If a football team is one point behind with less than two minutes remaining, wouldn't the logical move be to run the ball back into their own end zone to score a 2-point safety? Even if you are in field goal range, the field goal is uncertain, but the 2-point safety is a sure thing and difference between 2 points and 3 points is meaningless in a one-point game.

Has any team won by doing this? If so, how far did they run backwards?

  • 2
    Are you suggesting that the team A, who is one point behind, run backwards to score a safety (which is 2 points for team B) and punt the ball back to team B after the safety with under 2 minutes remaining (in which team A is now behind by 3 points)? I may be ignorant to what you're suggesting, so I'm asking for clarification.
    – user527
    Oct 17, 2016 at 12:24
  • 2
    Okay, maybe I misunderstood, the 2 points is scored by the team without the ball? In that case the strategy would not work. Oct 17, 2016 at 12:44
  • Correct. I posted this as an answer below.
    – user527
    Oct 17, 2016 at 12:45

1 Answer 1


Your suggestion would be foolish.

Rule 11, Section 5, Article 1 in the 2016 NFL Rulebook defines a safety as:

  • if the offense commits a foul in its own end zone or;
  • when an impetus by a team sends the ball behind its own goal line, and the ball is dead in the end zone in its possession or the ball is out of bounds behind the goal line.

To take your example, let's say Team A does what you suggest. They run backwards for a safety, fulfilling the requirement of "when an impetus by a team sends the ball behind its own goal line, and the ball is dead in the end zone in its possession." This gives Team B 2 points.

Rule 11, Section 5, Article 2 defines what takes place after a safety:

After a safety, the team scored upon (Team A in your example) must put the ball in play by a free kick (punt, dropkick, or placekick) from its 20-yard line. An artificial or manufactured tee cannot be used. See 6-1-1-b and 6-1-3.

Thus, Team A, now 3 points behind, is free kicking the ball to Team B. Team B gains possession the ball with under 2 minutes remaining. As they are up by 3, Team B can proceed to attempt to run the clock out and win the game.

  • I see, I thought the 2 points went to the team with the ball, not the defending team, so it was a mistake on my part. I see that the main use of intentional safety would be to run down the clock when ahead by more than 2 points. Oct 17, 2016 at 12:51
  • 1
    @TylerDurden Gotcha. If a team is up by more than 2 points, an intentional safety isn't needed to run down the clock (and you'll be giving the ball to the defending team, giving them a chance to score). Running/kneeling the ball and/or getting a first down is almost always enough to run the clock out.
    – user527
    Oct 17, 2016 at 12:55

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