Fumble

Last updated

Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck fumbles the snap against California on the way to a 34-28 loss in the 2009 Big Game. Andrew Luck fumbles at 2009 Big Game.jpg
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck fumbles the snap against California on the way to a 34–28 loss in the 2009 Big Game.
The rate of fumbles by running backs in the NFL has decreased steadily since the AFL-NFL merger. Fumbles.png
The rate of fumbles by running backs in the NFL has decreased steadily since the AFL–NFL merger.

A fumble in gridiron football occurs when a player who has possession and control of the ball loses it before being downed (tackled), scoring, or going out of bounds. By rule, it is any act other than passing, kicking, punting, or successful handing that results in loss of player possession. A fumble may be forced by a defensive player who either grabs or punches the ball or butts the ball with his helmet (a move called "tackling the ball"). A fumbled ball may be recovered and advanced by either team (except, in American football, after the two-minute warning in either half or 4th down, when the fumbling player is the only offensive player allowed to advance the ball, otherwise the ball is ruled dead at the spot of recovery if the ball bounces backwards or spotted at the point of the fumble if the ball travels forward). It is one of three events that can cause a turnover (the other two being an interception or on downs, though the latter does not count toward the team's total turnovers), where possession of the ball can change during play.

Contents

Under American rules a fumble may be confused with a muff. A muff occurs where a player drops a ball that he does not have possession of, such as while attempting to catch a lateral pass or improperly fielding a kicking play such as a punt (you cannot "fumble" a loose ball). Ball security is the ability of a player to maintain control over the football during play and thus avoid a fumble. Thus, losing possession of the ball via a fumble includes not only dropping the ball before being downed; but, also having a ball taken away, or “stripped” from the runner's possession before being downed.

Rules

If the ball is fumbled the defensive team may recover the ball and even advance it to their opponents' goal. The same is true for the offense, but usually when the offense recovers the ball it simply tries to down it. In American football the offense cannot advance the ball if it recovers its own fumble on fourth down, or in the last two minutes of a half, unless the ball is recovered by the fumbler (there are no such restrictions in Canadian football). However, if the offense fumbles the ball, the defense recovers and then fumbles back to the offense, they would get a first down since possession had formally changed over the course of the play even though the ball had never been blown dead. In American football, there is no separate signal to indicate a fumble recovery. If the offense recovers its own fumble, the official will indicate the recovery by a hand signal showing the next down. If the defense recovers the fumble, the official will indicate with a "first down" signal in the direction the recovering team is driving the ball. Some officials have erroneously used a "first down" signal when the offense recovers its own fumble and the recovery did not result in a first down.

This is not the same thing as when a forward pass is attempted and is not caught. In this latter case, it is simply an incomplete pass. However, if the receiver catches the ball, but then drops it after gaining control of the ball, that is considered a fumble.

Any number of fumbles can be committed during a play, including fumbles by the team originally on defense. Most famously, Dallas Cowboys defender Leon Lett fumbled during Super Bowl XXVII while celebrating during his own fumble return.

A sometimes controversial rule is usually referred to as "the ground cannot cause a fumble". If a player is tackled and loses control of the ball at or after the time he makes contact with the ground, the player is treated as down and the ball is not in play. However, in the NFL and CFL, if a ball carrier falls without an opponent contacting him, the ground can indeed cause a fumble. This is because in those leagues the ball carrier is not "down" unless an opponent first makes contact, or the runner is out of bounds. If a player fumbles in most other leagues, as soon as the knee or elbow touches the ground, the ball carrier is considered down. It is also possible for the ground to cause a fumble in college football if the ball hits the ground before any part of the ball carrier's body (other than the hand or foot) touches the ground. An example was the fumble by Arkansas quarterback Clint Stoerner vs. Tennessee in 1998.

The effects of fumbles vary when the ball goes out of bounds without being recovered:

In all cases, a fumble recovered by an out-of-bounds player is considered an out-of-bounds fumble even if the ball never leaves the field of play.

In addition, a punted or place-kicked ball that touches any part of a player on the receiving team, whether or not the player ever gains control, is considered to be live and is treated like a fumble. Also, lateral passes that are caught by a member of the opposing team are recorded as fumbles as opposed to interceptions.

Play during fumbles

Officials sort out possession after a fumble at the 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl between Georgia and Virginia Tech. Peach Bowl fumble aftermath.jpg
Officials sort out possession after a fumble at the 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl between Georgia and Virginia Tech.

Since footballs tend to bounce in unpredictable ways, particularly on artificial turf, attempting to recover and advance a fumbled ball is risky even for those with good manual coordination. Coaches at lower levels of the game usually therefore prefer that players, particularly those such as interior linemen who do not normally handle the ball in the course of play, simply fall on the ball. Gaining or retaining possession is more important in most situations than attempting to advance the ball and possibly score, and there have been many instances where those attempting to do so have wound up fumbling the ball back to the other team.

Recovering and advancing a fumble is also made difficult, and potentially injurious, by the effect on play. Since neither team is on offense or defense while the ball remains loose, there are no restrictions on the type of contact allowed as long as all players are making legitimate efforts to recover it. A loose ball has been described as the only situation in football where the rules are suspended.[ citation needed ]

If the ball remains loose, every player on the field will eventually gravitate towards it, increasing the chaos around it. Spectators relish the suspense. Some players, particularly offensive linemen, have a reputation for taking advantage of the situation to do things to opponents that would otherwise draw penalties, since the officials' attention is necessarily focused on the ball and away from the players trying to get to it. Most commonly, players will "pile on" opponents already down trying to recover the ball. Some NFL players also report that pokes in the eyes, pinches or other abuse is common in post-fumble pileups, conduct which has sometimes led to confrontations, fights or even brawls.

The usual aftermath of a fumble, at every level of play, is a pile of players, many still squirming diligently despite the whistle, surrounded by teammates pointing upfield (the hand signal for a first down) while the officials slowly extricate them in an effort to determine who has won possession. If two different players have hands on the ball, it is often a judgement call on the officials' part as to which team gets it. In the NFL and CFL this has often been the occasion for coaches to call for a review of the instant replay.

Fumbles recovered for touchdowns in the end zone are often the only way offensive linemen score points.

Proper fumble recovery

The most obvious way to recover a loose football would be to fall prone atop it and cradle it between both arms against the abdomen. Amateur players are seen doing this all the time, particularly when playing touch football, and it can even be seen in professional contests.

However, coaches tell players not to do this in game situations if at all possible, since not only is the ball likely to squirt loose again once other players pile on, there is also a possibility of injury from the ball being driven into the soft organs with great force.

Instead, players are taught to fall on their sides and augment their cradling with a thigh and upper body, if possible. This greatly reduces both the chance of losing the ball and the potential for injury (at least from the ball).

Fumbles cannot be recovered with any body part that does not also involve at least one of the recovering player's arms.

Coaches are also increasingly encouraging their players to use the "scoop and score" method of picking it up and attempting to return it for a touchdown. [1]

Intentional fumbling

A very rarely used trick play known as the "fake fumble" calls for the quarterback to lay the ball on the ground as he backs up after receiving the snap, so that a pulling guard can pick it up and run the ball around the end. Coaches are very leery of calling this, however, as a team must be able to execute it flawlessly in order for it to have a chance of working in a game situation. The guard must also be able to run the ball competently and protect it when being tackled, both not usually part of the skill set for the position.

The "fake fumble" is in fact a real one as far as the rules are concerned, and if the defense manages to get the ball, the coach's judgement is likely to be questioned by fans and media alike. While it is a crowd pleaser when done properly, the risk far outweighs the likely reward. For this reason it is most likely to be used in informal touch football games. It was sometimes used in the college game before the NCAA banned it in 1992. It has almost never been used in the NFL or any other professional league.

The best-known fake fumble is probably the Fumblerooski play in the 1984 Orange Bowl (see below).

Fumbling forward, as the Holy Roller play (see below) demonstrated, once was a viable offensive tactic in desperate situations, but the rules have been changed to discourage that.

Use in place of opening coin toss

The XFL, a competing pro league which played its sole season in 2001, used a fumble recovery instead of a coin toss to decide which team would get to choose whether to kick off or receive at the opening of the game and before overtime. A player from each team would sprint, alongside the other, toward a loose ball at the middle of the field, and whoever was able to gain possession won the right for their team to decide.

The idea was that such a key element of the game would be decided by a test of playing skill, not chance. Because of a high rate of injury in these events, the idea never caught on in any other level of football, and the coin toss remains the standard.

Famous fumbles

Fumbles have sometimes played a role in deciding games. Some of these have been so unique as to not only earn their own distinctive sobriquets, but to change the way the game has been played afterwards.

College football

NFL

Professional Canadian football

In statistics

Game box scores commonly record how many fumbles a team made and how many it recovered. A fumble is credited to the last player who handled it from the possessing team, regardless of whether it may have been his fault or not.

Records

NFL

Teams

Players

  • Most fumbles, career: 166, Brett Favre, 1992–2010
  • Most fumbles, season: 23; Kerry Collins, 2001 and Daunte Culpepper, 2002.
  • Most fumbles, game: 7, Len Dawson, Kansas City Chiefs vs. San Diego Chargers, November 15, 1964.
  • Most fumbles recovered, career: 56, Warren Moon.
  • Most fumbles recovered, season: 12, David Carr, 2002.
  • Most fumbles recovered, game: 4; Otto Graham, Cleveland Browns vs. New York Giants, October 25, 1953; Sam Etcheverry, St. Louis Cardinals vs. New York Giants, September 17, 1961; Roman Gabriel, Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers, October 12, 1969; Joe Ferguson, Buffalo Bills vs. Miami Dolphins, September 18, 1977; Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Oakland Raiders, November 30, 1986 (OT).
  • Most own fumbles recovered, career: 56, Warren Moon.
  • Most own fumbles recovered, season: 12, David Carr, 2002.
  • Most own fumbles recovered, game: 4, holders the same as most fumbles recovered, game, above.
  • Most opponents' fumbles recovered, career: 29, Jim Marshall
  • Most opponents' fumbles recovered, season: 9, Don Hultz, 1963.
  • Most opponents' fumbles recovered, game: 3, held by 15 different players, most recently Brian Young, St. Louis Rams vs. Baltimore Ravens, November 9, 2003.
  • Longest fumble return: 104 yards, Jack Tatum, Oakland Raiders vs. Green Bay Packers, September 24, 1972; Aeneas Williams, Arizona Cardinals vs. Washington Redskins, November 5, 2000.
  • Most fumble recoveries or returns for touchdowns, career: 5, Jessie Tuggle.
  • Most fumble recoveries or returns for touchdowns, season: 2, over 30 players, most recently Ronde Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Leonard Little, St. Louis Rams, both in 2004.
  • Most own fumbles recovered or advanced for touchdowns, career: 2; Ken Kavanaugh, Mike Ditka, Gail Cogdill, Ahmad Rashād, Jim Mitchell, Drew Pearson, Del Rodgers, Alan Richard, and Kevin Curtis.
  • Most own fumbles recovered or advanced for touchdowns, season: 2; Rashad, 1974, Rodgers, 1982, and Curtis, 2007.
  • Most opponents' fumbles returned or recovered for touchdowns, career: 5, Tuggle.
  • Most opponents' fumbles returned or recovered for touchdowns, season: 2, over 30 players as described above ending with Barber and Little.
  • Most opponents' fumbles returned or recovered for touchdowns, game: Fred "Dippy" Evans, Chicago Bears vs. Washington Redskins, November 28, 1948
  • Fewest fumbles, career (more than 400 touches): BenJarvis Green-Ellis, never fumbled, 562 touches (through 2011 NFL season) [2]
  • Most consecutive touches without a fumble:
    • 803 (Barry Sanders, Dec. 6, 1992-Sept. 17, 1995) [3]
    • 712 (LaDainian Tomlinson, longest streak since 1991) [2]
      • 870 (Steven Jackson, Rams/Falcons/Patriots RB-November 13, 2011 fumble against Browns was last fumble of career) [4]

Games

  • Most fumbles: 14, Washington Redskins (8) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (6), November 14, 1937; Chicago Bears (7) vs. Cleveland Browns (7), November 24, 1940; St. Louis Cardinals (8) vs. New York Giants (6), September 17, 1961; Kansas City Chiefs vs. Houston Oilers, October 12, 1969.
  • Most fumble recoveries for touchdowns: 3; Detroit Lions (2) vs. Minnesota Vikings (1), December 9, 1962 (2 own, 1 opponents'); Green Bay Packers (2) vs. Dallas Cowboys (1), November 29, 1964 (all opponents'); Oakland Raiders (2) vs. Buffalo Bills (1), December 24, 1967 (all opponents'); Oakland Raiders (2) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (1), September 24, 1995 (all opponents'); Tennessee Titans (2) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (1), January 2, 2000 (all opponents').
  • Most opponents' fumbles recovered for touchdowns: 3 (see last four above).

See also

Knock-on (disambiguation)

Related Research Articles

Super Bowl XX 1986 Edition of the Super Bowl

Super Bowl XX was an American football game between the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Chicago Bears and the American Football Conference (AFC) champion New England Patriots to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1985 season. The Bears defeated the Patriots by the score of 46–10, capturing their first NFL championship since 1963, three years prior to the birth of the Super Bowl. Super Bowl XX was played on January 26, 1986 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.

Super Bowl XXXII 1998 Edition of the Super Bowl

Super Bowl XXXII was an American football game played between the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Green Bay Packers and the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Denver Broncos to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1997 season. The Broncos defeated the Packers by the score of 31–24. The game was played on January 25, 1998 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California, the second time that the Super Bowl was held in that city. Super Bowl XXXII also made Qualcomm Stadium the only stadium in history to have the Super Bowl and the World Series in the same year.

In American football, a touchback is a ruling which is made and signaled by an official when the ball becomes dead on or behind a team's own goal line and the opposing team gave the ball the momentum, or impetus, to travel over or across the goal line. Since the 2018 season, touchbacks have also been awarded in college football on kickoffs that end in a fair catch by the receiving team between its own 25-yard line and goal line. Such impetus may be imparted by a kick, pass, fumble, or in certain instances by batting the ball. A touchback is not a play, but a result of events that may occur during a play. A touchback is the opposite of a safety with regard to impetus since a safety is scored when the defending team is responsible for the ball becoming dead on or behind its own goal line.

Comparison of American and Canadian football

American and Canadian football are gridiron codes of football that are very similar. Both have their origins in rugby football. There are, however, some key differences.

Holy Roller (American football) Controversial American football play

In American football, "the Holy Roller" was a controversial game-winning play by the Oakland Raiders against the San Diego Chargers on September 10, 1978, at San Diego Stadium in San Diego, California. It was officially ruled as a forward fumble that was recovered by Raiders tight end Dave Casper in the end zone for a touchdown, ultimately giving Oakland the 21–20 win. However, there have been differing interpretations of how this play should have actually been ruled, and it has remained a controversial play for fans of both teams involved. The NFL amended its rules after the 1978 season in order to prevent a recurrence of the play.

American football rules Rules for American football

Game play in American football consists of a series of downs, individual plays of short duration, outside of which the ball is dead or not in play. These can be plays from scrimmage – passes, runs, punts, or field goal attempts – or free kicks such as kickoffs and fair catch kicks. Substitutions can be made between downs, which allows for a great deal of specialization as coaches choose the players best suited for each particular situation. During a play, each team should have no more than 11 players on the field, and each of them has specific tasks assigned for that specific play.

The 2005 Denver Broncos season was the franchise's 36th season in the National Football League and the 46th overall.

Safety (gridiron football score) Scoring play in gridiron football

In gridiron football, the safety or safety touch is a scoring play that results in two points being awarded to the scoring team. Safeties can be scored in a number of ways, such as when a ball carrier is tackled in his own end zone or when a foul is committed by the offense in their own end zone. After a safety is scored in American football, the ball is kicked off to the team that scored the safety from the 20-yard line; in Canadian football, the scoring team also has the options of taking control of the ball at their own 35-yard line or kicking off the ball, also at their own 35-yard line. The ability of the scoring team to receive the ball through a kickoff differs from the touchdown and field goal, which require the scoring team to kick the ball off to the scored upon team. Despite being of relatively low point value, safeties can have a significant impact on the result of games, and Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats estimated that safeties have a greater abstract value than field goals, despite being worth a point less, due to the field position and reclaimed possession gained off the safety kick.

Leon Washington American football coach and former player

Leon Dewitt Washington Sr. is a former American football running back and return specialist. He currently serves as a coach for the Detroit Lions. He was drafted by the New York Jets in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He played college football at Florida State. Washington also played for the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots.

1969 Kansas City Chiefs season

The 1969 Kansas City Chiefs season was the team's 10th, their 7th in Kansas City, and also their final season in the American Football League. It resulted in an 11–3 record and a 23–7 victory in Super Bowl IV over the NFL's heavily favored Minnesota Vikings. The team beat their rivals, the Oakland Raiders in the final AFL Championship Game, claiming their third AFL Championship in franchise history. The Chiefs were coached by Hank Stram, led by quarterback Len Dawson and a powerful defense led by Bobby Bell, Willie Lanier, Buck Buchanan, Emmitt Thomas, Johnny Robinson and Curley Culp. The Chiefs' defense became the fourth defense in the history of pro football to lead its league in fewest rushing yards, fewest passing yards and fewest total yards. The Chiefs were the second AFL team to win the Super Bowl and last AFL team to do so before the AFL-NFL Merger in the following season.

2009 Kansas State Wildcats football team

The 2009 Kansas State Wildcats football team represented Kansas State University in the 2009 NCAA Division I FBS football season. The Wildcats played their home games in Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium, in Manhattan, Kansas as they have done since 1968. It was the 114th season in school history.

The 2009 Green Bay Packers season was the 91st season over all and their 89th in the National Football League. The Packers finished with an 11–5 record but lost in the wild card round of the playoffs to the Arizona Cardinals. They scored a franchise record 461 points besting the 1996 Super Bowl team's 456. Charles Woodson was named Defensive Player of the Year for the season, leading the league with 9 interceptions. The defense ranked 2nd overall in the league.

Punt (gridiron football) Drop kick downfield to the opposing team in American football

In gridiron football, a punt is a kick performed by dropping the ball from the hands and then kicking the ball before it hits the ground. The most common use of this tactic is to punt the ball downfield to the opposing team, usually on the final down, with the hope of giving the receiving team a field position that is more advantageous to the kicking team when possession changes. The result of a typical punt, barring any penalties or extraordinary circumstances, is a first down for the receiving team. A punt is not to be confused with a drop kick, a kick after the ball hits the ground, now rare in both American and Canadian football.

2015 Michigan State Spartans football team American college football season

The 2015 Michigan State Spartans football team represented Michigan State University in the East Division of the Big Ten Conference during the 2015 NCAA Division I FBS football season. Michigan State played their home games at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan and were led by ninth-year head coach Mark Dantonio. They finished the season 12–2, 7–1 in Big Ten play to share the East Division championship with Ohio State. Due to their head-to-head win over Ohio State, they represented the East Division in the Big Ten Championship Game where they defeated West Division champion Iowa to become Big Ten Champions. They finished the season No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings and were selected to play in the CFP Semifinals at the Cotton Bowl Classic where they lost to No. 2 Alabama.

The 2016 Oakland Raiders season was the 57th overall of the Oakland Raiders franchise, the franchise's 47th season in the National Football League, their 22nd season since their return to Oakland, and the second under head coach Jack Del Rio. The Raiders improved on a 7–9 campaign in 2015 and finished with a winning record for the first time since 2002, finishing the regular season with a 12–4 record.

2017 Oakland Raiders season 58th season in franchise history

The 2017 Oakland Raiders season was the 58th overall season of the Oakland Raiders' franchise, the franchise's 48th season in the National Football League, their 23rd season since their return to Oakland, and the third and final season under head coach Jack Del Rio. It was the first season for the team since the franchise announced its impending relocation to Las Vegas.

2017 Texas Tech Red Raiders football team

The 2017 Texas Tech Red Raiders football team represented Texas Tech University in the 2017 NCAA Division I FBS football season. Kliff Kingsbury led the Red Raiders in his fifth season as the program's 15th head coach. The Red Raiders played their home games on the university's campus in Lubbock, Texas at Jones AT&T Stadium, and competed as members of the Big 12 Conference. They finished the season 6–7, 3–6 in Big 12 play to finish in eighth place. They were invited to the Birmingham Bowl where they lost to South Florida

The 2016 Oklahoma vs. Texas Tech football game was a Big 12 Conference college football game played between the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Tech Red Raiders at Jones AT&T Stadium in Lubbock, Texas. Oklahoma came into the game ranked at no.16 in both the AP Poll and Coaches Poll while Texas Tech was unranked.

References

  1. Easterbrook, Gregg, October 11, 2005, Tuesday Morning Quarterback, NFL.com
  2. 1 2 [Tom Perrotta], January 18, 2012, Thou Shalt Never Fumble, The Wall Street Journal Online
  3. "SURE-HANDED SANDERS FUMBLES, LIONS LOSE". deseretnews.com. September 18, 1995. Retrieved October 15, 2018.
  4. "Steven Jackson". NFL.com. Retrieved October 15, 2018.