The Punt Rules of a Football Game
The Role of Special Teams in a Football Game
The Kickoff Rules of a Football Game

Football Special Teams: Field Goals and PATs

In football, most special teams involve the placekicker or field goal kicker. But other members of a football team participate in field goal and extra point attempts. Read on to see what makes a kick count and the rules regarding both types of kicks.

Who does what during kicks

On field goal and extra point (PAT) attempts, the following players are on the field:

  • A holder and a snapper.

  • A wall of nine blockers in front of the kicker, including the snapper, who’s sometimes the offensive center.

Here’s how the kick happens:

  1. The snapper snaps the ball.

    On many teams, the player who snaps the ball for punts also snaps for these kicks. The snap takes approximately 1.3 seconds to reach the holder.

  2. The holder, kneeling on his right knee about 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage, catches the ball with his right hand and places the ball directly on the playing surface.

    Placekicking tees are allowed in high school football but not in college and the NFL.

  3. The holder uses his left index finger to hold the ball in place.

  4. The kicker kicks the ball.

    The kicker’s leg action, the striking motion, takes about 1.5 milliseconds, and the ball is usually airborne about 2 seconds after being snapped.

For an extra point or a field goal try to be ruled “good,” the kicked ball must clear the crossbar (by going over it) and pass between (or directly above one of) the uprights of the goalpost. Two officials, one on each side of the goalpost, stand by to visually judge whether points have been scored on the kick.

The rules of football's kicking game

A few rules pertain strictly to the kicking game. Most of them decide what happens when a kick is blocked or touched by the defensive team. Because three points are so valuable, special teams place a great emphasis on making a strong effort to block these kicks. The team kicking the ball works just as diligently to protect its kicker, making sure he has a chance to score.

Here are some rules regarding field goals and extra points:

  • A blocked field goal recovered behind the line of scrimmage may be advanced by either team.

  • A blocked field goal that crosses the line of scrimmage may be advanced only by the defense. If the ball is muffed or fumbled, however, it’s a free ball.

  • On a blocked PAT in an NFL game, the ball is immediately dead. Neither team is allowed to advance it. In college football, the defense can pick up the ball and return it to the kicking team’s end zone for a two-point score (if they’re lucky).

  • The guards may lock legs with the snapper only. The right guard places his left foot inside the snapper’s right foot after both players assume a stance so that their legs cross, or lock. The left guard places his right foot on the opposite side of the center.

    By locking legs, the guards help stabilize the snapper from an all-out rush on his head and shoulders while he leans down over the ball. All other players on the line of scrimmage must have their feet outside the feet of the players next to them.

  • The holder or kicker may not be roughed or run into during or after a kick. The penalty for running into the kicker is 5 yards; the penalty for roughing the kicker is 15 yards and an automatic first down.

    However, roughing the holder or kicker is legal if the kick is blocked, the ball touches the ground during the snap, or the holder fumbles the ball before it’s kicked.

  • On a missed field goal, the ball returns to the line of scrimmage if it rolls dead in the field of play, is touched by the receiving team, goes into the end zone, or hits the goalpost. The defensive team assumes possession at that time.

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