Between safeties and touchbacks, some rules regarding possessing the football in the endzone can get a little confusing. Leaving many football fans wondering what happens if you are tackled in the end zone after an interception.
If a player intercepts a ball in the endzone the most likely outcome is a touchback. If the intercepting player is tackled or gives himself up before leaving the endzone a touchback will be called.
Additionally, if the intercepting player steps out of bounds before leaving the endzone a touchback will be called.
When a touchback occurs the team who intercepted the ball will start their possession at their twenty-yard line.
In order for a safety to occur in this situation, several things have to happen. First, the player will have to intercept the ball and then progress the ball forwards out of his endzone.
The player will then have to retreat into their own endzone. Once back in their own endzone if this player is tackled a safety will be awarded.
If a player is tackled into his endzone from the one-yard line this will not be a safety as the ball carriers forward progress will be marked.
In other words, the player must make his own way into his endzone for a safety to occur.
What If You Intercept A Ball And Fall Into Your Own Endzone?
Often when intercepting balls the defending players will be travelling deeper into their defensive backfield. This movement often gives them momentum towards their own endzone.
This results in some deep passes being picked off near the goal line and resulting in the player going back into his own endzone. You may be thinking that tackling this player would result in a safety but that is not the case.
So long as the momentum of the interception carries the player into his own endzone a safety will not be called.
On a play in which catching an interception results in possessing the ball in the endzone, a touchback will be instead of a safety.
When To Give Your Self Up vs Return An Interception In The End Zone?
Now that we know what happens when intercepting the ball in the end zone it is time to break down when to return the ball vs take a touchback.
The easiest rule to follow in this circumstance is that if a player does not believe he will be able to return the ball to the twenty-yard line he should take a touchback.
This is because a touchback results in the team starting with the ball at the twenty-yard line.
Though aside from this rule there are a few more things a player may want to account for when making this decision.
One of the most important things is how much time is left on the clock. If there are zero seconds on the clock at the half or end of the game it may be time to take the ball out.
Since there is no time left the touchback isn’t going to do the team any good. This means taking the ball out is your only chance at scoring.
Additionally, if there are thirty seconds left in the half or game a player may want to take the touchback. If you are looking to stage a comeback with less than a minute remaining every second is going to count.
Trying to run the ball back on an interception return can eat up the clock and make the comeback less likely.
Finally, if a player intercepts the ball on a two-point conversion the player should always try and bring it back.
The intercepting team will not get the ball at the twenty because it is an extra point. This means returning the interception and potentially scoring a pick-six (technically a pick two) is your best bet.