I suspect that this is just "out of bounds", but what happens when a receiver catches a pass and has two feet out of the end zone at the far end? Is this just out of bounds or is there more forgiveness in the end zone?

2 Answers 2


What happens if a receiver is beyond the end zone in football? I suspect that this is just "out of bounds"

Your suspicions are accurate.

What happens when a receiver catches a pass and has two feet out of the end zone at the far end?

A player who catches a pass and has two feet out of the end zone at the far end had either touched a boundary line or touched outside a boundary line, and thus, is out of bounds.

Rule 3, Section 22, Article 1 in the NFL Rule Book addresses this (emphasis mine).

A player or an Official is Out of Bounds when he touches:

(a) A boundary line; or

(b) Anything other than a player, an official, or a pylon on or outside a boundary line.

Rule 2, Section 12, Article 4 in the NCAA Football Rule Book addresses this (in a clearer fashion, in my opinion).

Boundary Lines

ARTICLE 4. The boundary lines are the sidelines and the end lines. The area enclosed by the boundary lines is “in bounds,’’ and the area surrounding and including the boundary lines is “out of bounds.’’


edmastermind29's answer is correct, save an exception.

If a receiver catches the ball but is carried out by a defender before he can land both feet inbounds, the pass is complete.

Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 6 in the NFL Rule Book addresses this.

Carried Out of Bounds: If a player, who is in possession of the ball, is held up and carried out of bounds by an opponent before both feet or any part of his body other than his hands touches the ground inbounds, it is a completed or intercepted pass.

NCAA (college) rules are slightly different--the player needs only one foot to make contact inbounds for the completion.

Rule 2, Section 4, Article 1 of the NCAA Football Rulebook:

Player Possession: The ball is in player possession when a player has the ball firmly in his grasp by holding or controlling it while contacting the ground inbounds.

Regarding the Carried Out of Bounds rule from the NFL, I could not find any references that suggests this also applies in college.

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    There is a distinction between "carried" and "pushed". If a receiver is pushed out before he can get his feet in bounds, the pass is incomplete. If he is carried by a defender out of bounds then the pass is complete. The push rule is relatively new. A push out used to be considered a completion.
    – diggers3
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 17:17
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    @diggers3 wasn't pushing out a completion at one point, before the rule changed?
    – user527
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 17:21
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    @TrevorD I see the rules digest, but the force out rule was changed in 2008. I don't know why the digest doesn't seem to have been updated. NFL Rule Changes 2008 The rule only applies to literally carrying someone, not pushing (or forcing) them out of bounds. Breif explanation of the rule change
    – diggers3
    Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 17:59
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    I've never heard about this "carry" clause until now. If a receiver catches the ball while in the air in the end zone, it seems it'd be much easier for a defender to push him out of bounds. I don't know why a defender would ever try to catch him and carry him out of bounds. Commented Sep 23, 2014 at 22:36
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    @edmastermind29 Some more discussion "In college, where they don't have a similar rule, wide receivers have been carried out of bounds occasionally when two defenders who were trying to cover them simply caught them while they were in the air." ... "the rule shows a willingness to delve into speculative matters to ensure fairness. It's about fault; if the receiver clearly makes the catch and clearly would have landed in-bounds, then he shouldn't be penalized because of something out of his control"
    – Rawling
    Commented Sep 24, 2014 at 13:50

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