I have noticed that in American football the ball seems to travel farther when launched from a tee on the ground, or from the fingers of a holder on the ground, than when launched from a punt.

What are the rules for if a field goal is not successful but the ball lands inside the field of play? Then why don't teams use a field goal kicker to launch punts in that way?

  • @posdef FYI, when I first read the question, I thought the OP was asking why punters do not punt like how a kicker kicks a FG (OP says ball travels further when kicked from the ground). Now, it reads like "Why not attempt a FG instead of punting?" The answer does remain the same, however, outside of mentioning that the longest FG ever made in the NFL is 64 yards and 69 yards in NCAA football.
    – user527
    Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 5:45
  • @edmastermind29 that's what I thought as well, then the second paragraph changed my mind. Besides this way the question makes more sense; "why dont punters punt like a FG" has one answer really, "'cus that's not how a punt works, what you are asking is a FG attempt". Regardless, if I have misunderstood the question altogether, it's always possible to roll back. :)
    – posdef
    Commented Dec 31, 2013 at 7:41

3 Answers 3


This is covered in Rule 11, Section 4, Article 2 when "the ball has not been touched by the receivers beyond the line [of scrimmage] in the field of play."

If a field goal attempt is missed, which would be the case if the ball lands inside the field of play (the kick falls short of the goalpost, for example) on a field goal attempt, the opposing team will take possession of the ball at the spot of the kick.

Note: If the spot of the kick is within the opposing team's 20-yard line (the kick is mishit, for example), then the opposing team will take possession of the ball at the opposing team's 20-yard line.

Rule 11, Section 4, Article 2 (page 58) in the 2012 NFL Rule Book states:

Missed Field Goals.

If there is a missed field-goal attempt, and the ball has not been touched by the receivers beyond the line in the field of play, the following shall apply:

  • (a) If the spot of the kick was inside the receivers’ 20-yard line, it is the receivers’ ball at the 20-yard line or

  • (b) If the spot of the kick was from the receivers’ 20-yard line or beyond the receivers’ 20-yard line, it is the receivers’ ball at the spot of the kick.

Note: These options apply only if the ball has been beyond the line.


The strategic answer to the main question is: Field Position

Please see this article: https://www.football.com/en-us/charting-the-importance-of-field-position/

Basically, as you get farther away from the goal posts, the chances of successfully making the kick get lower and lower. As you can see in the linked article, as you get better and better starting field position, the chances of you scoring get higher and higher. Also a key factor here is that on a field goal, if you miss the field goal and the other team does not decide to return it, the other team gets the ball (their starting field position) on your previous line of scrimmage.

So putting all of those things together, it is a much smarter strategic move to give up on the chance for 3 points, given the possible negatives, but instead use a punt to "pin your opponent deep" and give them very bad starting field position (optimally at their own 10 yard line or less.) Their odds of scoring are lower, and your odds of getting good starting field position are better, making it easier for your offense to score.

As to the sub-question as to why not punt the ball using the same kicking technique as a field goal: because then it wouldn't be a punt. A punt has different rules and circumstances than a field goal kick, and each is outlined in the rules if that sort of thing interests you: http://football.calsci.com/TheRules6.html

In layman's terms: a punt occurs when an offensive player kicks the ball while possessing it behind the line of scrimmage without it touching the ground. Most often this occurs with a punter and on 4th down, but it can be done by anyone and sometimes you'll see this happen with the Quarterback in shotgun formation.


The answer to this gets trickier in high school. A missed field goal is treated as a punt.

In my senior year in high school, I began punting, but was already an accomplished placekicker. I averaged 30 yards from scrimmage on my punts. As a placekicker, I would kick the ball from 50 to 55 yards, and sometimes 60 yards, on the fly from the point of the kick, which meant that I could placekick the ball 43 to 53 yards from the scrimmage line (because a placekick is teed up 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage). And that doesn't count any potential roll if it is not caught.

With the ball on the 48, we tried a 65-yard field goal, and the ball landed 2 yards in front of the goal posts. The other team got the ball on the 20, so we had a 28 yard net gain, about the same if I had punted, plus we had the possible advantage that we would have gotten 3 points if it had gone another 4 or 5 yards. Had the ball been it been on the 20, it would have carried from our own 13-yard line all the way to the 20 - 55 yards, assuming it was caught.

Covering a field goal attempt is harder from field goal formation. My solution would be to simply kick the ball out of bounds every time we weren't in field goal range. We still would have netted 40 yards a kick, and no returns, because it's far easier to placekick accurately out of bounds than to punt to a location.

With the ball on the 2, there is no need for punter to be backed up against the end line. The tee would be placed 5 yards deep in the end zone, and the kicker would have plenty of room.

I'm not sure why high school teams with good kickers don't do this.

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