When you’re watching a game and one team commits a penalty, you may scratch your head over where the ball ends up for the next play. You know that if the offense committed the penalty, the ball is moved back toward the offense’s own end zone and if the defense committed the penalty, the ball is moved forward, toward the opposite end zone, where the offense is trying to go. But, sometimes the penalty is marked off from where the previous play started, and sometimes it’s taken from where the new play should start. Why? Read below…
Under the rules of football, there are three possible places (“spots”) from which a penalty is enforced. Which spot applies depends on the type of penalty. Below are the four possible spots of enforcement and examples of the types of fouls that apply to each:
1. The Spot of the Foul: Basically, where the infraction took place. One common example is offensive holding, although this usually ends up being the line of scrimmage since most holding is committed by the offensive line. Another example is a block in the back, which will often occur on kick returns or long runs.
2. Previous Spot: The line of scrimmage for the last play. Typical examples are the various procedural penalties such as: false start (offense), delay of game (offense or defense) and encroachment (defense).
3. Succeeding Spot: Where the next line of scrimmage would be if the foul hadn’t occurred. A good example here is defensive pass interference, when the offensive player against whom the foul is committed catches the ball. Personal foul penalties that occur after the completion of the play, such as a facemask penalty or late hit, will also be enforced from the next line of scrimmage.
As always, there are exceptions when applying these enforcement spots. Any penalty committed by the offense behind the line of scrimmage (usually holding or illegal forward pass) is assessed from the previous spot. However, you’ll remember that if the foul occurs in the end zone, the result is a safety. Finally, if the foul occurs after a touchdown and before the extra point attempt, the penalty will be assessed on the kickoff.