Football Turnover On Downs

A turnover on downs in football is a change of possession that happens when the offense fails to reach the first down line in the allotted four downs. A turnover on downs is considered a turnover in football.

If an offense has a turnover on downs, it is usually thought of as a failure on the drive. If a team gets to fourth down, there are several ways to avoid a turnover on downs:


Punting is the most common way to avoid a turnover on downs. While punting still gives possession to the other team, it sends the ball far down the field so the opponent must travel much farther up the field on their next drive. This is called establishing field position.

Kicking a Field Goal

If the team is within field goal range and they reach fourth down, their best option is usually to kick a field goal. Kicking a field goal gets the team three points, which makes for a successful drive.

Getting a First Down (Fourth Down Conversion)

If it gets to fourth down, a team would love to get a first down. This is the only way they can retain possession. However, trying to get a first down is risky, as they could lose possession right where they are. If a team tries to get a first down on fourth down, it is often referred to as "going for it on fourth down." Games can be decided by the success or failure of plays like this.

Scoring a Touchdown

Scoring a touchdown is the best outcome a team came hope for when they reach fourth down. If a team reaches 4th and goal, they are likely to try to score a touchdown rather than kicking a field goal, since they are so close to the end zone.

Fake Punt

If a team does not want to give up possession of the ball, they might try a fake punt. This involves sending the special teams unit out and lining up in punt formation, only to have the punter try to advance the ball past the first down line. The punter will either pass to a receiver or try to run the ball himself.

Fake Field Goal

A fake field goal is similar to a fake punt. The special teams unit heads onto the field and lines up for a field goal. The long snapper snaps the ball, and the holder receives it. The holder either passes the ball, runs the ball, or pitches it to another player. The holder on a football team is often the backup quarterback, so they are especially useful for trick plays such as fake field goals.

football turnover on downs