Football Turnover On Downs

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.

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)

On fourth down, the team’s only way of retaining possession is by reaching the first down marker. 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 can hope for when they reach fourth down. If a team reaches fourth 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.

Is a Turnover on Downs a Turnover?

In the NFL, a turnover on downs is not considered a turnover for the sake of scoring and statistics. The only actions typically scored as turnovers are pass interceptions and defensive fumble recoveries. However, many fans think of turnovers on downs as turnovers because they are just as costly strategically as traditional turnovers.

Is a Missed Field Goal a Turnover on Downs?

A missed field goal is a turnover on downs. Regardless of the down, the kicking team is on, possession automatically switches to the other team following a missed field goal. Thus it is technically possible to get a turnover on downs on a down other than fourth if a missed field goal occurs on that down.


What is a turnover on downs in football?

A turnover on downs in football occurs when a team unsuccessfully attempts to reach the first down line on fourth down. A turnover on downs results in the team that was on defense switching to offense. Teams try to avoid turnover on downs at all costs, so most teams will punt or kick a field goal on fourth down to avoid turning the ball over.