During the last seconds of the 2015 AFC Championship (Broncos vs Patriots), the ball was intercepted by a Bronco, and while the guy was running, he accidentally fumbled the ball and the Patriots recovered.

However, the Patriots still had to do an onside kick.

My question is why? Why didn't the Patriots get 4 new downs?

I am kind of a rookie and not a fan of either team but this really bothers me.

  • The down (the play, the "try") isn't over until officials rule a "dead ball". As such, the "try" ended with Patriots in possession but unsuccessful. Jan 25 '16 at 23:58

The play in question took place on a 2-point conversion, defined by the 2015 NFL rulebook in Rule 3, Section 41 as a "Try" and covered in more detail in Rule 11, Section 3.

A kickoff follows a 2-point conversion, no matter the outcome of said try. This is covered in Rule 11, Section 3, Article 4: "After a Try, the team on defense during the Try shall receive the kickoff."


A Try is the attempt by a team that has scored a touchdown to add one point (by a field goal) or two points (by a touchdown) during one untimed scrimmage down (11-3).

Rule 3, Section 18, Article 5, Item 1 states (emphasis mine):

A Kickoff is a kick that puts the ball in play at the start of each half, at the start of overtime, after each Try, and after a successful field goal.

  • 2
    Great answer. I watched that game, and couldn't understand why he was trying to return it - I suppose the 2 points would've meant a patriots onside kick and then field goal doesn't win them the game, but with 12 seconds left and no time outs, it seems unlikely the Patriots would be able to get in field goal range (the recovery spot is the 45 typically, so at least 15-20 yards downfield even for a 'hard' score) in that span of time. More likely? He fumbles and they recover for a 2 point conversion.
    – Joe
    Jan 25 '16 at 22:46
  • @Ellesedil See edit...no matter the outcome of the try (offensive conversion, defensive conversion of a turnover, one-point safety, failed conversion), a kickoff would have followed it. I removed the scoring possibilities of a Try in a previous edit because it wasn't relevant to the question being asked.
    – user527
    Jan 26 '16 at 0:31
  • Thanks, @Joe. I actually had this same conversation with a coworker earlier today. I hold the opinion that it made sense to return it, if for nothing else, to make it a 4-point game rather than a 2-point game. Yes, it is probably the smartest and safest play to not return it to keep it a 2-point game, but it isn't out of the realm of possibility that the Patriots could recover at the 45, have a well-designed 20-yard out to the sideline to set up a potential game winning ~52 yard field goal. At the same time, your "more likely" scenario could also take place.
    – user527
    Jan 26 '16 at 0:41
  • 2
    The real question is why did the Patriots not go for 3 on one of their several previous 4th downs that ended in turnover on downs. They could have won by one point, and given where the turnovers on downs occurred, the Broncos field position would have been comparable after the ensuing kickoff. But I think only Bill can answer that question.
    – user7692
    Jan 26 '16 at 5:26
  • Because the touchdown + 2 point would have caused a draw, whereas getting an (earlier) field goal would still have required a TD and leave Denver in possession with enough time for a making a scoring drive. (unless onside kick success). The TD + 2 point attempt was the 'safer' attempt. Jan 26 '16 at 7:04

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