What Is Breaking The Plane In Football?

If you have ever watched NFL Sundays and seen a player dive for the goal line you’ve likely heard the term breaking the plane. This football term is used to describe the action of a football entering the endzone.

At the start of each team’s endzone is a thick white goal line. Many fans new to the game believe the ball must be all the way into the endzone for a touchdown to occur.

In reality, the tip of the football simply has to break the plane of the white goal line. Imagine there is an invisible line starting at the very front of the goal line. When the tip of the football comes into contact with this line a touchdown.

The term breaking the plane refers to the “plane of the endzone” meaning the second the ball contacts that white line the plane has been broken.

Making The Call

Referees

On each play, the down judge and the line judge will be positioned on each sideline. If the play starts near the endzone these referees will be watching the goal line closely.

They will have to watch in real-time to determine whether the ball broke the plane of the goal line.

Additionally, these officials will have to determine whether the player was downed prior to reaching the line. Or if the player was able to maintain control of the ball as they broke the plane of the endzone.

Challenging The Play

If either the offense or the defense does not agree with the call on the field they are able to challenge the play. A coach is able to challenge a play like this so long that it is not the final two minutes of either half.

Once this play is challenged the referees will talk amongst themselves as well as review the footage in order to assess the call on the field.

There must be conclusive evidence seen in the video replays in order to have the call overturned.

Pylons And Their Cameras

One of the ways in which officials are able to review goal-line calls is through pylon cameras. In recent years cameras have been installed into the goal line pylons.

What this does is allow a unique camera angle to determine if the ball carrier broke the plane of the goal line.

Additionally, if a player is able to hit a pylon while in possession of the ball it is a touchdown. This is because the pylon occupies the space of that invisible line that rises above the goal line.

In other words, if you can hit the pylon with the ball then the ball has broken the plane.

This is why you will often see wide receivers or running backs reach out for the pylon when trying to get into the endzone.

Coming Up Short

Now that you know what it takes to break the plane it’s time to explain how you can come up short of a touchdown.

Getting Downed

The main way in which players are going to end up short of a touchdown is by being downed. To determine if a player is downed the referee mustwatch closely to see if any body part contacts the ground.

Aside from the hands or feet any body part coming into contact with the ground will render a player downed. This means when watching the ball meet the goal line the official must also watch that no body part touches the ground first.

This is why dives for the endzone are especially hard to call. And also why instant replay is used so often in these sorts of plays.

If you are downed short of the end zone your team will simply start from the location of the field in which you were downed.

Losing Possession

Another way in which a player can come up short for a touchdown is by losing possession of the ball. In order for a touchdown to occur a player must have possession of the ball when he breaks the plane.

If the player loses possession prior to breaking the plane his team may lose possession of the ball. If a player fumbles the ball through the endzone a touchback will occur and the other team will take possession of the ball.

This makes plays in which the ball carrier loses the ball right around the goal line incredibly important. This is because they can result in a touchdown or a turnover to the other team.

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