Scenario: The offensive team has 2nd & 4 at the defensive team's 20 yard line and the defensive team concedes a 5-yard pre-snap penalty.

The offensive team moves five yards up the field, but what happens in terms of downs and yards to go? Is it always a 1st & 10, or is there some condition whereunder the down and yards to go "carry over" (i.e. we get 2nd & 4 at the defensive team's 15 yard line)?

Any difference between NFL, AFL, CFL, NCAA etc.?

2 Answers 2


In the scenario you mentioned where it is currently 2nd & 4 any penalty that advances the ball 4 or more yards will result in a first down. This happens because the offense just has to get the ball to a certain yard mark for the first down and it doesn’t matter if they get it through plays or penalties.

As for the second part of a question when the ball moves due to a penalty the yards to go will also change with the yardage. The exception being if it gets the team a first down or when it is 1st and 10 and the penalty gives an automatic first down.

Also this is how it works in all leagues though the yards given for each penalty may vary.

There is a special case regarding half-the-distance penalties (penalty yardage may never exceed half the distance to the conceding team's goal line). Scenario: Offense has 2nd and 8 at the defensive team's 12 yard line. The defensive team concedes a 10-yard pre-snap penalty. While the penalty is capped at half the distance (12 yards/2 = 6 yards in this case), the "original" penalty was 10 yards. In this case, even though the offense doesn't pass their 8 yard target it's a 1st down.


It really depends on the penalty. Some penalties are automatic first-downs while others are simply yardage. In the case you're speaking, as long as the penalty drawn is not one of the automatic first-down penalties, then 2nd and 4 is possible. Also, there is a difference between NFL and NCAA and furthermore between (American) High School as well in terms of which penalties are worth in terms of yardage.

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