In American football, a safety is when an opposing team’s defense scores two points when the offensive team commits a foul while on their goal line, a player gets tackled while in their own endzone, or the ball makes its way out of bounds behind the goal line. So, for example, if a team’s line of scrimmage is their goal line and they decide to perform a pass play if a defensive back or linebacker tackles the wide receiver while in the endzone, that would be considered a safety.
So, what happens when you get a safety in football? How many points is a safety in football? What is the difference between a touchback and a safety in football? Is this the rarest way to score in football, and why do they call it a safety in football?
Below we will discuss the safety rule and its role in the game of football.
What Happens When You Get a Safety in Football?
Like with a touchdown and field goal on the offensive side, a safety is a scoring opportunity but only for the defensive side of the ball. If a safety occurs, let’s say on a QB sack in the endzone, the defensive team scores two points immediately. Then after that, the original team on offense has to kick the ball to the defensive team to start a new drive. If you score on a safety, you get two points and the ball back to start a new drive.
However, one thing to understand is that the other team’s kick differs from a traditional kickoff that starts a game or occurs immediately after a touchdown. After a safety, a punt (not kickoff) occurs on the 20-yard line and is either a dropkick, place kick, or punt.
Also, unlike a regular kickoff with the kicker of a team kicking the football, the lineup is different. Unknown to most, a team can use a kicker like they traditionally do after a safety, but most teams will opt for the punter to head the kicking team and punt the ball because it is easier to cover. Finally, during a kick after a safety, the kicker can’t use a tee as they would via a traditional kickoff to send the ball far down the field.
What is an Example of a Safety During a Game?
Safeties tend to occur when the offensive team is on their own goal-line on a drive. Safeties tend to happen because there might only be a half yard between the line of scrimmage and the end zone. The offensive team must make a pass or run with the ball that gets them to the line of scrimmage on that play or further.
However, while teams try to move the ball up the chain, they sometimes get sacked or tackled inside their endzone. When this occurs, the defensive team receives two points and gets the ball back via the punt.
Also, defensive teams tend to blitz on the line of scrimmage. That means that the offensive team might only have one second for the QB to drop back and make a pass to an open receiver. Usually, this sequence happens so quickly that the QB gets sacked on a snap, and the defense scores points.
How Many Points is a Safety in Football?
A typical safety in football would result in two points for the team.
However, there is a one-point safety, which is extremely rare. A one-point safety occurs when a team tries a two-point conversion attempt or extra point but turns the ball over. The safety occurs when the defensive team recovers the ball in the field of play but manages to find their way back into their endzone and gets tackled before they can clear the endzone. If they had initially recovered the ball in the endzone and never left the endzone, this would have been a touchback, but since they initially cleared the goal line and came back, that is why a one-point safety occurs. Therefore, the kicking team receives one point.
The only other instance a one-point safety can occur is if the offensive team has their kick blocked or fumble the ball and recovers it back in their own endzone 85 yards in the opposite direction.
What is the Difference Between a Touchback and a Safety in Football?
The first instance that makes a touchback different than a safety is a safety earns a team two points, but with a touchback, a team does not earn any points. The second instance is a safety occurs when a player is pushed back into their own endzone, whether by penalty, a tackler, or fumble.
A touchback, however, can occur during punts or kickoffs when a player catches the ball behind their goal line, takes a knee, gets tackled, or allows the ball to travel out of bounds. The offensive team will then start their possession at the 20-yard line. A touchback can also occur when a defensive player intercepts a ball behind their goal line, takes a knee, or steps out of bounds.
Is a Safety the Rarest Way to Score in Football?
Scoring a safety can be rare when playing football because most teams avoid putting themselves in that predicament; however, the typical two-point safety is not the rarest way to score in football. Instead, the rarest way to score in the NFL is the one-point safety.
To this day, two one-point safety have occurred in college football, but none have ever occurred in the NFL; nevertheless, it remains a way to score per the NFL rulebook.
How Many Safeties Took Place During the 2021 NFL Season?
According to State Muse, eight safeties took place during the 2021 season. While eight safeties might sound like a lot in one season, there were 23,098 tackles in total in 2021. That helps illustrate how rare and unique safeties are during a football season.
Why Do they Call it a Safety in Football?
The term safety came into the sport of football during its early years. At the beginning of football, if a team was close to their goal, they could have the option of downing the ball into their own endzone and placing it at the 25-yard line; it was a safe strategy team implemented.
However, as the years went by, the league didn’t offer that safe option to teams. Instead, a penalty would occur if a player went down in their endzone on a play.
Conclusion: What is a Safety in Football?
In summary, a safety during a football game tends to be a gigantic momentum shifter. The defensive team scores two points and gets the ball back on a punt to start a drive on offense. Also, getting a safety puts the defensive squad back on the sidelines to rest, which is important. Resting your defense as much as possible is the key to winning games.
When a team is on their goal line, this is the moment you will see a defensive coordinator pull an all-out blitz to tackle either the running back or whoever is the ball carrier while in the backfield. The offensive team desperate for space will often perform a run play to get a few yards and breathing room. It can be a tight situation for everyone when they see their endzone behind them. Even though they do not occur that often, they can be the deciding factor in the game via the final score.
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