5-Minute Football : Actual Field Goal Distance

football, basics, field goals

Let’s consider this scenario:

Your team has advanced pretty far down the field on offense. They are at the opposing team’s 20-yard line facing 4th down. They decide to kick a field goal instead of trying to go for it on 4th down, and it seems like a good decision since a kick from the 20-yard line is pretty much a chip shot. But when the kicker comes out for the field goal, the announcer says it’s a 37-yard attempt. And you’re thinking…What gives?! Where did those extra 17 yards come from?!

You’re not crazy. That’s a good question!

Here’s a good brain exercise: that field goal in the example above will, in fact, be kicked from the 20-yard line. But it will also be a 37-yard attempt. And while it would seem like this is more of the same football shenanigans we’ve seen before – things like imaginary lines and invisible boxes – it’s actually not.

The line of scrimmage doesn’t change for field goal attempts. But that’s where the offensive linemen are all lined up, not where the holder is. The holder – the guy who takes the snap and holds the ball in place for the kicker – is 7-yards behind the line of scrimmage.

Those are the first 7-yards. The other 10 come from the location of the goal post: at the back of the end zone, which is 10-yards deep. So the 7-yards behind the line of scrimmage where the ball is kicked from plus the 10-yards to the goal post in the back of the end zone account for 17 extra yards that are added onto every field goal attempt. Which makes that “chip shot” from the 20 still makable from the 37, but at nearly double the distance.

So your math equation for every field goal attempt is as follows: current line of scrimmage + 17 yards = actual field goal distance. 

Check out this video to put all of the pieces together – the offensive line on the line of scrimmage, the holder 7-yards behind, and the goal post at the end of the end zone.

Quiz of the day: In the video, Matt Prater kicked a 53-yard field goal, which means that the Broncos 4th down line of scrimmage was at which yard line?

10 points if you guessed the 36-yard line! 53 – 17 = 36.

(And 10 more if you used a calculator to double check your 1st grade math, as I just did.)

Ashley’s Rookie Season : False Start, Units, Field Goals, 12th Man

football, normal girls, rookie

Ashley is back with another great round of questions! Let’s get rolling!

Q: What does a player need to do for a false start to be called?

A: Perfect week for this question! Refer back to yesterday’s post, and be sure to print out the printable to keep handy, but the basic answer is that a false start is when anyone on the offensive line (the seven players on the line of scrimmage (starting line) for the offense) makes any sudden movement or jumps across the line prematurely before the ball has been snapped (transferred from the center to the quarterback). The opposite of a false start (which is called on the offense) is offsides (which is the same penalty but called on the defense).

(Were there enough parentheses in that answer for you? (Were there???))

Q: I know there’s offense and defense, because every sports team has that, but then football throws in this special teams thing? How many “teams” does each team have?

A: Oh, football. Always finding new ways to make life complicated.

There are 3 “teams” – called units – on each football team. There is the offense, the unit with the quarterback that tries to score points. There is the defense, the unit that is trying to stop the offense from scoring points (though their main job is to do this by scoring points themselves through interceptions, forced fumbles, safeties, etc). Then…there is special teams, the unit that gets the least respect.

Special teams is the unit that takes the field in any kicking situation. More often than not, most of the members of the special teams unit are members of the offensive or defensive unit as well. The main exceptions are the punter and kicker (or sometimes just one punter/kicker), who only has kicking responsibilities.

Q: Why would a team choose to go for a field goal instead of a touchdown?

A: It would seem like a team would always want to opt for the touchdown because it’s worth more points, right? But field goals are most often kicked on 4th down, a team’s last chance to earn a new first down. Coaches will opt for a field goal from kickable distance (anywhere from 20-50 yards, depending on the kicker) and go for the sure points rather than taking a chance on “going for it” and potentially failing and then having to turn the ball over to the other team right then and there. A good kicker has a better chance of kicking the football through the uprights from 47 yards away for 3 points than a good quarterback does of successfully throwing it into the end zone – in one try – from 47 yards away for 6 points (7 plus the point after).

The decision to kick or go for it on 4th down is all about strategy: what’s your field position, what’s the time on the clock, how badly do you need the points, and how confident are you in your kicker as opposed to your quarterback?

Q: How many players are allowed on the field at a time?

A: Eleven! You can have less if you choose (although no team would willingly choose that) but you can’t have more – if you do, it’s a 5-yard penalty.

Remember the “12th man” in Seattle? This is a term their fans usually use to describe their influence on the game; their boisterous, deafening presence is like having a 12th man on the field.

Alright, that’s a wrap for this week. Go forth in confidence, rookies!