During today's Niners vs Seahawks game, the score by the end of the first half was 0-5.

What I don't understand is how the Seahawks scored 5 points. My understanding of football is :

  • 6 points for a touchdown
    • 1 point for following field goal
    • 2 points for following conversion
  • 3 points for regular field goal

In no way can I see a possibility where 5 points would be the combination of any of above said criteria.

Am I thinking something wrong? How is it possible to have 5 points only?

1 Answer 1


You can also get 2 points for a safety, when the offensive team commits an infraction or is tackled in their own end zone. In addition to scoring 2 points, the defending team also receives the ball via a free kick. They are rare, but there have already been a few this season.

So these are the possible ways to score:

  1. Touchdown - 6 points
  2. Field Goal - 3 Points
  3. Two Point Conversion* (following a touchdown) - 2 points
  4. Safety - 2 points
  5. Point After Touchdown* (field goal-style kick) - 1 point
  6. (NCAA, and NFL as of 2015) Blocked extra point try (or any turnover on a PAT or 2-point conversion) is run back - 2 points for defense.
  7. Extra point attempt that results in a safety for either side - 1 point

In the game you are referencing, there was a safety and then a field goal, resulting in a 5 point score for Seattle.

*A Two Point Conversion or a Point After Touchdown can only be attempted immediately following a scored touchdown. The team must choose to attempt one or the other.

  • 1
    The only score that is mathematically impossible in American football is 1.
    – Ben Miller
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 15:16
  • 4
    @BenMiller: That's only impossible in the NFL; NCAA football allows a score of 1 in a very rare case, left as an exercise to the reader. Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 16:02
  • 4
    Also, one-point safeties are possible in the NFL, but there hasn't been one since 1940 (according to this blog article: blogs.wsj.com/dailyfix/2013/01/04/… ). But the NFL rulebook definitely allows for it (Section 3 Article 2 (d)) Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 18:47
  • 1
    @Leatherwing: That's interesting in light of Article 2 (c), which prevents the defense from e.g. intercepting a pass and retreating into the end zone. The WSJ article says that the only way would be to bat the ball out of the end zone without taking possession, but it's also possible, according to Section 3 Article 3 Item 4(a), for a defensive penalty to result in a one-point safety. I'm not sure how that could happen to a team without possession. Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 19:36
  • 2
    @MichaelMyers Very interesting. So it looks like in NCAA the one-point safety could theoretically be scored by either side. However, in NFL, the play is dead as soon as the defense takes possession, so it is impossible for the defense to score a one-point safety, and therefore impossible to get a score of 1.
    – Ben Miller
    Commented Sep 18, 2013 at 13:45

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