There are two end zones, one on each side of the field. Each end zone is 10 yards long and 53 yards wide. The white line at the front of the end zone is called the goal line. When one crosses this line, it is considered "breaking the plane". For a touchdown to count, the ball must break the plane of the goal line. As long as the ball touches or breaks the plane, while a player is in possession of the ball, a touchdown will be rewarded.
Breaking the plane is when the ball crosses the goal line while a player possesses it. There is an imaginary line that rises from the goal line on the field and goes straight up. If the ball crosses the line at any point, it is considered a touchdown.
Officials stand on the goal line to make sure the ball breaks the imaginary three-dimensional plane of the goal line. These officials are called line judges and they must judge whether or not they think the football crossed the line during every scoring play. Luckily, each scoring play is reviewed in the NFL, so the likelihood the call will be correct is high.
Pylons are positioned at the front corners of each end zone. Officials use the two orange pylons that are on the goal line as a reference point to determine whether or not the ball breaks the plane. They help provide a raised reference point that makes that determination a bit easier. Players that are nearing running out of bounds may jump and reach the ball over the pylon to score, but the ball must pass above or stay within the pylons for a score to count. A ball that hits the inside of the pylon is considered to have broken the plane.
A coach may throw a challenge flag onto the field if they believe that a mistake has been made by an official. Certain calls and plays permit challenge flags. A challenge instigates a review of play with instant replay to determine whether or not the ball crossed the goal line. Challenges will either overturn the call on the field or confirm it.
In the NFL, all scoring plays are reviewed, so it is rare for a coach to challenge a score.
As a referee, there are situations where a scoring play is too close to call and must go to an instant replay. The referees are able to watch the play from several different angles while also communicating with upstairs officials to best judge the ruling of the play.
The camera angle that is most helpful when reviewing whether or not the ball broke the plane is one right on the goal line. Other helpful cameras are the one that is straight above the goal line looking down and the small cameras built inside of the pylons.
Breaking the plane in football is when the ball crosses the goal line at the front of the end zone. A player must be in possession of the ball for the touchdown to count. As long as the ball crosses the imaginary plane that goes straight up from the goal line, then the team is credited with a touchdown. The plane also counts the pylons at the front corners of the endzone. As long as the ball is above or inside of the pylon, and the player is not yet down, the team is credited with a touchdown.
Breaking the plane means crossing a specific line. The plane is the line that is being crossed. The plane is usually an imaginary line that rises from a specific landmark or bottom line. The plane is broken by an object, person, or ball.
Yes, the football is required to break the plane for a touchdown to occur. If the football does not break the plane, there is no touchdown. If a player runs to the end zone and their entire body crosses the plane, but somehow the ball does not, there is no touchdown. The ball must cross the plane before the player in possession of the ball is ruled down. If they are ruled down prior to the ball crossing the plane, there is no touchdown.
Rules on catches are much more complicated and permit different situations when the ball is not required to directly cross the plane.
The ball has always been required to cross the goal line in order for a touchdown to be scored. In recent years, it has become more common to dive over the pylon and sneak the ball in while one's body is airborne. Further, with replay growing, the controversy over breaking the plane and making the correct call has become a huge deal.