What Happens When A Defensive Player Catches A Pass In Football?

Most people know that, in football, passes are meant to go from the offensive quarterback to another offensive player. But sometimes, situations arise where a player on the defense is in a good position to catch a ball caught by the other team’s quarterback. Is this allowed in football? It absolutely is, and it’s one of the most dreaded possibilities that can occur in football! Offensive passes caught by a defender are referred to as “interceptions,” and below, we’ll go over how they work, and some penalties related to them.

Can a Defensive Player Ever Catch a Pass?

There are no rules prohibiting a defender from catching a pass, and defenders are always eligible to catch any ball that is thrown. Defenders (in most cases the defensive backs) actually try to predict where the quarterback is throwing the ball in order to catch it.


When a forward pass thrown by a player on the offense is caught by a defender, it is called an 'interception', or they 'intercepted' the pass. An interception is counted as a turnover for the offensive team and a takeaway for the defensive team. When the ball is intercepted, the defensive player can return the ball in the opposite direction to the opposite team's end zone for a touchdown. This is called a 'pick-six'. If the defender is tackled with the ball, they are called down and their team's offense will take over the football.

Penalties During Interceptions

A number of penalties can occur during an interception play, and can potentially impact the results of the interception. These include, but are not limited to, penalties such as:

If a penalty is called on the defense during a play where an interception is made, the ball will not be turned over, and the defensive team will be penalized. If a penalty is called on the offense during a play where an interception is made, the interception will stand, as the defense will almost always decline the penalty.