Football Touchback

Football Touchback

A touchback in football is a ruling on a play when a ball is dead in the end zone, and the defensive team has possession. The ball has to have traveled into the end zone via the offensive team, typically via a kickoff or punt return. Read on to learn all about touchbacks in football.

What is a Touchback in Football?

A touchback is a special type of scenario in football that typically occurs on kickoffs and punts. In a touchback, the ball goes into the end zone or out of bounds through the end zone, giving possession to the team whose end zone it is. The way in which the ball is declared dead out of bounds varies, but oftentimes, on a kick return, the player who receives the ball will kneel in the end zone to declare the ball dead. Another common touchback scenario is for the kicked ball to simply enter the end zone and bounce out of bounds without being caught or to be kicked completely over the end zone.

Regardless of how it happens, a touchback results in the same thing: the receiving team gains possession of the ball and begins an offensive drive with the ball automatically placed at their own 25-yard line, which is the designated spot for a touchback.

When Does a Touchback Happen in Football?

Touchbacks can result from the following:

  • A kickoff or punt that lands in the end zone
  • A kickoff or punt that goes out of bounds in the end zone
  • A kickoff or punt returner takes a knee in his own end zone with the ball
  • The defensive team intercepts the ball in their own end zone and is downed or goes out of bounds through the end zone
  • The defensive team recovers a fumble in their own end zone and is downed or goes out of bounds through the end zone
  • The offense fumbles the ball forward out of the end zone
  • A kickoff returner calls for a fair catch behind the 25-yard line

What Happens Following a Touchback?

The ball is spotted at the 25-yard line following a touchback. The team who was on defense and gained possession of the ball will switch to offense and start a drive on first down

Previously, the 20-yard line was used as the spotting line for touchbacks, but the NFL altered this rule in 2016 to make the 25-yard line the new spot for all touchbacks. The change provided an incentive to the receiving team to take more touchbacks rather than trying to return kickoffs.

NFL Touchback Rules

If a ball is blown dead in the end zone, it is a touchback unless it is a touchdown or an incomplete pass. On a punt or kickoff, a ball passing into the end zone will be immediately declared dead, including if it strikes any part of the goalpost.


What is the meaning of touchback in football?

The meaning of a touchback in football is that the ball has gone into the end zone and the offense will take possession of the ball on its own 25-yard line. A touchback usually happens on a kicking play when the kick goes into the end zone, but it can also happen as the result of a team fumbling the ball in its own end zone or a kick returner making a fair catch inside the 25-yard line.

Where is the ball placed after a touchback?

After a touchback, the ball is placed at the 25-yard line. While this position is still inside the offense’s own territory, it is favorable enough to encourage teams to take a touchback when they are pinned inside or near the end zone, especially on a kick return.

What’s a touchback scored as in football?

Though it sounds a lot like the scoring play “touchdown,” a touchback is not actually a scoring play in football. Touchbacks occur when a kick, punt, or fumble goes out of bounds from within the end zone of the receiving team, being declared dead. In a touchback, no one gets any points, but the receiving team gets the ball at their own 25-yard line.