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Football Ineligible Downfield Pass Penalty

Football Ineligible Downfield Pass Penalty

A penalty for an ineligible downfield pass happens when an ineligible receiver is too far down the field before the ball is thrown past the line of scrimmage. Typically, an ineligible receiver is an offensive lineman. In the rulebook (for the NCAA and the NFL), ineligible receivers are not allowed to be more than one yard across the line of scrimmage, but officials tend to be lenient with this rule and at times allow ineligible receivers to be three to five yards past the line of scrimmage. This penalty is similar to holding, as it happens on a decent amount of plays, but is only called when it clearly impacts the play. The penalty in both college and the NFL is five yards.

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Table of Contents

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Definition

An ineligible downfield pass penalty is when ineligible receivers on the offense are too far down the field before the pass is thrown and before the pass is caught.

The ineligible players tend to be offensive linemen. When ineligible receivers are further than one yard past the line of scrimmage before their quarterback has thrown the ball, this penalty is called. It is a five yard penalty before the next play.

This penalty is only called on the offense and it only called on passing plays. On rushing plays, offensive lineman can be wherever they want on the field (after the snap) to block. On passing plays, they must not go further than one yard past the line of scrimmage because of this rule.

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Result

The result of an ineligible downfield pass penalty in football is 5 yards. The offense will start its next play 5 yards back from where they started the previous play.

PenaltyNFLNCAAHigh SchoolCFLAFL
Ineligible Downfield Pass5 Yards5 Yards5 Yards5 Yards5 Yards
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Penalty Signal

Football Penalty Signal Ineligible Receiver

When a referee calls the penalty of ineligible downfield pass, they will tap the cop of their head with their right hand and tell which player the penalty was on. They will then announce the upcoming down and yardage to go for the offensive team.

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Examples

  • On 2nd and 7, an ineligible downfield pass penalty is called. This results in the offense starting its next play at 3rd and 12 (regardless of what happened on the play before, when the penalty was called).
  • An offensive lineman is five yards past the line of scrimmage blocking a defensive player while the quarterback is still holding the football.
  • A tight end who is in the game to block, and is reported as ineligible prior to the play, is three yards past the line of scrimmage when the ball is thrown by the quarterback for 45 yards down the field.
  • An offensive lineman is four yards past the line of scrimmage when a wide receiver catches the ball directly behind them.
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