When watching an NFL game, you’ll notice that touchdowns are not the only way to earn points. There is a specialized player called a kicker who will kick a field goal in certain situations. A field goal is when the kicker place kicks or drop-kicks the ball through the goalposts over the crossbar during regular gameplay.
You might wonder why a team would decide to kick a field goal instead of going for a touchdown. Here is a breakdown of what a field goal is, how many points a field goal is worth, why you would choose to kick one, and more below!
How Many Points is a Field Goal in Football?
In the National Football League, a touchdown is worth at least six points. A touchdown usually becomes seven points with a successful extra-point kick and is worth eight points with a two-point conversion.
While a field goal and an extra point kick involve the kicker, it is essential to note that the additional point conversion is not the same as a field goal. A field goal is a separate play.
By comparison, a field goal is only worth three points. While three points are less than touchdowns, they still are a valuable part of the game. Here is the breakdown of why you would kick a field goal during a game.
Why Do you Kick a Field Goal?
A team might choose to kick a field goal during their last down. A field goal attempt is likely if the offense is more than a yard or two from a new first down and within kicking range of the goalposts. At the NFL level, the kicking range is within about 45 yards.
Another scenario where a field goal is strategic is when there is only enough time remaining in the first half to execute one more play. Teams might be outside of timeouts, so they want to score three points before the end of the first half. The best way to kick a field goal to end the first half is for the time to expire as the ball is in the air, which means that it is the last play of the half.
Finally, a field goal might be a strategic way to win a game. If a team can win a game with a field goal, they might try and take as much time off the clock before kicking the field goal to win the game. For example, the New England Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVI on a game-winning field goal kick against the St. Louis Rams.
How Do you Set up a Field Goal Kick?
When attempting a field goal, the offensive players will line up in a tight formation along or near the line of scrimmage. Two players, the placekicker and the holder get set up to kick the ball seven to eight yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Some teams might have a long snapper, a specialized position trained to snap the ball to the holder on field goal kick attempts and punts.
The holder receives the snap from the long snapper and then holds the ball against the ground vertically. They hold the stitches so that they face away from the kicker.
The kicker usually starts his approach during the snap before the holder has possession of the ball. Any small mistake can lead to a missed field goal by either a kicker or holder. The holder mustn’t fumble the ball while the kicker is approaching and that they line the ball up just right for the kicker.
Can a Kicker Drop-Kick a Field Goal Kick?
The kicker can also drop kick the field goal kick during a football play. Drop-kicking was popular historically, but place-kicking is the most common practice in modern American football games.
What is the Longest Regular Season field goal kick?
The field goal kick measurement is from the goalpost to the point where the holder placed the ball on the ground. In American football, the goalpost location at the back of the end zone is above the end line, so the ten yards of the end zone are part of the total field goal distance.
In the NFL, 52 yards is the average for a field goal kick. However, there are no longer successful field goal kicks during the history of the game.
The record for the longest field goal kick in NFL history belongs to Matt Prater, who completed a successful field goal from 64 yards on December 8, 2013. He set the record while a member of the Denver Broncos. He completed the kick during a game against the Tennessee Titans. The kick was made as a final play as time expired in the first half of the game.
Before Prater, the previous record was 63 yards, set by Tom Dempsey in 1970. Since 1970, several other players have matched the record, but Prater was the first to break the record in more than 40 years.
What was the Record for the Longest Super Bowl Field Goal Kick?
The record for the longest Super Bowl field goal kick goes to Steve Christie, who kicked a 54-yard field goal for the Buffalo Bills in 1994 at Super Bowl XXVIII.
What is the Record for the Longest High School Field Goal Kick?
The record for the longest field goal in high school football goes to Dirk Borgognone, who kicked 68 yards in 1985. Borgognone went on to be a placekicker in the NFL.
Can you Fake a Field Goal Kick?
It is possible to fake a field goal kick. It is not super commonly used, but a phony kick is a trick play in football games. When faking a field goal kick, the kicking team will get set up in the kick formation and run a running or passing play instead.
Occasionally, the placekicker will even serve as the passer or rusher.
So Why Would you Fake a Field Goal Kick?
If successful, it will catch the opposing team off guard and give your team the chance to either score a touchdown or extend a drive down the football field.
Danny White, a punter and kicker for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1980s was famous for often faking a field goal kick successfully.
In summary, a field goal opportunity is a critical aspect of a game. Sometimes a field goal is all a team needs to win a game, so it comes down to staying calm under pressure. However, kicking a field goal can become problematic if the weather is terrible, like rain or wind, so there is no guarantee that the kick will work.