What is an Interception in Football?

what is an interception in football

An interception during an American Football game can dramatically swing the momentum in the defensive team’s favor. It occurs when the quarterback throws a backward/ forward pass, and the opposing team catches and secures the ball before it hits the ground. An interception can occur from the defensive player catching the ball directly, capturing it from a drop from a wide receiver, or even from a deflection that has the ball go up in the air.


So what are the rules of an interception in American Football, what happens next, and who has the most career interceptions? Keep on reading below!


What are the Rules for an Interception in American Football?

what are the rules for an interception in american football

The main rules to have an interception in American Football are that there can’t be any defensive pass interference and that the ball can’t touch the ground before the defensive player secures the ball. For example, a Free Safety player can’t tackle a Tight End player trying to make a catch to catch the ball themselves. If that Free Safety player interferes with the offensive team’s target trying to make the catch, it will be defensive pass-interference, which means the offense gets an automatic first down where the spot of the foul took place.


The second rule of an interception, assuming there is no pass interference, is that the ball can’t touch the ground. For example, if a wide receiver drops the pass and the ball hits the ground, the defensive team can’t pick it up since the play is over. Sometimes this play happens so quickly that it becomes a questionable play where one team will challenge if that was an interception or not.


A questionable interception occurs when the referees review if the football hit the ground first before the defensive player made the catch. For example, the football might fall as a defender reaches out to make the catch. It is up to the referee to use video replay to determine if the defender caught the ball before it hit the ground.


What Happens When Someone Intercepts a Football?

what happens when someone intercepts a football

When a defensive player intercepts the football, they become the ball carrier. Being the ball carrier means that the offensive team is now on defense, and your defense is the offense until the play ends. The play ends when you are tackled, run out of bounds, or bring the ball back for a pick-six.


Usually, the defensive back who made the pick has the momentum going the opposite way on the field during an interception. That momentum makes it hard for the opposing team to turn around and chase that player, which is why interceptions might lead to a pick-six.


What is an example of an American Football Interception?

what is an example of an american football interception

An example of an interception is if the passer threw the ball to a wide receiver, but the defender caught it instead. Another example of an interception is if the passer throws the ball to their target, but the ball hits off a defensive lineman’s helmet, and one of the defenders catches the ball before it hits the ground.


An interception, just like a fumble, can dramatically swing the momentum for the defensive team. Not only do you stop the offensive team from marching down the field and or scoring, you now have possession of the ball to score. Even if you can’t bring the football back for a pick-six, you might be able to pick up yards close to your end zone, which gives your offense tremendous field possession to start their drive.


What is a Pick Six?

what is a pick six

A pick-six in College Football, Canadian Football, and the NFL results in an interception return for a touchdown by the opposing team. For example, the quarterback throws the ball to a wide receiver, but the cornerback intercepts it and runs it back to the opposite end zone. Their team scores six points as long as that cornerback brings the ball back to the opposite end zone before they get tackled.


The Famous Goal Line Interception During the Super Bowl

In 2015, the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots Super Bowl ended on an interception play. The Seahawks were down by four and were on the 1-yard line with 21 seconds to go. Russell Wilson threw the ball to his offensive player, and it got intercepted by Malcom Butler of the New England Patriots.


That interception famously ended the Super Bowl game and went down in history as one of the worst call decisions not to use their running back to run for a touchdown. What made that play even more baffling was that the Seahawks had one of the best running backs in the game that was famous for breaking tackles on runs, but they chose not to use him. That player was Marshawn Lynch.


Who Has the Most Pick Six Interceptions?

what football player has the most pick sixes in nfl history

According to pro-football-reference.com, Rod Woodson has the most interception returns for a touchdown at 12. In the second place, you have Darren Sharper and Charles Woodson with 11.


Who has the Most Interceptions in NFL History?

According to ESPN.com, Paul Krause has the most career interceptions at 81. His best season with 12 interceptions occurred in 1964 with the Washington Redskins. His second-most interceptions occurred in 1975 when he was with the Minnesota Vikings.


Outside of Paul Krause, Emlen Tunnell has 79 career interceptions. In Third place is Rod Woodson with 71, and Dick Lane is in fourth place with 68.


What QB Has Thrown the Most Interceptions in NFL History?

what QB has thrown the most interceptions in nfl history

Brett Favre holds the record for throwing the most interceptions at 336. To put that 336 number in perspective, Brett threw 10,169 pass attempts and had 508 touchdowns. That meant Brett Favre threw an interception 3.3% of the time when he would throw during his career.


Who Has the Most Consecutive Passes without Throwing an Interception in the NFL?

who has the most consecutive passes without throwing an interception in the nfl

Aaron Rogers of the Green Bay Packers has the most consecutive pass attempts at 402 without an interception.


Conclusion: What is an Interception in Football?

In summary, an interception occurs when the quarterback passes the ball to an offensive target, and a defensive player catches it securely instead. An interception can dramatically shift the momentum in one direction, which is why the play is so exciting. Not only do you stop the offensive from marching down the field, but you can also give your team a chance to score with excellent field position or even score if you can bring the ball to the opposite end zone.


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