The fair catch kick is a little-known, rarely used rule in some forms of American football that allows a team, after making a fair catch of an opponent's kick, to attempt a field goal freely from the spot of the catch. It is one of the three types of free kicks; the other two are the kickoff and the safety kick. At one time a very similar rule existed in rugby union called goal from mark.
Fair catch kicks can only occur when a member of the receiving team signals for, and successfully makes, a fair catch (or is awarded a fair catch after a kick-catch interference penalty.) The receiving team then has the option of resuming play either by snap or fair catch kick. If the receiving team elects the fair catch kick option, the kicking team will line up at the spot where the fair catch was made, and the opposing team must line up at least ten yards downfield. The kicker then may either place kick the ball from a teammate's hold (a kickoff tee may be used in high school) or drop kick the ball. At this point, all general rules apply as for a field goal attempt from scrimmage. The clock starts when the ball is kicked. Three points are awarded for kicking the ball through the uprights.
The fair catch kick has unique rules which distinguish it from other free kicks, such as kickoffs. Most significantly, it is the only variant in which the kicking team can score a field goal. Also, onside kicks are not permitted; the ball cannot be recovered by the kicking team unless first touched by the receiving team. In high school football, if the kicking team can recover or catch the ball beyond the receiving team's free-kick line before the ball becomes dead, they take possession of the ball. The clock starts when the ball is kicked. If the kick is unsuccessful, the rules are similar to that of a normal missed field goal: the opposing team has the option of fielding the ball and attempting a runback, or of taking possession at the spot of the kick. A successful fair catch kick is followed by a normal kick off.
Fair catch kicks are permitted in the National Football League and at the high school level. Under National Federation of State High School Associations rules, a fair catch kick can be attempted under more circumstances; the option remains available if a dead ball foul occurs before the next play, or if a live ball foul occurs which leads to a replay of the down. Fair catch kicks are not permitted at the collegiate level under NCAA rules.
The last successful fair catch kick in the NFL was by Ray Wersching in 1976 for the San Diego Chargers against the Buffalo Bills. Since then, twelve fair-catch kicks have been attempted. Most recently, Mason Crosby of the Green Bay Packers attempted an unsuccessful 69-yard fair catch kick against the Detroit Lions on December 28, 2008.[4 ] This kick missed by only a few yards. Had he made the kick, it might have been considered the longest kick in league history, as it exceeded the 63 yard kick record held by Tom Dempsey and Jason Elam for a traditional field goal.[4 ]
A fair catch kick is very rarely attempted, as only a specific combination of circumstances makes it advantageous for the receiving side. The punt or free kick must be fair-caught at a point close enough to make a field goal attempt plausible. There will usually be insufficient time to run more than one play from scrimmage, so is only likely to be seen when the punt would otherwise be the last or next-to-last play of the half. If occurring in the second half, the receiving team would presumably be tied or trailing by three points or fewer so that a successful field goal is significant. Finally, when these rare circumstances are present, a well-coached kicking team should recognize that it is not in their best interests to allow their opponents to make a successful fair catch. They may thus employ any of several tactics to avoid that outcome, such as deliberately kicking the ball out of bounds or far away from any opponent, or running a non-punting play from scrimmage that allows the game clock to expire safely.
In the NFL, a fair catch kick may still be attempted if the half ends on the fair catch play. This is not automatic; a team's captain or coach must exercise this option.
There are several reasons to prefer a fair catch kick to a normal field goal attempt from scrimmage. A fair catch kick is taken from the same yard-line of the catch rather than the usual seven to eight yards back. The defending team must remain 10 yards downfield before the kick. This allows the placekicker a full running start rather than the normal two-step approach, with no concerns about a poor snap from center or a low angle of trajectory that might allow the defense to block the kick.
|November 20, 1933||Ken Strong||New York Giants||Green Bay Packers||30||good||3rd quarter|||
|October 23, 1955||Ben Agajanian||New York Giants||Pittsburgh Steelers||56||missed||0:30, 2nd|||
|November 2, 1958||Gordy Soltau||San Francisco 49ers||Detroit Lions||61||wide right||0:15, 2nd|||
|September 13, 1964||Sam Baker||Philadelphia Eagles||New York Giants||47||short||0:00, 2nd|||
|September 13, 1964||Paul Hornung||Green Bay Packers||Chicago Bears||52||good||0:00, 2nd|||
|December 4, 1966||Fred Cox||Minnesota Vikings||Atlanta Falcons||40||good||0:00, 2nd|||
|November 23, 1967||Bruce Gossett||Los Angeles Rams||Detroit Lions||55||short||0:03, 2nd|||
|November 3, 1968||Mac Percival||Chicago Bears||Green Bay Packers||43||good||0:20, 4th||game-winning kick|
|December 8, 1968||Fred Cox||Minnesota Vikings||San Francisco 49ers||47||short||0:00, 2nd|||
|October 5, 1969||Curt Knight||Washington Redskins||San Francisco 49ers||56||wide left||0:02, 4th||Game tied 17-17|
|November 23, 1969||Tom Dempsey||New Orleans Saints||San Francisco 49ers||57||short/wide left||0:00, 2nd|||
|November 1, 1970||Curt Knight||Washington Redskins||Denver Broncos||49||missed||0:00, 2nd|||
|November 8, 1971||David Ray||Los Angeles Rams||Baltimore Colts||45||missed||0:00, 2nd||Monday Night Football|
|November 21, 1976||Ray Wersching||San Diego Chargers||Buffalo Bills||45||good||2nd quarter||Last good known Fair catch kick. |
|November 25, 1979||Mark Moseley||Washington Redskins||New York Giants||74||short||4th quarter||Longest FG attempt on record until 2008. |
|September 29, 1980||Fred Steinfort||Denver Broncos||New England Patriots||73||missed||0:00, 2nd||Monday Night Football|
|November 18, 1984||Raul Allegre||Indianapolis Colts||New England Patriots||61||short||0:00, 2nd||Fair catch of onside kick|
|January 1, 1989||Mike Cofer||San Francisco 49ers||Minnesota Vikings||60||short||0:00, 2nd||NFC Divisional Playoff|
|October 9, 2005||Rob Bironas||Tennessee Titans||Houston Texans||58||short||0:00, 2nd|||
|November 23, 2008||Neil Rackers||Arizona Cardinals||New York Giants||68||short||0:05, 2nd|||
|December 28, 2008||Mason Crosby||Green Bay Packers||Detroit Lions||69||short||0:00, 2nd|
|January 9, 1966||Lou Michaels||Baltimore Colts||Dallas Cowboys||57||wide||0:00, 2nd||Playoff Bowl|
|July 29, 1972||Chester Marcol||College All-Stars||Dallas Cowboys||68||short||0:00, 2nd||All-Star Game|
|August 11, 1972||Mac Percival||Chicago Bears||Houston Oilers||55||short||0:15, 4th|||
|August 31, 1986||Rafael Septien||Dallas Cowboys||Houston Oilers||53||missed||0:00, 4th|||
|August 8, 1993||Chris Gardocki||Chicago Bears||Philadelphia Eagles||63||short||0:00, 2nd|||