Zebra Talk : Ten Common Penalties (Part II)

football, rules, penalties

And…we’re back! Yesterday we eased into penalties with a few of the most common pre-snap penalties. Today we get into the meat of the matter: live action penalties. Here are six penalties you are likely to see multiple times this weekend (and every weekend).

Intentional Grounding (offense – 10 yards, loss of down)

If the quarterback is getting pressured and tries to throw the ball away to avoid taking the sack (and consequently having the ball downed at the spot of the sack), he has to do so while outside of the pocket (the distance between the offensive linemen at the ends of the line at the start of the play) and the pass has to go beyond the line of scrimmage (even if it’s thrown to the sidelines). If he throws the ball a) from inside the pocket, b) short of the line of scrimmage, c) where there is no eligible receiver to catch the ball, it’s intentional grounding. Why would the quarterback throw a pass like that in the first place, you might ask? He would rather have it be an incomplete pass, therefore starting at the original line of scrimmage on the next down, than take the sack and be moved backward to the new line of scrimmage where the sack occurred.

Roughing the Passer (defense – 15 yards, automatic first down)

The defense is not allowed to touch the quarterback after he has thrown the pass or handed the ball off. If they do, it’s roughing the passer. For you savvy fans out there, we saw this call set up a game-winning field goal for the Jets against the Bucs in Week 1.

*Quick note on automatic first downs with penalty yardage. It’s not a addition scenario – in this case, if the penalty occurred on 1st and 10, the offense wouldn’t be awarded 15 yards and the 10 yards of an automatic first down, giving them 25 total yards (whoa). It’s a 15-yard penalty, total, and it’s now first down instead of second down. Got it?

Roughing the Kicker (defense – 15 yards, automatic first down)

The defense is also not allowed to touch the punter or kicker at all, unless they’ve touched the ball first. To give you a bit of a visual for how this works, imagine a field goal scenario. If a defensive linemen jumps forward, blocks the ball, and then crashes into the kicker as a result, it’s a legal play because he made a play on the ball. If he jumps forward, misses the ball, and then crashes into the kicker as a result, it’s roughing the kicker.

Holding (the most subjective and most frequent call, with offensive and defensive variations)

Holding happens on every NFL play. It just does. Some of it is legal, and some of it is illegal and goes uncalled. A lot depends on the officiating crew and the blatancy of the foul. But in general, players cannot use their hands or arms to push from behind, hang onto, or encircle an opponent. Doing so, in most cases, will result in a holding call.

(Offensive Holding – 10 yards, replay down)

Offensive holding usually gets called on offensive linemen who are blocking defensive linemen and trying to open up holes for running backs, but offensive holding can also be called on receivers who are trying to gain an advantage over the defensive backs covering them.

(Defensive Holding – 5 yards, automatic first down)

Defenders can legally block a receiver within the first 5 yards from the line of scrimmage. After 5 yards, they are held to the standard definition of holding.

Pass Interference (another frequent flyer, also with separate offensive and defensive variations)

In general, pass interference is called when one player impedes another player’s ability to do his job during a passing play. Usually this takes the form of pushing, grabbing, or blocking without looking for the ball.

(Offensive Pass Interference – 10 yards, replay down)

Most frequently called when a receiver makes an obvious attempt to create space between himself and a defender, usually by shoving him out of the way. Offensive PI can also be called in a “pick play” scenario, when another offensive player intentionally runs down a defensive player in order for a teammate to get open.

(Defensive Pass Interference – automatic first down at the spot of the foul (KILLER PENALTY))

Nothing gives the offense more of a chance to score than a timely defensive pass interference call, given the steep penalty that comes with the foul. If a defender illegally impedes a receiver’s ability to catch a pass – especially if he does so without looking behind him for the pass (telltale PI giveaway) – it’s a pass interference call, and the new line of scrimmage will be wherever the foul was called. This is especially deadly when the PI call happens in the end zone, in which case the line of scrimmage is moved all the way up to the 1-yard line.

Personal Foul (a description given to certain fouls on offense or defense, 15 yards) 

Personal fouls are the things that make coaches turn fuchsia and loose sleep at night. A personal foul isn’t a specific foul; it’s the name given to any number of undisciplined actions that endanger the health of another player.  It’s usually called in reference to unsportsmanlike conduct or unnecessary roughness, but is also called for plays like roughing the passer or kicker, face mask, excessive celebration, and others. When the offense commits a personal foul it’s a 15-yard penalty; when the defense commits a personal foul it’s a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down. (As we learned previously, sometimes these penalties are called on both sides, causing them to offset.) You’ll hear personal fouls referenced in the call as follows: “Personal foul, defense, number 57, face mask, 15 yard penalty, automatic first down.”

WHEW. We made it through!!! Was this helpful?! There are plenty of other penalties that get called on a weekly basis, but these are the ones you’ll hear most frequently. If you hear anything else that needs an explanation or if something in here is still fuzzy shout it out in the comments! And get ready to come back on Friday for a free printable

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