The fair catch kick is a rule at the professional and high school levels of American football that allows a team that has just made a fair catch to attempt a free kick[A] from the spot of the catch. The kick must be either a place kick or a drop kick, and if it passes over the crossbar and between the goalposts of the defensive team's goal, a field goal, worth three points, is awarded to the offensive team.
The fair catch kick has its origins in rugby football. The rule is considered to be obscure and unusual, as most fair catches are made well out of field goal range, and in most cases a team that has a fair catch within theoretical range will attempt a normal drive to score a touchdown. The fair catch kick is generally used when a team has fair caught a ball within field goal range and there is insufficient time to score a touchdown. At the professional level, the last successful fair catch kick was made in 1976.
The fair catch kick rule states that, after a player has successfully made a fair catch or has been awarded a fair catch (as the result of a penalty such as kick catch interference), their team can attempt a kick from the spot of the catch; the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) rulebook also allows a kick to be made if the down following the fair catch or awarded fair catch has to be replayed. Prior to the kick, the opposing team must be lined up at least ten yards beyond the spot of the ball. The kick itself can be either a place kick or drop kick; a kicking tee cannot be used at the professional level, but use of a tee up to two inches in height is permitted at the high school level. Like other field goal attempts, the kicking team is awarded three points if the kick goes above the crossbar and between the goalposts of the opposing team's goal and did not touch a player of the offensive team after the kick. If the attempt fails, the opposing team is awarded control of the ball from the spot of the kick. The opposing team can also return the kick if it does not go out of bounds.
In the NFHS rulebook, the fair catch kick is specifically defined as a free kick. The National Football League (NFL) rulebook specifically states that the fair catch kick is not a free kick, instead considering the fair catch kick to be a distinct type of kick. Despite this, reporters at both levels describe the fair catch kick as a free kick.
The fair catch kick found in American football originated in rugby football. A similar rule in rugby, the goal from mark, allowed a player who had fair caught a ball to attempt an uncontested free kick from the spot of the fair catch. Both major codes of rugby have eliminated the rule; rugby league abolished the goal from mark in 1922, and rugby union removed it in 1977. Australian rules football has retained the rule, and it is a vital part of the Australian game; a "fair catch" of a ball kicked more than 15 meters in the air is called a "mark", and the player making the mark is then awarded a free kick. The fair catch kick has been present in the National Football League (NFL) rulebook since the league's inception, and also remains in the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) rulebook. The fair catch kick is not legal in National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) football (nor is it legal for high school football in Massachusetts and Texas, which play largely by NCAA rules with a few modifications); the NCAA abolished the fair catch in 1950, but re-added it a year later. When the fair catch returned to the rulebook, however, the option to attempt a kick after the fair catch was removed.
The fair catch kick rule is very rarely invoked, and is one of the rarest plays in football. The rule has been regarded as "obscure", "bizarre", and "quirky". A unique set of circumstances is required for a fair catch kick to be a viable option. For one, the fair catch would need to be made at a point on the field where a field goal attempt has a reasonable chance of being successful; most fair catches are made well outside of field goal range (even more so since 1974, when the goal posts were moved back to the end line, adding 10 yards to such attempts).
Furthermore, for a fair catch kick to be a viable option near the end of the fourth quarter, the team attempting the kick needs to be either tied or behind by three points or fewer; even if such a situation were to occur, a coach might still decline to attempt a fair catch kick. For example, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, known for his knowledge and utilization of obscure football rules, declined the opportunity to attempt a 75-yard fair catch kick at the end of Super Bowl LI; although kicker Stephen Gostkowski was able to kick the ball that far and the game was tied, Belichick felt the risk of a return touchdown by the opposing team off a failed kick outweighed the opportunity to score from the kick. Art McNally, who led the officiating department of the National Football League from 1968 to 1990, notes that, even in the event a fair catch is made within field goal range, most teams would attempt to score a touchdown unless there is not enough time left to score one. Accordingly, most fair catch kick attempts occur when a team has fair-caught a ball from a punt from deep in their opponent's territory, and there is not enough time left in the half to go for a touchdown.
Despite its drawbacks, there are several unique advantages to using the fair catch kick. Because the defense is required to be ten yards beyond the spot of the kick, the kicker can take a running start before kicking as opposed to the typical two steps taken on regular field goal attempts. Similarly, the kicker does not have to worry about a low snap because the ball is not snapped. The defense is not able to block the kick, allowing the kicker to give the ball a lower trajectory than usual. The fair catch kick would also be of a shorter distance than a normal field goal attempt from the same spot, because the fair catch kick is taken from the spot of the catch, while a typical field goal is taken seven yards back from the line of scrimmage.
The following tables contain all confirmed fair catch kick attempts in the NFL; the NFL does not keep a record of fair catch kick attempts, so the true number of attempts is unknown. Out of the twenty-four recorded fair catch kick attempts in non-exhibition games, only six were successful; all five known attempts in exhibition games were unsuccessful. With the exception of the second recorded attempt, which was made in the 3rd quarter, all fair catch kick attempts were made within the last thirty seconds of either the 2nd or 4th quarter. The last successful attempt was made in 1976 by Ray Wersching of the San Diego Chargers (45 yards), and the longest successful attempt was made in 1964 by Paul Hornung of the Green Bay Packers (52 yards). The most recent fair catch kick attempt was by San Francisco 49ers kicker Phil Dawson, who missed a 71-yard fair catch kick on September 26, 2013.
|Date||Kicker||Kicking team||Opponent||Yards||Result||Game time||Note(s)||Reference(s)|
|November 8, 1925||George Abramson||Green Bay Packers||Chicago Cardinals||35||Good||4th quarter||Game played in snow on a muddy field.|
|November 20, 1933||Ken Strong||New York Giants||Green Bay Packers||30||Good||3rd quarter|||
|October 23, 1955||Ben Agajanian||New York Giants||Pittsburgh Steelers||56||Missed||2nd quarter (0:30)|||
|November 2, 1958||Gordy Soltau||San Francisco 49ers||Detroit Lions||61||Missed||2nd quarter (0:15)|||
|September 13, 1964||Sam Baker||Philadelphia Eagles||New York Giants||47||Missed||2nd quarter (0:00)|||
|September 13, 1964||Paul Hornung||Green Bay Packers||Chicago Bears||52||Good||2nd quarter (0:00)||Longest recorded successful fair catch kick in NFL.|||
|December 4, 1966||Fred Cox||Minnesota Vikings||Atlanta Falcons||40||Good||2nd quarter (0:00)|||
|November 23, 1967||Bruce Gossett||Los Angeles Rams||Detroit Lions||55||Missed||2nd quarter (0:03)|||
|November 3, 1968||Mac Percival||Chicago Bears||Green Bay Packers||43||Good||4th quarter (0:20)||Game-winning field goal|||
|December 8, 1968||Fred Cox||Minnesota Vikings||San Francisco 49ers||47||Missed||2nd quarter (0:00)|||
|October 5, 1969||Curt Knight||Washington Redskins||San Francisco 49ers||56||Missed||4th quarter (0:02)||The game finished as a 17–17 tie.|||
|November 23, 1969||Tom Dempsey||New Orleans Saints||San Francisco 49ers||57||Missed||2nd quarter (0:00)|||
|December 21, 1969||Sam Baker||Philadelphia Eagles||San Francisco 49ers||49||Missed||2nd quarter (0:00)|||
|November 1, 1970||Curt Knight||Washington Redskins||Denver Broncos||49||Missed||2nd quarter (0:00)|||
|November 8, 1971||David Ray||Los Angeles Rams||Baltimore Colts||45||Missed||2nd quarter (0:00)||Aired on Monday Night Football.|||
|November 21, 1976||Ray Wersching||San Diego Chargers||Buffalo Bills||45||Good||2nd quarter (0:00)||Last known successful fair catch kick in the NFL.|||
|November 25, 1979||Mark Moseley||Washington Redskins||New York Giants||74||Missed||4th quarter||Longest field goal attempt on record until 2008.|||
|September 29, 1980||Fred Steinfort||Denver Broncos||New England Patriots||73||Missed||2nd quarter (0:00)|||
|November 18, 1984||Raul Allegre||Indianapolis Colts||New England Patriots||61||Missed||2nd quarter (0:00)||Fair catch was called off an onside kick.|||
|January 1, 1989||Mike Cofer||San Francisco 49ers'||Minnesota Vikings||60||Missed||2nd quarter (0:00)||NFC Divisional Playoff game|||
|October 9, 2005||Rob Bironas||Tennessee Titans||Houston Texans||58||Missed||2nd quarter (0:00)|||
|November 23, 2008||Neil Rackers||Arizona Cardinals||New York Giants||68||Missed||2nd quarter (0:05)|||
|December 28, 2008||Mason Crosby||Green Bay Packers||Detroit Lions||69||Missed||2nd quarter (0:00)||Ball was on target but fell just short of the crossbar.|||
|September 26, 2013||Phil Dawson||San Francisco 49ers||St. Louis Rams||71||Missed||2nd quarter (0:04)||Thursday Night Football|||
|Date||Kicker||Kicking team||Opponent||Yards||Result||Game time||Note(s)||Reference(s)|
|January 9, 1966||Lou Michaels||Baltimore Colts||Dallas Cowboys||57||Missed||2nd quarter (0:00)||Playoff Bowl game[D]|||
|July 29, 1972||Chester Marcol||College All-Stars||Dallas Cowboys||68||Missed||2nd quarter (0:00)||Chicago College All-Star Game|||
|August 9, 1972||Mac Percival||Chicago Bears||Houston Oilers||60||Missed||4th quarter (0:15)|||
|August 31, 1986||Rafael Septién||Dallas Cowboys||Houston Oilers||53||Missed||4th quarter (0:00)|||
|August 8, 1993||Chris Gardocki||Chicago Bears||Philadelphia Eagles||63||Missed||2nd quarter (0:00)|||
The National Football League playoffs for the 1971 season began on December 25, 1971. The postseason tournament concluded with the Dallas Cowboys defeating the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI, 24–3, on January 16, 1972, at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Like the previous NFL seasons, the home teams in the playoffs were decided based on a yearly divisional rotation, excluding the wild card teams who would always play on the road. It was the first time that the NFL scheduled games on Christmas Day, a decision that drew considerable criticism.1979 NFL season
The 1979 NFL season was the 60th regular season of the National Football League. The season ended with Super Bowl XIV when the Pittsburgh Steelers repeated as champions by defeating the Los Angeles Rams 31–19 at the Rose Bowl. The Steelers became the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls twice. It was also the 20th anniversary of the American Football League.American football rules
Game play in American football consists of a series of downs, individual plays of short duration, outside of which the ball is dead or not in play. These can be plays from scrimmage – passes, runs, punts, or field goal attempts (from either a place kick or a drop kick) – or free kicks such as kickoffs and fair catch kicks. Substitutions can be made between downs, which allows for a great deal of specialization as coaches choose the players best suited for each particular situation. During a play, each team should have no more than 11 players on the field, and each of them has specific tasks assigned for that specific play.Clock management
In gridiron football, clock management is the manipulation of a game clock and play clock to achieve a desired result, typically near the end of a match. It is analogous to "running out the clock" (and associated counter-tactics) seen in many sports, and the act of trying to hasten the game's end is often referred to by this term. Clock managements strategies are a significant part of American football, where an elaborate set of rules dictates when the game clock stops between downs, and when it continues to run.Comparison of American and Canadian football
American and Canadian football are gridiron codes of football that are very similar. Both have their origins in rugby football. There are, however, some key differences.Fair catch
A fair catch is a feature of American football and several other codes of football, in which a player attempting to catch a ball kicked by the opposing team – either on a kickoff or punt – is entitled to catch the ball without interference from any member of the kicking team. A ball caught in this manner becomes dead once caught, i.e., the player catching the ball is not entitled to run with the ball in an attempt to gain yardage, and the receiving team begins its drive at the spot where the ball was caught. A player wishing to make a fair catch signals his intent by extending one arm above his head and waving it while the kicked ball is in flight. The kicking team must allow the player an opportunity to make the catch without interference.
The primary reason for the fair catch rule is to protect the receiver. A receiver directs his attention toward the incoming punt and cannot focus on the defenders running towards him. He is quite vulnerable to injury and is also at risk for fumbling or muffing the kicked ball if the punter intentionally makes a high short kick to allow defenders time to hit the receiver. A second reason for a fair catch, on a punted ball, is to prevent the ball from rolling toward the receiving team's goal and being downed deep in the team's own territory.
Both the 2001 and 2020 versions of the XFL removed the fair catch in an effort to attract fans who disliked the rule. Canadian football and arena football also do not have fair catch rules, with the XFL and Canadian football preferring a five-yard "no-yards" rule instead.
In rugby union and Australian rules football, a loose equivalent to a fair catch is called a mark; see mark (rugby) and mark (Australian football) for more information (however in Australian Rules Football the player is not protected from the opposition team while attempting a mark). Fair catches featured in some extinct forms of football, and they have been abolished in other modern codes. In Rugby league the defensive player attempting to catch the ball cannot be tackled whilst in the air, though the attacking players can contest the ball by attempting to catch it themselves. A player who successfully catches the ball is able to be tackled only once they have landed on the ground. A player who does not leave the ground in attempting to catch the ball is able to be tackled as soon as the ball is caught.Field goal
A field goal (FG) is a means of scoring in American football and Canadian football. To score a field goal the team in possession of the ball must place kick, or drop kick, the ball through the goal, i.e., between the uprights and over the crossbar. American football requires that a field goal must only come during a play from scrimmage, while Canadian football retains open field kicks and thus field goals may be scored at any time from anywhere on the field and by any player. The vast majority of field goals, in both codes, are place kicked. Drop kicked field goals were common in the early days of Gridiron football but are almost never done in modern times. In most leagues, a successful field goal awards three points (a notable exception is in six-man football where, due to the difficulty of making a successful field goal because of the small number of players available to stop the opposing team from attempting a block, a field goal is worth four points).
A field goal may also be scored through a fair catch kick, but this is extremely rare. Since a field goal is worth only three points, as opposed to a touchdown, which is worth six points, it is usually only attempted in specific situations (see Strategy).
The goal structure consists of a horizontal crossbar suspended 10 feet (3.0 m) above the ground, with two vertical goalposts 18 feet 6 inches (5.64 m) apart extending vertically from each end of the crossbar. In American football, the goals are centered on each end line; in Canadian football, they are centered on each goal line.Free kick
A free kick is an action used in several codes of football to restart play with the kicking of a ball into the field of play.George Abramson
George Abramson (May 13, 1903 – March 15, 1985) was a guard, tackle, and kicker in the National Football League who played for the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Green Bay Packers. He was born in Eveleth, Minnesota.Goal (sport)
In sports, a goal is a physical structure or area where an attacking team must send the ball or puck in order to score points. In several sports, a goal is the sole method of scoring, and thus the final score is expressed in the total number of goals scored by each team. In other sports, a goal may be one of several scoring methods, and thus may be worth a different set number of points than the others.
The structure of a goal varies from sport to sport. Most often, it is a rectangular structure that is placed at each end of the playing field. Each structure usually consists of two vertical posts, called goal posts, supporting a horizontal crossbar. A goal line marked on the playing surface between the goal posts demarcates the goal area. Thus, the objective is to send the ball or puck between the goal posts, under or over the crossbar (depending on the sport), and across the goal line. Less commonly, as in basketball or netball, goals are ring-shaped. The structure is often accompanied with an auxiliary net, which stops or slows down the ball when a goal is scored.Goal from mark
A goal from mark is a former scoring move in rugby football. It occurred when a player "marked" the ball by making a fair catch and shouting "mark". From this position the player could not be tackled. The player then had the option of a free kick, which could be taken as a place-kick, drop-kick, punt, or tap kick. It was possible to score a goal from a place-kick or drop-kick.
The goal from mark was seldom seen for a number of reasons: the kicking team would have had to make the mark comfortably within range of the opponents' goal, usually implying a gross error on the part of a defending player. The player making the mark would presumably have considered a drop goal attempt from open play less likely to succeed than a goal from the mark. The defending team were allowed to advance as far as the mark, meaning that the kick had to be attempted from still further away, and were moreover permitted to charge the attempted kick as soon as the ball was placed on the ground, the kicker started to run up, or offered to kick the ball.
The points awarded for a goal from mark initially varied between three and four points as point scoring rules evolved in rugby. In the 1900s, the goal from mark was fixed at three points and it remained set at this amount until the rule's eventual abolition. The goal from mark was a goal-scoring option distinct from the drop goal. The latter was worth four points in rugby union until 1948 when its value was also reduced to three points.
Under the original laws promulgated by Rugby School (from 1845 onwards), a touch-down behind the opposition's goal-line was followed by a "punt out", in which a member of the attacking team punted the ball backwards from the goal-line to a teammate, who could then catch the ball, make a mark (as from a fair catch), and then place the ball for a kick at goal. This was originally the only means by which a goal could be scored following a touch-down. The option of a place-kick in line with the touch-down (as in a modern conversion) appeared in the first Rugby Football Union laws of 1871. The RFU would abolish the punt-out from goal in 1883.
The goal from mark was removed entirely from rugby league in 1922.
The goal from mark was permitted in rugby union games until the free-kick clause was added to the Laws of Rugby Union in 1977, which stipulated that a player could call a mark only in the defender's 22-metre area and only for a "non-scoring" free kick. This clause was applied to northern hemisphere games from September 1977 and for southern hemisphere games from January 1978 and remains part of the rules.
The last goal from a mark scored in an international match was by Romania against France in the 1971–72 FIRA Nations Cup on 11 December 1971.List of Super Bowl records
This is a list of Super Bowl records. Performances of the highest and lowest caliber throughout the history of the Super Bowl. The list of records is separated by individual players and teams. Players and teams, along with their records, are noted with the Super Bowl game played. All records can be referenced at the National Football League (NFL)'s official website, NFL.com.Mac Percival
Mac L. Percival (born February 26, 1940 in Vernon, Texas) is a former American football placekicker in the National Football League for the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys. He played college basketball at Texas Tech University.Neil Rackers
Neil William (Rickety) Rackers (born August 16, 1976) is a former American football player who was a placekicker in the National Football League (NFL) for twelve seasons. He played college football for the University of Illinois. Rackers was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft, and also played for the NFL's Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans, and Washington Redskins.Onside kick
In gridiron football, an onside kick is a kickoff deliberately kicked short. On most kickoffs, the kicking team concedes possession of the ball and tries to kick it as far as possible from its own goal. In an onside kick, however, the kicking team kicks short in hopes of regaining possession of the ball before the receiving team can control it.
The onside kick is a low-percentage play, generally only seen late in a game when the kicking team is trailing in the score and must retain possession of the ball in order to score before time expires. However, its chances of success increase in a situation where the returning team does not expect it.Paul Hornung
Paul Vernon Hornung (born December 23, 1935), nicknamed The Golden Boy, is a former professional American football player and a Hall of Fame running back for the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League (NFL) from 1957 to 1966. He played on teams that won four NFL titles and the first Super Bowl. He is the first pro football player to win the Heisman Trophy, be selected as the first overall selection in the NFL Draft, win the NFL most valuable player award, and be inducted into both the professional and college football halls of fame.A versatile player, Hornung was a halfback, quarterback, and placekicker. He was an excellent all-around college athlete at Notre Dame, where he played basketball in addition to football.Phil Dawson
Philip Drury Dawson (born January 23, 1975) is an American football placekicker who is currently a free agent. He played for the Cleveland Browns from 1999 to 2012 and holds their franchise record for most field goals made, passing Hall of Famer Lou Groza in 2010. He played college football at Texas. As of the end of the 2016 NFL season, Dawson is the second oldest player in the league, behind fellow placekicker Adam Vinatieri.Ray Wersching
Raimund "Ray" Wersching (born August 21, 1950) is an Austrian former placekicker in the NFL. He played in the NFL for a span of 15 years, from 1973 through 1987.Return specialist
A return specialist or kick returner is a player on the special teams unit of an American football or Canadian football team who specializes in returning punts and kickoffs. There are few players who are exclusively return specialists; most also play another position such as wide receiver, defensive back, or running back. The special teams counterpart of a return specialist is a kicking specialist.
According to All-American Venric Mark, "Returning punts is harder. You have to judge the ball more, you have to know when to fair catch and when not to. You can't be a superhero and try to catch everything. With kickoff returns, you catch the ball and — boom — you're going."