Football Defensive Pass Interference Penalty
Defensive pass interference is a penalty committed by the defense in the sport of football. It occurs when a defensive player blatantly interferes with an offensive player’s chance to catch the ball. Players on offense and defense can be called for pass interference, but this page will focus on the defensive side of the penalty. In the NFL, the penalty for pass interference is an automatic first down at the spot where the foul occurred.
In order for defensive pass interference to be called, there must be a forward pass that comes from behind the line of scrimmage. It does not need to pass the line of scrimmage or be a legal pass for pass interference on the defense to be called. Defensive pass interference may occur anytime from when the ball is in the air to when it is first touched; contact made by defensive players outside this time range is not considered defensive pass interference.
The single most common form of defensive pass interference comes in the form of illegal contact; this could mean shoving a player to create space, holding a receiver’s arms so they cannot make the catch, extending an arm across their body to prevent them from making a play, or hooking their body so they move out of position. Cutting off the path of a receiver without making contact or playing the ball is also prohibited.
Committing any of these acts against a receiver while the ball is in the air is considered defensive pass interference and results in a penalty for the defense and an automatic first down for the offense. As a defender, the best way to ensure that you will not commit pass interference is to limit contact with the receiver and instead either knock the ball out of the air before it reaches the receiver or knock the ball out of the hands of the receiver once they touch the football.
In order for defensive pass interference to be called, the illegal contact must be deemed to be intentional and not incidental. If one of these actions occurs as a natural result of playing the ball, a foul will not be called.
In the NFL, the penalty for a defensive pass interference call is an automatic first down from where the foul occurred. If this penalty occurs within the end zone, the ball is placed at the one-yard line. NCAA football rules place the ball at the spot of the foul, but only up to 15 yards, which is the maximum penalty for defensive pass interference. In the CFL, defensive pass interference is punished by an automatic first down at the spot of the foul or 10 yards from the point of the last scrimmage, whichever is closer to the offending team’s goal line. In high school football, the penalty simply results in a 15-yard penalty with down replayed.
|Defensive Pass Interference||Spot of the Foul, Automatic First Down||Spot of the Foul, Automatic First Down, Maximum of 15 Yards from Previous Spot||15 Yards from Point of Last Scrimmage, Automatic First Down||Spot of the Foul or 10 yards from Point of Last Scrimmage, Automatic First Down|
To make the defensive pass interference signal, the referee will raise both arms to their chest with their palms facing out, then make an outward pushing motion. The referee will then point with their hand to which side of the ball the interference was committed by: in this case, the defense.
- A defensive player makes contact with an offensive receiver and restricts the receiver’s ability to make a catch.
- A defensive player hooks an offensive receiver and causes the receiver’s body to turn prior to the ball arriving.
- A defensive player extends their arm across the receiver’s body, restricting the offensive player's ability to raise their arms up to make the catch.
Similar Penalties To Defensive Pass Interference
What is defensive pass interference in football?
In football, defensive pass interference is a type of penalty which occurs when a defensive player obviously inhibits an offensive receiver’s ability to catch a pass. This can occur if the defender pushes the receiver away from a ball, restrains their arms so they cannot make a catch, or hooks the player’s body so that they are turned away from the ball. Defensive pass interference is a major penalty in football and is often a game-changing penalty, as it carries heavy consequences.
What are the consequences of defensive pass interference in football?
In the NFL, defensive pass interference results in an automatic first down for the offense and the placement of the football at the spot of the foul. This can be a devastating blow to a defense, which is why pass interference is one of the most argued and hated penalties among players and fans. In the NCAA, defensive pass interference results in an automatic first down at the spot of the foul, but only at a maximum of 15 yards from the previous spot. In high school football, the penalty results in a gain of 15 yards from the last line of scrimmage and an automatic first down, while in the CFL, the consequences are an automatic first down at the spot of the foul, with a maximum of 10 yards from the previous spot.
Can you challenge defensive pass interference in football?
Currently, it is not possible to challenge any form of pass interference in football. Prior to the 2019-2020 season, the NFL did not permit pass interference to be reviewed by officials or challenged by coaches, but these rules were briefly changed for the 2019-2020 season after a blatantly-missed call of defensive pass interference in the 2019 NFC Championship Game. As a result of this missed call, the NFL briefly instituted pass interference reviews for the 2019-2020 season. However, after it was determined that the reviews had little overall benefit, the league scrapped them for the 2020-2021 season, and it is now again impossible to challenge pass interference calls. Unlike in the NFL, it is possible to challenge pass interference in the CFL.