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Football Interceptions

What is an interception in football?

When a defender catches a pass from a player on the offense, it is called an interception, or they intercepted the pass. An interception is counted as a turnover for the offensive team and a takeaway for the defensive team. When the ball is intercepted, the defensive player can return the ball in the opposite direction to the opposite teams end zone for a touchdown. This is called a pick-six. If the defender is tackled with the ball, he is called down and his teams offense will take over the football.


Interceptions are plays in football where the pass thrown by the quarterback is caught by a defender rather than a receiver, resulting in a turnover. Interceptions are key statistics in evaluating quarterback and defensive back production throughout a season or career.

The rules regarding interceptions are the same as those surrounding a regular catch, meaning the defender must have two feet in bounds and maintain possession of the ball all the way to the ground. In many cases, the player who makes the interception will fall to the ground but will not be down by contact, allowing him to get up and run for as many yards as possible.

If an interception is made in the end zone, then the player with the ball can elect to take a knee rather than running for more yards, guaranteeing the offense the ball at the 25 yard line. If the interception is made in the field of play, then the defender can take a knee if they do not want to run it back.

Interceptions that are returned for touchdowns on two-point conversion attempts are only worth two points, rather than six.


Paul Krause is the NFL leader with 81 career picks, followed closely by Emlen Tunell with 79 and Rod Woodson at 71. Reggie Nelson has the most of all active players with only 38.

Night Train Lane set the record for most interceptions in a season with 14 in 1952.

Rod Woodson has the most career pick-sixes with 12 interceptions returned for touchdowns.