Punt (gridiron football)

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch photograph (1905), of Bradbury Robinson, football's first triple threat man, preparing to punt

In American and Canadian football, the ball is punted downfield to the opposing team, usually on the final down, with the hope of giving the receiving team a field position that is more advantageous to the kicking team when possession changes.

In football, the offense has a limited number of downs, or plays, in which to move the ball at least ten yards. The team in possession of the ball will typically punt the ball to the opposing team when they are on their final down (fourth down in American football, third down in Canadian football), do not want to risk a turnover on downs by not gaining enough yardage to make a first down and are in such a field position that they do not believe they can successfully make a field goal. The purpose of the punt is for the team in possession, or "kicking team", to move the ball as far as possible towards the opponent's end zone; this maximizes the distance the receiving team must advance the ball in order to score a touchdown upon taking possession.

A punt play involves the kicking team lining up at the line of scrimmage with the kicker, or punter, lined up usually 15 yards behind the center (in American football this distance is shortened if the ball is on a spot such that the kicker's normal position is on or beyond the end line). The receiving team lines up with one or two players downfield to catch the ball. The center makes a long snap to the kicker who then drops the ball and kicks it before it hits the ground. The player who catches the ball is then entitled to attempt to advance the ball.

The result of a typical punt, barring any penalties or extraordinary circumstances, is a first down for the receiving team at the spot where:

Other possible results include the punt being blocked behind the line of scrimmage, and the ball being touched, but not caught or possessed, downfield by the receiving team. In both cases the ball is then "free" and "live" and will belong to whichever team recovers it.

Rules[edit]

The Baylor Bears punting against the Texas A&M Aggies in 2007

Common to American and Canadian football[edit]

American football[edit]

Canadian football[edit]

Fake punts[edit]

On very rare occasions, a punting team will elect to attempt a "fake punt" — line up in punt formation and begin the process as normal, but instead do one of the following:

Although teams sometimes use fake punts to exploit a weakness in the opposing team's defense, a fake punt is very rare, and often used in desperate situations, such as to keep a drive alive when a team is behind and needs to catch up quickly, or to spark an offense in a game where the defense dominates. The high risk of "fake punts" and the need to maintain an element of surprise when the play is actually called, explains why this play is seldom seen. Fake punts are more likely to occur when there is short yardage remaining to secure a first down, and/or the line of scrimmage is inside the opponent's territory.

One of the most famous fake punts was by New York Giants linebacker Gary Reasons during the 1990 NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers, in which he rushed for 30 yards on a fourth down conversion via a direct snap to him instead of the punter, Sean Landeta, which was a critical difference in a 15–13 victory. The Giants went on to win Super Bowl XXV.

Conversely, teams may line up in a normal offensive formation and have the quarterback perform a pooch punt, also known as a quick kick. This usually happens in situations where the offense is in a 4th and long situation in their opponent's territory, but are too close to the end zone for a traditional punt and (depending on weather conditions) too far for a field goal try. Like fake punt attempts, these are rarely tried, although Randall Cunningham, Tom Brady, and Ben Roethlisberger have successfully executed pooch punts in the modern NFL era.[3][4][5]

Record punts[edit]

Return[edit]

A punt return is one of the receiving team's options to respond to a punt. A player positioned about 35–45 yards from the line of scrimmage will attempt to catch or pick up the ball after it is punted by the opposing team's punter. He then attempts to carry the ball as far as possible back in the direction of the line of scrimmage, without being tackled or running out of bounds. He may also lateral the ball to teammates in order to keep the play alive should he expect to be tackled or go out of bounds. DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles is the only player, in the "Miracle at the New Meadowlands", to return a punt for a touchdown on the final play of a NFL game for a win from scrimmage.[14] The NFL record holder for the number of punt returns for a touchdown in a career is Devin Hester of the Atlanta Falcons with eleven.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

External links[edit]