What Is An Incomplete Pass Versus A Complete Pass In Football?

Incomplete Passes

A pass that is caught out of bounds is called an incomplete pass. Officials will rule the ball dead if a player steps on or crosses the boundary lines of the field while holding the ball.

In the NFL, a player must have two feet inbounds when catching a pass for the pass to be ruled complete. In college football, a player only needs one foot inbounds when catching a pass.

The pass will be ruled complete as long as the two feet touched down inbounds. A receiver must also maintain control of the ball when falling to the ground. A receiver's body can technically be out of bounds and over the plane of out of bounds, but as long as the feet are inbounds it still counts.

Complete Passes

A complete pass is one that was caught in bounds by a player. If a ball is caught out of bounds it is called incomplete because the play stops and was never completed. However, it still is permitted for a player to catch the ball in bounds on two feet and then step out of bounds. The person must also be in control of the ball when making a complete pass in order for it to pass.