A touchdown (abbreviated as TD) is a scoring play in gridiron football. Whether running, passing, returning a kickoff or punt, or recovering a turnover, a team scores a touchdown by advancing the ball into the opponent's end zone. More specifically a touchdown is when any part of the football, in the possession of an offensive player (or a defensive player if they have intercepted the ball or picked up a fumble and have run to their scoring end zone), crosses the goal line while the player, as well as the ball, is inbounds, and the player is upright (or, more commonly, when a player is "not down"). In order for a player to be down, any part of their body other than their hands or feet must touch the ground. If a player falls down without being contacted by a defensive player, whether or not they are down varies by league.
Because of the speed at which football happens, it is often hard for an official to make the correct call based on their vantage point alone. Most professional football leagues, such as the National Football League (NFL) and the Canadian Football League (CFL), as well as some college leagues, such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), allow certain types of plays to be reviewed. Among these plays are touchdowns, as well as all other scoring plays, dangerous or unsportsmanlike conduct by players or staff, out-of-bounds calls, the place on the field where the official spots the ball after a play, and turnovers. Coaches can also challenge calls, provided they are made during a play eligible to be reviewed; the only exception is during periods of the game where coaches' challenges are restricted, such as the last two minutes of each half. The NFL and CFL review all scoring plays and turnovers regardless of whether the call was questionable, and therefore do not allow coaches to challenge those plays, either. The NCAA allows Division I FBS teams to review plays throughout the regular season and postseason, while Division I FCS teams can only use it during the playoffs, Division II teams only during the quarterfinals, semifinals, and championship game, and Division III teams only during the semifinals and championship game.
In American football, a touchdown is worth six points and is followed by an extra point or two-point conversion attempt.
To score a touchdown, one team must take the football into the opposite end zone. In all gridiron codes, the touchdown is scored the instant the ball touches or "breaks" the plane of the front of the goal line (that is, if any part of the ball is in the space on, above, or across the goal line) while in the possession of a player whose team is trying to score in that end zone. This particular requirement of the touchdown differs from other sports in which points are scored by moving a ball or equivalent object into a goal where the whole of the relevant object must cross the whole of the goal line for a score to be awarded. The play is dead and the touchdown scored the moment the ball touches plane in possession of a player, or the moment the ball comes into possession of an offensive player in the end zone (having established possession by controlling the ball and having one or both feet depending on the rules of the league or another part of the body, excluding the hands, touch the ground). The slightest part of the ball touching or being directly over the goal line is sufficient for a touchdown to score. However, only the ball counts, not a player's helmet, foot, or any other part of the body. Touching one of the pylons at either end of the goal line with the ball constitutes "breaking the plane" as well.
Touchdowns are usually scored by the offense by running or passing the ball. The former is called a rushing touchdown, and in the latter, the quarterback throws a touchdown pass or passing touchdown to the receiver, who either catches the ball in the field of play and advances it into the end zone, or catches it while already being within the boundaries of the end zone; the result is a touchdown reception or touchdown catch. However, the defense can also score a touchdown if they have recovered a fumble or made an interception and return it to the opposing end zone. Special teams can score a touchdown on a kickoff or punt return, or on a return after a missed or blocked field goal attempt or blocked punt. In short, any play in which a player legally carries any part of the ball over or across the opponent's goal line scores a touchdown, as is any play in which a player legally gains possession of the ball while it is on or across his opponent's goal line and both the player and ball are legally in-bounds - beyond this, the manner in which he gained possession is inconsequential. In the NFL, a touchdown may be awarded by the referee as a penalty for a "palpably unfair act", such as a player coming off the bench during a play and tackling the runner, who would otherwise have scored.
A touchdown is worth six points. The scoring team is also awarded the opportunity for an extra point or a two-point conversion.Afterwards, the team that scored the touchdown kicks off to the opposing team, if there is any time left in the half. In most codes, a conversion is not attempted if the touchdown ended the game and the conversion cannot affect the outcome.
The officials' hand signal for a touchdown is both arms extended vertically above the head, with palms facing inward—the same signal used for a field goal or conversion.
Unlike a try scored in rugby, and contrary to the event's name, the ball does not need to touch the ground when the player and the ball are inside the end zone. The term touchdown is a holdover from gridiron's early days when the ball was required to be touched to the ground as in rugby, as rugby and gridiron were still extremely similar sports at this point. This rule was changed to the modern-day iteration in 1889.
When the first uniform rules for American football were enacted by the newly formed Intercollegiate Football Association following the 1876 Rugby season, a touchdown required touching the ball to the ground past the goal line, and counted for 1⁄4 of a kicked goal (except in the case of a tie) and allowed the offense the chance to kick for goal by placekick or dropkick from a spot along a line perpendicular to the goal line and passing through the point where the ball was touched down, or through a process known as a "punt-out", where the attacking team would kick the ball from the point where it was touched down to a teammate. If the teammate could fair catch the ball, he could follow with a try for goal from the spot of the catch, or resume play as normal (in an attempt to touch down the ball in a spot more advantageous for kicking). The governing rule at the time read: "A match shall be decided by a majority of touchdowns. A goal shall be equal to four touchdowns; but in case of a tie a goal kicked from a touchdown shall take precedence over four touchdowns."
The ability to score a touchdown on the point-after attempt (two-point conversion) was added to NCAA football in 1958 and also used in the American Football League during its ten-year run from 1960 to 1969. It was subsequently adopted by high school football in 1969, the CFL in 1975 and the NFL in 1994.The short-lived World Football League, a professional American football league that operated in 1974 and 1975, gave touchdowns a seven-point value.
Canadian football, or simply football, is a sport in Canada in which two teams of 12 players each compete on a field 110 yards (101 m) long and 65 yards (59 m) wide, attempting to advance a pointed oval-shaped ball into the opposing team's end zone.
A drop kick is a type of kick in various codes of football. It involves a player intentionally dropping the ball and then kicking it either 'as it rises from the first bounce' (rugby) or 'as, or immediately after, it touches the ground'.
Touch football is an amateur variant of American football and Canadian football. The basic rules are similar to those of the mainstream game, but to end a down, the person carrying the ball need only be touched, instead of tackled, by a member of the opposite team. This rule change gave the game its name, to differentiate it from other variants. It is similar to street football, another amateur variant, however in street football full contact is allowed.
Gridiron football, also known as North American football, or in North America as simply football, is a family of football team sports primarily played in the United States and Canada. American football, which uses 11 players, is the form played in the United States and the best known form of gridiron football worldwide, while Canadian football, which uses 12 players, predominates in Canada. Other derivative varieties include arena football, flag football and amateur games such as touch and street football. Football is played at professional, collegiate, high school, semi-professional, and amateur levels.
In gridiron football, an onside kick is a kickoff deliberately kicked short in an attempt by the kicking team to regain possession of the ball. This is in contrast with a typical kickoff, in which the kicking team kicks the ball far downfield in order to maximize the distance the receiving team has to advance the ball in order to score. The risk to the team attempting an onside kick is that if it is unsuccessful the receiving team gets the ball and usually has a much better field position than with a normal kickoff.
In American football, a touchback is a ruling that 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 but did not have possession of the ball when it became dead. 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. Starting for the 2023 season, the NFL adopted the same rules as college football in regards to awarding touchbacks on kickoffs that end in a fair catch. 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 ball becomes dead in a team's end zone after that team — the team whose end zone it is — caused the ball to cross the goal line.
This is a glossary of terms used in Canadian football. The Glossary of American football article also covers many terms that are also used in the Canadian version of the game.
American and Canadian football are gridiron codes of football that are very similar; both have their origins partly in rugby football, but some key differences exist between the two codes.
In Canadian football, a single is a one-point score that is awarded for certain plays that involve the ball being kicked into the end zone and not returned from it.
Gameplay in American football consists of a series of downs, individual plays of short duration, outside of which the ball is or is 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.
A kickoff is a method of starting a drive in gridiron football. Additionally, it may refer to a kickoff time, the scheduled time of the first kickoff of a game. Typically, a kickoff consists of one team – the "kicking team" – kicking the ball to the opposing team – the "receiving team". The receiving team is then entitled to return the ball, i.e., attempt to advance it towards the kicking team's end zone, until the player with the ball is tackled by the kicking team, goes out of bounds, scores a touchdown, or the play is otherwise ruled dead. Kickoffs take place at the start of each half of play, the beginning of overtime in some overtime formats, and after scoring plays.
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 its 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 its own 35-yard line or kicking off the ball, also at its 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.
A comparison of American football and rugby union is possible because of the games' shared origins, despite their dissimilarities.
A comparison between American football and rugby league is possible because of their shared origins and similar game concepts. Rugby league is arguably the most similar sport to American football after Canadian football: both sports involve the concept of a limited number of downs/tackles and scoring touchdowns/tries takes clear precedence over goal-kicking.
A field goal (FG) is a means of scoring in gridiron football. To score a field goal, the team in possession of the ball must place kick, or drop kick, the ball through the goal, i.e., between the uprights and over the crossbar. The entire ball must pass through the vertical plane of the goal, which is the area above the crossbar and between the uprights or, if above the uprights, between their outside edges. American football requires that a field goal must only come during a play from scrimmage while Canadian football retains open field kicks and thus field goals may be scored at any time from anywhere on the field and by any player. The vast majority of field goals, in both codes, are placekicked. Drop-kicked field goals were common in the early days of gridiron football but are almost never attempted in modern times. A field goal may also be scored through a fair catch kick, but this is also extremely rare. In most leagues, a successful field goal awards three points.
A return specialist or kick returner is a player on the special teams unit of a gridiron football team who specializes in returning punts and kickoffs. There are few players who are exclusively return specialists; most also play another position such as wide receiver, defensive back, or running back. The special teams counterpart of a return specialist is a kicking specialist.
The following terms are used in American football, both conventional and indoor. Some of these terms are also in use in Canadian football; for a list of terms unique to that code, see Glossary of Canadian football.
In gridiron football, a turnover on downs occurs when a team's offense has used all their downs but has not progressed downfield enough to earn another set of downs. The resulting turnover gives possession of the ball to the team on defense.
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.