5-Minute Football : Touchback

A 5-minute lesson on touchbacks from Football for Normal Girls

Here’s another new feature for the 2013 Season: 5-minute Football: a quick lesson to help you better understand one part of the game. Today’s lesson? All about touchbacks.

First and foremost, what’s a touchback?

A touchback happens most often during kickoffs. You know when the receiver in the back of the field catches the ball in the end zone and takes a knee? That’s a touchback, and you’ll often hear it referred to as “taking a knee” in the end zone. But it’s only once instance of a touchback ruling, because a touchback is not a specific play. It’s a ruling in which the ball is brought out to the 20-yard line to start the next drive. (Also: drive = new offensive possession.)

There are several other instances in which touchbacks are ruled. Have you ever seen a kicker boot the ball into/out of the end zone on a kickoff? That’s automatically ruled a touchback, and the offense will start their drive on the 20-yard line as a result.

Here’s a tricky touchback situation: when the offense fumbles the ball into the opposing team’s end zone (the end zone the offense is trying to score in) and a member of the defense recovers the ball in the end zone or provides the impetus for the ball going out of bounds in the end zone, it’s ruled a touchback, and the opposing team will get the ball at the 20-yard line. This also works in reverse, as we witnessed last Thursday night.

For those of you who are keen observers of Week 1 action, you may recall the play. Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan intercepted Baltimore QB Joe Flacco and ran it into the end zone…but got a little overzealous in his celebration and dropped the ball prior to crossing the goal line for the touchdown. (It would have been a touchdown, not a touchback, had he crossed the goal line into the end zone because it was the offense’s end zone, not his own end zone.) (Let’s talk about end zones next week, shall we?) Instead, since the ball went out of bounds in the offense’s end zone and Trevathan, the defender, was the impetus, it was ruled a touchback for the Ravens, who went on to score on their next offensive drive.

In (very) short form: touchbacks occur when the ball is downed in the end zone or outside of the end zone and results in a drive which begins at the 20-yard line.

Make sense?

(Have a suggestion for a 5-Minute Football lesson? I’d love to hear it!)

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