what is a field goal in football

What Is a Field Goal in Football? The Ultimate Guide

For any fan, watching your team score a touchdown is a thrilling experience. However, a touchdown is not the only way for a team to score in football. In a few situations, teams can score what is called a field goal. 

So, what is a field goal in football? A field goal is a goal scored in regular gameplay when a kicker kicks the ball or drop kicks it through and over the crossbars. In simple terms, a field goal is a kick from a kicker that successfully passes through the goalpost.

Why would a team score a field goal instead of the common touchdown? How many points is a field goal? 

Join me below as we learn more about a field goal in football.

How Field Goals Are Kicked?

Now that you know what a field goal is, let’s see how the goals are scored. Why could teams even try a field goal when touchdowns get more points?

Field Goal Range

Teams will only attempt a field goal if they feel pretty confident about scoring. This is because the ball has to go through the goal posts and over the crossbar. It requires teams to have a better goal range.

Every kicker in a team has a field goal range. This is a realistic distance at which they can successfully kick the ball and score a field goal. You can calculate goal range by taking the ball spot on the yard line and adding 17 yards.

Why take 17 yards? The maths behind 17 yards is that the goal post is usually 10 yards behind the end zones while kickers stand 7 yards behind the scrimmage line. This gives a total of 17 yards that the ball must cover to go through and over the cross bars.


So, what’s the strategy behind a field goal? Why and when can a team attempt a field goal? First, it’s important to note that a touchdown is 6 points ( which can be 7 with an extra-point or 8 with a 2-point conversion) while a field goal is only 3 points.

american football and goal post

Teams will try a field goal when this happens:

  • In the first half when the time remaining is only enough to execute a single play
  • On fourth down and having the offensive team a yard or two from the first down and the goal posts are within 45 yards
  • When playing overtime and a field goal is the easiest way to end the game

The situations are ideal for teams to score a field goal. In some instances, teams will try a field goal when it’s unlikely their drive will be alive. However, the kicker must have a good chance of scoring. 

If not, a turnover will occur at the line of scrimmage in the NCAA or the spot of a kick in the NFL.

However, most teams will avoid attempting field goals from very long ranges as the chances of scoring are low. Furthermore, most field formations don’t cover punts.

How Many Points Is a Field Goal?

A field goal is three points. This is three points down from touchdowns which are worth six points, with an extra for a field kick or two more for 2-point conversions.

In the NFL, a touchdown is six points. However, it can become 7 points when you convert the extra kick. It can also get to 8 points when you risk a two-point conversion.

The extra point after a touchdown involves a kicker. However, it doesn’t count as a field goal. A field goal is separate and does not occur after a touchdown. You have to note the difference.

Field goals are pretty important in football despite being fewer points than touchdowns.

Why Do Field Goals Happen?

Field goals happen because teams have to find other ways to score apart from touchdowns. In the early history of football, field goals were worth 5 points while touchdowns and conversions were 4 points. However, rules have changed since then, and now field goals are three points.

They happen in football to make the game more entertaining. This is because players can score field goals from anywhere on the field. Several football games have been won on field goals.

Field goals are allowed since they give teams a chance to score even when the odds are against them. They make games more exciting while giving teams a variety of ways to score. Furthermore, when teams have little time for a play, they can opt for a field goal.

Why Do You Kick a Field Goal?

Teams kick a field goal when they are in their last down and within kicking range of the goal post. The kicking range is 45 yards in the NFL. Here, teams need to be a yard or two a new first down and within kicking range.

american football player in red jersey kicks football

They can also kick a field goal in the first half when there is enough time just for one more play. In such instances, teams find themselves outside timeouts. A field goal presents a great opportunity to add to their point tally before breaking.

A field goal when ending the first half is a great way to expire the ball. It will make it the last play of the half.

Lastly, teams kick a field goal as it can be a great way to win a game. If the game is towards the last minute, teams will try and waste time before kicking a field goal. 

For example, the New England Patriots won the XXXVI Super Bowl against the St Louis Rams through a field goal. They took a few minutes off the clock before scoring a field goal to win the game.

Where Do You Kick a Field Goal From

A field goal is kicked from 7-8 yards behind the line of scrimmage. When a team is attempting a field goal, offensive players will line up along the line of scrimmage. The players usually create a tight formation on the line or near the line.

7-8 yards behind, a holder and placekicker will set up the kick. A holder in the team is usually the team’s punter or quarterback. Some teams have special long snappers that attempt punts and field goals.

On the other side of the field, the defense will line its players close to the scrimmage line and try to block the kick. They also leave one defender behind in case of a goal miss to return the ball. 

The defense takes the spot, which is always a risk for the offense if they miss scoring.

Overall, the holder must hold the ball firmly and avoid any fumbles as the kicker approaches. The ball needs to be right for the kicker to goal through the posts and over the crossbars.

How Long Is the Football Field Goal Line to Goal Line?

The football field length is 360 feet. This is because the playing field length is 360 feet by 160 feet wide. At the end of each side, you’ll see lines called end lines.

player in white jersey kicks football

Goal lines are then established in the field 10 yards from the end lines. Field goal lines are usually placed 90-100 yards apart. End lines are usually 110 to 140 yards apart.

What Is the Longest Field Goal in the NFL?

There have been several field goals in the NFL. Which are some of the longest field goals scored? When measuring how long a field goal is, you measure where the holder placed the ball to the goal post.

In the NFL, the goal post is 10 yards away from the end zone. The average for a field goal kick in the NFL is 52 yards. However, there have been longer field goals scored than 52 yards.

Matt Prater holds the record for the longest ever NFL field goal kick at 64 yards. He scored the goal in December 2013 from 64 yards while playing for the Denver Broncos against the Tennessee Titans. The field goal took place in the first half towards the end as time expired.

However, before Matt, the record was held by Tom Dempsey in 1970 at 63 yards. Several players have scored goal fields at 63 yards, but Tom Dempsey was the first to break the record in 40 years.

The longest field goal in the Super Bowl is at 54 yards and was scored by Steve Christie playing for the Buffalo Hills in 1964. 

How Touchdown Is Different From Field Goals

Touchdowns are different from field goals in so many aspects. The first and main difference is how they are scored. A touchdown is scored by advancing with the ball into the opposite end zone. A touchdown score can occur as follows:

  • When the ball is behind, over, or above the opponent’s goal line and in possession of a runner advancing onto the end zone from the field.
  • The ball in possession of a runner who advances behind the goal line with part of the ball passing over the pylon
  • A legally inbound player catches a forward pass or recovers behind the goal line
  • A player with the ball touches the pylon, and the ball touches the pylon line before any part of his body apart from the hands and feet due to contact from another player

As for the field goal, the kick must be made behind the line of scrimmage from a fair catch or spot. The ball after kicking must also not touch any player or ground until it goes through the uprights and over the cross bars. 

Overall, field goals must have the entire ball passing the vertical plane of the goal.

However, a field goal is unsuccessful if the ball passing through returns without touching the ground, person, or any object.

football player scoring a touchdown

Touchdowns are also different from field goals in the number of points that teams score. A field goal is three points while a touchdown is six points and with an extra point for a kick or two points for a 2-point conversion.

Overall, most teams will go for a touchdown unless a great opportunity arises for a field goal.

Is the Extra Point Called a Field Goal?

The extra point in football is a field goal, but they both feature different plays. While an extra point is scored after a touchdown, field goals can be scored from anywhere on the field.

However, both the extra point and field goal involves a kicker. The rules of the ball going through the uprights and over the crossbars are also the same.

How Touchdown Is Different From Field Goals

 A touchdown is different from a field goal from the manner of scoring to the number of points. A touchdown must involve the ball over the end zone and with a runner. A field goal on the other hand involves a kicker and a holder kicking the ball through the goal uprights and over the cross bars.

What Is a 3-Point Field Goal in Football?

A three-point field goal is a way of scoring in football where punters kick the ball from anywhere in the field behind the scrimmage line. The ball then passes through the uprights and over the cross bars to score three points.

It’s another way to score in football apart from touchdowns earning teams three points. 


Overall, a field goal is a great way for teams to add to their point tally. While field goals are not common in football, they are crucial in the right situations and whenever opportunities arise. 

The NFL has seen some match-winning field goals. A field goal must be kicked from behind the line of scrimmage. Successful field goals must pass through the uprights and over the crossbars.

A score from a field goal is worth 3 points which is less than touchdowns where teams score 6 points or more with an extra kick of 2-point conversion. 

However, scoring a field goal is not easy, and the kicker must stay calm. If the weather is bad, kicking a field goal can be a little difficult.

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