Welcome to an overview of basic kick types in football. Here you will find everything you need to know about the different types of kicks you might see during a game, including when they occur and which players are responsible for completing each kick. Here is a complete list of kick types in football:
- drop kick
- free kick
- missed field goal
- onside kicks
- opening kickoff
- safety kick
- scrimmage kick
Kickoffs are executed by the team's placekicker, who kicks the ball downfield off of a tee. The kicker is surrounded by 10 teammates that are responsible for quickly running down the field and tackling the ball carrier once the ball has been kicked away to the opposing team.
There are two different situations that warrant a kickoff. Firstly, each game begins with an opening kickoff. A pre-game coin toss decides which team will receive the ball first, with the winner of the coin toss usually electing to get the ball first. The ball is then kicked away to the team that is set to begin the game on offense. Kickoffs are also performed following a scoring play. Once one team scores a field goal (worth 3 points) or a touchdown (worth 6 points plus an additional point for a short kick afterward), they must concede possession to the opposing team via a kickoff.
When a team that has just scored is still losing with little time left in the game, they will often attempt a special type of kickoff called an 'onside kick.' Rather than kicking the ball for distance, the kicker will try to kick the ball high in the air about 10 yards down the field to give members of the kicking team a chance to run under the ball and recover it before the receiving team can. Although it is unlikely, a recovery by the kicking team results in that team gaining possession of the ball. If the ball is touched before it goes 10 yards, the kicking team is assessed a penalty and the receiving team automatically assumes possession of the ball.
Field Goals and PATs
The placekicker is also responsible for all field goal and point-after attempts. If the offense cannot score a touchdown and is faced with their final chance to get a first down and keep the ball, they will often opt for a field goal if they are reasonably close to the other team's goalposts. At this point in the game, the kicker is sent onto the field to try and kick the ball through the posts (the ball is held in place by the team's designated holder). A made field goal results in three points being added to the team's score, while a missed kick results in zero points and the other team taking possession of the ball wherever the kick was attempted from.
When the offense manages to score a touchdown, the kicker is tasked with completing the point-after attempt (often abbreviated as PAT). PATs are attempted 33 yards away from the goalposts, and made kicks are worth an additional one (1) point. Barring a rare situation in which the defense blocks the PAT and returns the ball for a touchdown, the team that has just scored will kickoff to the opposing team regardless of whether the point-after was successfully converted or not.
Punts and Free Kicks
Each team's punter is responsible for punts and free kicks, both of which include the punter drop kicking the ball to the other team. Punts, much like field goals, occur when the offense still needs several yards to achieve a first down and keep the ball. There are many occasions in which the team is not close enough to the opposing team's end zone to attempt a field goal. Rather than run an offensive play and risk losing possession of the ball at the very spot in which the play started if the first down marker is not reached, coaches will usually opt to punt the ball. Good punters are able to drop kick the ball a long distance, forcing the opposing team to begin its offensive drive backed up in its own territory.
A special type of kick happens when the defensive team achieves a safety by tackling the opposing quarterback in his own end zone. Not only is the team awarded two points for their efforts, but they also receive possession of the ball by way of a 'free kick.' While the alignment of the kicking team is similar to a kickoff, free kicks require the punter to drop kick the ball downfield to the opposing team rather than the kicker booting the ball off of a tee.