What Is a Safety Call in a Football Game?


In American football, the majority of a team's scoring opportunities occur when its offensive unit is on the field. The offense can score touchdowns and kick field goals to wrack up points. The opponent's defensive unit can also score touchdowns by recovering fumbles or making interceptions and advancing the ball into the end zone. The "safety," however, is distinctive, as it can only be scored by a team when its defensive unit is on the field.

How a Safety is Scored

  • The safety usually occurs when the offensive unit is backed up less than 5 yards from its own end zone. As noted by NFL.com, the National Football League's official website, a safety is called when the defensive unit tackles an offensive player who is in possession of the ball behind his own goal line.

Points Scored for a Safety

  • The team is awarded 2 points when a safety is called. This often makes for odd scoring scoring, as final football scores are usually combinations of 7 (for a touchdown and an extra point) and 3 (for a field goal).

Circumstances that May Result in a Safety Call

  • In most cases, a safety is called when defensive players tackle the ball carrier before he can advance the ball out of the end zone. A quarterback being sacked behind the goal line also results in a safety. A safety is called if the offensive unit fumbles the ball in its own end zone and recovers it but cannot advance it or if the fumbled ball rolls out of bounds from any point behind the goal line.

Deliberately Taking a Safety

  • There are circumstances when an offensive team will choose to deliberately take a safety. If a fumble occurs in the end zone, and offensive player may deliberately knock the ball out of bounds and take the safety to prevent a defensive player from recovering it and scoring a touchdown.

Kicking Off After a Safety

  • The safety is different from other football scores when it comes to putting the ball back in play. When a team scores a touchdown or a field goal, it kicks the ball off to its opponent. In the event of a safety, the team that scores the points gets to receive the kick. According to Time Magazine, the kicking team can put the ball in play with a punt, place kick or drop kick.

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  • Photo Credit football image by Maria Bell from Fotolia.com
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