A turnover on downs in football occurs when a team fails to convert a fourth-down attempt. On any given drive a team is given is four opportunities to move the ball ten yards for the first down.
If a team decides to go for it on fourth down and does not gain the necessary yardage then a turnover on downs occurs.
When this occurs the possession of the ball is switched. And the opposing team will start with the ball from the location in which the fourth down attempt was stopped.
Is It Considered A Turnover?
No, interestingly enough a turnover on downs is not considered a turnover statistically. We cannot for sure why the NFL chooses not to consider this play a turnover but we can make some guesses.
The most obvious reason is that four down stops are less about the defense making a play and more about the offense’s situation. Most fourth down stops occur when the offense needs to make a comeback rather than when the defense makes a great play.
Why Aren’t Turnover On Downs More Common?
You would think that with a failed fourth-down attempt being a turnover on downs would happen almost every drive. The reason that turnover on downs aren’t happening over and over throughout a game is because of field position.
A turnover on downs results in an opponent getting the ball in your location meaning if you are close to your endzone this isn’t a wise move.
For this reason, teams usually elect to punt on fourth down in order to win the field position battle. Even though the team gets one less attempt at the first down they will be able to move the ball roughly fifty yards down the field.
Why Are There No Points Awarded?
The reason there are no points awarded for a turnover on downs is because it is simply not a scoring play. In football teams are not awarded points for making great plays but rather for scoring in the end zone.
Whether it is a safety, field goal, or touchdown all scoring plays involve one team or the other being in the endzone.
Additionally, teams are still receiving quite a good outcome when this occurs. The team which has stopped the opposing team and caused the turnover on downs will receive the ball where the player was downed.
This greatly increases the field position of the team that has taken possession of the ball.