What is a Complete Pass in Football?
A complete pass in Football is when an offensive player, usually a wide receiver, running back, or tight end, successfully catches a pass and maintains possession of the ball long enough to be considered a ball carrier.
About Complete Passes
For a player to successfully catch a pass, they must catch the ball, land in-bounds, maintain possession of the football if they fall to the ground, and make a 'football move' (run forwards, backward, spin, juke, etc.) to be considered a ball carrier. If the player does not successfully catch the pass, it is called an incomplete pass and the next down in the down cycle will begin. If it is the last down, the ball will be turned over to the other team.
What if the Player is Tackled?
If a player is tackled in the process of catching the ball and the ball touches the ground, the play is dead and it is called an incomplete pass. However, if a player is tackled after successfully catching the ball and the ball comes loose, it is called a fumble and the ball is live for either team to recover. A player cannot be tackled while attempting to make a catch before the ball is in close range of the receiver. If a player is tackled after the ball is caught, if the player was over the ten yard goal, the next down begins. If not, the team proceeds back to the line of scrimmage to restart and try again on another down.
If a receiver is tackled before the ball is close enough to catch, the defense is penalized with a defensive pass interference penalty, which is a very costly penalty. The fouled team is awarded a first down at the spot where the foul occurred.