In the NFL, offensive holding is when an offensive lineman or offensive player uses their hands or arms to hold a defensive player, pulls them to the ground, hooks, or jerks them on a play. A holding will usually result in a penalty giving the defensive team an advantage unless the refs don’t notice it on a play. Typically, holdings occur when a player may fear the defensive player getting by them during a blitz, and an offensive player sees a defensive player with a clear path past them. Usually, the hold is more of a last resort effort to protect the quarterback for an extra second to complete a pass.
So, what is the difference between blocking and holding in football? What is the penalty for offensive holding in the NFL? Is grabbing a jersey holding, or can you decline offensive holding? Why do some holds don’t result in any penalties during a game?
Below we will discuss further the offensive holding penalty and details surrounding its effect on the American football game.
What is the Difference Between Blocking and Holding in Football?
Offensive holding penalties often occur amid a player like an offensive lineman attempting to block a defensive player. Still, there is a legal way to block players and an illegal way that constitutes a holding penalty.
The difference between a block and a hold is that a legal block has a player pushing players in an attempt to hold them back or disrupt their path toward a player. Most of these blocks involve players facing each other and the offensive player landing his hands within the defender’s frame, typically the breastplate. At no point can a player grip the other player in any capacity.
It becomes a hold just like the name implies when the players begin to hold onto the other player, preventing them from effectively making any moves or breaking away from the line of scrimmage. Typically, you will see a player grab onto a jersey for half a second to disrupt a defensive player from getting to the player with the ball, which becomes a holding penalty.
What is the Penalty for Offensive Holding in the NFL?
Once an official spots an offensive holding penalty, this will result in a 10-yard penalty, or half a distance to the goal line if the line of scrimmage is less than 20 yards from the offense’s end zone. However, it could be bumped up to a 15-yard penalty if the refs deem the blocker’s excessive aggression.
If the hold occurs inside the offense’s own endzone, this would be called a safety.
What is the Penalty for Offensive Holding in College Football?
Like in the NFL, offensive holding in College Football results in a 10-yard penalty.
Is Grabbing a Jersey Holding?
Grabbing a jersey can fall under two penalties. The penalty depends on when and where an offensive player grabs the jersey. If the two players stand face to face and the offensive player grabs the jersey, this can be called a holding penalty.
On the contrary, if an offensive player was to grab the jersey around the nameplate and pull the player to the ground, this, per the NFL rulebook, could be called a horse collar penalty. So, it comes down to the circumstances surrounding the jersey grab.
It also depends on where it occurs; if a player were to grab a player while attempting to tackle, that would not be a penalty unless they grab the jersey around the collar region, which would again be a horse collar call.
Why Do Players Hold During Plays?
Offensive players (wide receivers, offensive linemen, running backs, etc.) might hold onto a player during a play to protect their quarterback or player with the ball to help them gain positive yards on a play. Many players are under pressure to block and hold back a defender once they realize that player may get past them; it will cause them to break from their technique and grab, or hook onto a player, almost like a defense mechanism. Usually, a hold results from a blitz or miscommunication where a defensive player can quickly break through the offensive line on a play. Hence, an offensive player tries to hold them back in any way possible.
Can a Team Decline an Offensive Holding Penalty?
A team can decline most penalties if they see no benefit from the yardage gained from the penalty, including offensive holding penalties. For example, a defensive team is more inclined to decline an offensive holding penalty if a third-down play results in a fourth-down punt. If they were to accept it, the offensive team would be able to retry the down and could potentially earn more yards or score a touchdown.
Why Do Some Holds Not Result in Penalties?
When watching a game in person or on TV, you will see holding that won’t result in a penalty. Not every hold results in a penalty due to whether the referee saw the play. The referees on the field have to watch many different aspects of each play, so sometimes they might miss a hold, which would benefit the offensive team.
With knowing that, fans sometimes complain that their team did not receive a holding penalty on a play, especially when the TV shows the replay of a blatant hold on a play. It can be frustrating for players, fans, and coaches when a play does not go in their favor, but that is part of the human aspect of the game.
Knowing that some holds might go unnoticed, some players might risk a slight hold on a play. Sometimes the risk and reward are worth it to hold back a a player for an extra second on plays. Giving a QB an extra second on a play could lead to a successful pass down field.
How Many Offensive Holdings Take Place During a Game?
According to Sharp Football Analysis, there were 2.4 offensive holdings per game in 2021.
Conclusion: What is Offensive Holding in Football?
In summary, the offensive holding penalty is one of the most common penalties on the offensive side of the ball. Chances are, most plays have a little bit of holding. However, it comes down to the referee’s judgment if they want to call that penalty or not.
From the pros to college football, holding is a frowned-upon penalty. For the defense, however, it could be a pivotal call, pushing a team out of field goal range, back to their own goal line, or preventing them from obtaining a first down. For example, during a 2015 match between the colts and patriots, a series of offensive holding calls led to a Patriots to a win.
Whether on a kickoff or offensive line, the holding penalty holds a lot of weight in a game. Ten yards could make a massive difference for the offensive team’s ability to score. This penalty can be frustrating for fans, especially if their team scored a touchdown, but the refs reversed the call because of a foul.