If football teams are in violation of rules or something, do they get a penalty deducted from their score? Are there any other ways to lose points? I don't see anything about this in the Beginner's Guide to Football, but I just want to make sure.


2 Answers 2


No, it's not possible for an NFL team to lose points during a game. There are no penalties or anything that can deduct from a team's score.

However, due to the NFL's instant replay review system that requires all scoring plays to be reviewed, it might appear that a team can lose points.

As an example, you could have a situation where a team scores a touchdown (the referees on the field ruled that it was a touchdown). The scoreboard would add six points to that team's score. However, since it is a scoring play, it would be reviewed. If the ruling on the field that it was a touchdown is overturned, then the scoreboard would remove those six points from the team's score. It might appear that the team lost six points, but they really didn't, because that play was actually not a touchdown.


Essentially, no. Violations of the rules are penalised by loss of down and/or yards, apart from in one exceptional case covered by Rule 11, Section 2, Article 1(e) of the NFL rulebook:

[A touchdown is scored when] the Referee awards a touchdown to a team that has been denied one by a palpably unfair act.

In this context, "palpably unfair act" is there to cover things like someone coming off the bench and tackling a runner clearly on route to a touchdown. This penalty has never been called in the NFL, but the equivalent penalty has been called in college football.

Above and beyond that, the NFL rulebook also includes the provision for the Commissioner to reverse a game's result if things happen which "he deems so extraordinarily unfair or outside the accepted tactics encountered in professional football that such action has a major effect on the result of the game." (Rule 17, Section 2). This provision has never been used to reverse the result of a game, but was used in the Spygate controversy to fine the Patriots of a draft pick.

Similar rules exist for other major American football rulesets.


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