Football Scoring

Every Point Counts: Complete Guide to Scoring in Football

Football, with its intricate plays and strategies, is a game where every point counts. Scoring in football is not just about putting points on the board; it’s a complex and strategic part of the game that can determine the outcome of every match.

This guide is designed to help beginners understand the various ways a team can score and the significance of each method in the overall game strategy. Whether it’s a thrilling touchdown or a well-placed field goal, each scoring method has its own place and importance in football.

Touchdowns: The Primary Scoring Method

A touchdown is the most valued scoring play in football, worth six points. It occurs when a team advances the ball into the opponent’s end zone, either by carrying it across the goal line or by receiving it while in the end zone.

Here’s a closer look at how touchdowns can be scored:

Carrying the Ball into the End Zone

  • Rushing Touchdown: This happens when a player runs with the ball across the opponent’s goal line.
  • Quarterback Sneak: The quarterback sneak is a strategic play where the quarterback, usually known for passing or handing off the ball, instead rushes it into the end zone.

Receiving the Ball in the End Zone

  • Passing Touchdown: Occurs when a player catches a pass from the quarterback while in the opponent’s end zone.
  • Hail Mary: A long, desperate pass towards the end zone, often attempted at the end of halves.

Scoring a touchdown not only puts six points on the board but also sets up the scoring team for an opportunity to earn additional points through either an extra point attempt or a two-point conversion.

This additional scoring opportunity is one of the reasons touchdowns are so crucial in football.

Extra Point Attempts After Touchdowns

After scoring a touchdown, the scoring team has the opportunity to earn additional points through either an extra point attempt or a two-point conversion. This phase of the game is critical as it can influence the team’s strategy and the game’s outcome.

Extra Point Kick (1 Point)

  • Execution: The ball is placed on the opponent’s 15-yard line (for NFL games), and a kicker attempts a field goal.
  • Success Rate: Generally high, but not guaranteed, especially in challenging weather conditions.

Two-Point Conversion (2 Points)

  • Execution: Instead of kicking, the team attempts to get the ball into the end zone again from the opponent’s 2-yard line.
  • Strategy: Often used when a team is trailing and needs to catch up quickly in score.

The choice between an extra point kick and a two-point conversion depends on various factors, including the team’s confidence in their kicking game, the game’s score, and the time remaining.

This decision can significantly impact the game’s strategy and outcome.

Field Goals: A Valuable Scoring Option

Field goals are another way to score in American football and are worth three points. A team typically attempts a field goal when they are close enough to the end zone but not confident in scoring a touchdown.


  • Kicking the Ball: The ball is snapped to a holder, and a kicker attempts to kick the ball through the uprights of the goalpost.
  • Distance: The success of a field goal attempt largely depends on the distance. Longer attempts are riskier.

Strategic Use

  • End of Halves: Often attempted before the clock runs out in either the first or second half.
  • Fourth Down Decision: Teams may opt for a field goal on their fourth down if they are within a suitable range and a touchdown seems unlikely.

Field goals can be a critical part of a team’s strategy, offering a reliable way to score when touchdowns are not feasible. They can often be the deciding factor in close games.

Safeties: Defensive Scoring

A safety is a scoring play in football that awards two points to the defensive team. Safeties are relatively rare but can significantly impact the game’s momentum and score.

How a Safety Occurs

  • Tackling the Ball Carrier: A safety is scored if the offensive team is tackled in their own end zone.
  • Offensive Fouls: Certain fouls committed by the offense in their own end zone, like holding or intentional grounding, can also result in a safety.

Strategic Impact

  • Shift in Momentum: A safety not only scores points for the defense but also forces the offensive team to perform a free kick, giving the ball back to the defensive team.
  • Psychological Effect: The occurrence of a safety can have a psychological impact on the teams, often seen as a sign of strong defensive play.

Safeties are not just about scoring; they are a testament to a team’s defensive strength and can dramatically alter the course of the game.

Other Scoring Scenarios

While touchdowns, extra points, field goals, and safeties are the primary ways to score in American football, there are other less common scenarios that can also lead to points on the board.

Defensive Two-Point Conversion

  • Occurrence: If a team attempts a two-point conversion but the defense gains possession of the ball and returns it to the opponent’s end zone, the defensive team earns two points.

Special Teams Play

  • Kickoff and Punt Returns: On occasions, a team can score points during a kickoff or punt return if the returner successfully brings the ball back to the opponent’s end zone.

These scoring scenarios are rare but add an exciting and unpredictable element to the game, showcasing the dynamic nature of football.

Game Strategy and Scoring

Scoring in football is not just about putting points on the board; it’s deeply intertwined with the game’s strategy. Each scoring opportunity and method can significantly influence how a team plays the game.

Impact of Scoring Methods

  • Touchdowns and Momentum: Scoring a touchdown can boost a team’s morale and shift the game’s momentum.
  • Field Goals for Consistency: Opting for field goals can be a safer, more consistent way to accumulate points, especially in a tight defensive game.

Decisions on Extra Points

  • Extra Point vs. Two-Point Conversion: The decision to go for an extra point or a two-point conversion can be influenced by the game’s score, time remaining, and team confidence.

Defensive Scoring Opportunities

  • Safeties as Game Changers: The rare occurrence of a safety can significantly impact the game, often shifting momentum.

Understanding these strategic elements helps in appreciating the depth and complexity of football beyond the basic rules of scoring.

Evolution of Scoring Rules

  • Touchdown Points: The value of a touchdown has changed throughout the history of the game, settling at six points in the early 20th century.
  • Introduction of the Two-Point Conversion: The two-point conversion was introduced to the NFL in 1994, adding a new strategic element to the game.


Understanding how scoring works in football is crucial for any fan of the game. From the thrill of touchdowns to the strategic use of field goals and the rarity of safeties, each scoring method has its unique place in the sport.

This knowledge not only enhances your viewing experience but also deepens your appreciation for the strategic depth of football. So next time you watch a game, keep an eye on how teams maneuver for these scoring opportunities – it’s a key part of the excitement and drama of every football game.

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