whether a safety is scored.

·         A safety results in two points to the defense when a play ends in the offense’s end zone

·         After a safety, the offense kicks the ball to the defense

·         Forward progress can keep a safety from counting


You might be thinking, “Wait, I thought a safety was a player on the field!?!”  It is.  A safety is also one of the ways that the defense can score points... two points, to be precise.  According to the NFL online Rules Digest, a safety occurs when the ball is dead on or behind a team’s own goal line if the impetus came from a player on that team.  In other words, a safety occurs when a play ends in the offense’s own end zone, if an action by the offense caused the play to end up there.

A safety can happen several ways, but the most common is when a player is tackled in his own end zone.  How does this happen?  It is usually because the line of scrimmage was very close to the goal line, like the offense’s 1- or 2-yard line.  It may have ended up there because, among other things, a punt was downed there, or the offense lost a lot of yardage on the previous play.

A safety will also be called if the offense commits a penalty inside the end zone and that penalty is one that is enforced from the spot of the foul.  The clearest example of this is offensive holding.  When a holding penalty is called, the offense is pushed back ten yards from where the holding occurred.  Therefore, if holding happens in the end zone, it results in a safety.

Officials signal a safety by raising their arms over their heads and pressing their palms together.


What does forward progress have to do with safeties?  Look again at the definition from the NFL Rules Digest.  A safety occurs when the play ends in the end zone if the impetus of the play came from a player on offense.  This means that the player has to put the ball in his own end zone under his own power.  Sound familiar? 

We have already learned that the rule of forward progress gives the ball carrier credit for yards he gains under his own power.  Imagine, for example, that the line of scrimmage is the offense’s 1-yard line (so they have 99 yards to go to score a touchdown).  At the snap, the quarterback gives the ball to the running back who runs to the 3-yard line.  He is met at the 3 by a herd of defenders who stop his momentum and push him back into the end zone where he goes down.  Instead of a safety, the new line of scrimmage should be the 3-yard line.  However, if the running back had run back into his end zone to avoid the herd, it would be a safety.

If you read my first post, you know that I am not an Ohio State fan by any stretch of the imagination.  However, below is a video of when OSU got completely hosed by a bad safety call:

This should not have been called a safety as the running back clearly made it out of the end zone and was driven back into the end zone by the defense; he didn’t run there under his own power.  It didn't affect the outcome because OSU won, but this could have been a costly error by the officials.

By the way, the offense’s woes don’t end with having two points scored against it.  After a safety, the offense must then kick the ball to the other team, which then goes on offense.  Under the NFL rules, the offense can kick off using a punt, placekick without a tee (so one player holds the ball for the kicker), or a dropkick.* 

Interesting, huh?  Safeties are rare in football, so don’t expect to see them on a weekly basis.

*A dropkick is where a player drops the ball and then kicks it when the ball bounces off the ground.  Dropkicks are kind of cool.  In fact, I’m going to write a post just on the dropkick because there is an interesting one in NFL history.

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