what is a safety in football

What Is A Safety In Football?

Safety in football is a term that is widely used. It can mean different things. If you’re learning about football, then you’ve probably heard the term safety.

So, what is a safety in football? A safety in football is a scoring play that gives a team two points. A safety position in football can also mean a player on the defensive side of the ball. There is a strong safety and free safety. Safeties are also defensive backs with pass-play roles in the defense.

Scoring a safety in football is not something that teams often do. There are different ways through which teams can score a safety.

As for the safety position, it’s one of the most important positions to help stop run and pass plays.

Join me below as I discuss the term safety in football.

Why Is It Called a Safety in Football

It’s called a safety because it’s the safest play a player would make. The score is the reason behind the name. The naming started a long time at the beginning of football.

When teams had the ball in their goalline, they would play a safety touchdown. This was placing the ball down behind the goal line. Doing so resulted in 25-yard ball placement.

It was considered a safety option as opposed to kicking or running the ball into the field.

How To Score a Safety

Teams can score a safety in different ways. First, they can score a two-point safety or a one-point safety. Below are some ways a team can score a 2-safety.

football player getting tackled
  • A defense forcing the offense to commit a foul on their end zone
  • A defense tackling an offensive player in their end zone
  • Forcing the offense out of the bounds in the end zone
  • Forcing the defense to take the knee in their end zone

Apart from scoring the two points, the defense gets the ball after a safety. Once play is over, the team in the offense gets a free kick. The freekick gives the team on the defense the ball.

The freekick is taken from 20 yards as a punt, place kick or a drop kick. This will be taken by the defense as a return or a knee to start a drive.

As you can see, scoring a safety is different from when the defense intercepts a pass.

The defense can also score a one-point safety. This occurs after they gain possession during a two-point conversion but get tackled in their end zone.

Here the rules of the offense and defense roles are changed.

What Happens After a Safety?

After a safety in football, the team that scored the safety plays a free kick from its 20-yard line.

Why Do Football Safeties Occur?

Safeties in football happen due to defensive mixes and lapses in the offense. There are different ways through which safeties can occur. Let’s look at some of them.

Safety Due to Offensive Penalty

A safety because of an offense penalty is the easiest to understand. A safety is given when an offense commits a penalty in their end zone. In such a situation, the offense starts to play in or near their end zone.

At a snap, the offense can commit a penalty in their end zone. A holding penalty only occurs in the end zone and not forward or one-yard line.

Safety Due to Tackle in End Zone

The second safety is one that occurs when a ball carrier gets tackled in their own end zone. However, the ball safety needs to be outside of their end zone when play starts and then voluntarily move with the ball into their end zone.

If the events don’t happen as described above, then it’s not a safety.

Safety Due to a Fumble

Teams can also get a safety when the ball fumbles in the end zone and goes out of bounds.

players on the field with football mid-air

A safety due to a fumble can happen in different ways. The first is when the ball carrier fumbles with the ball bouncing as players fumble around it.

It can also occur with the ball going out of bounds in the end zone before any player gets possession.

It can also occur when a long snapper throws the ball to the other side over the head of a punter. When this happens, the punter will likely kick the ball out of the end zone preventing a recovery from the returning team.

Other Safety Kicks

Other safety kicks in football occur when a kicking team lines up the ball in a 20-yard line. It can also occur in normal kicks when teams line at the 35-yard line.

The Penalty for a Safety

The penalty for a safety is the defense scoring two points and regaining possession. The team that got a call against the safety will have to kick the ball to the other team.

This can be done in the form of a punt or like a normal free kick.

What Is a One Point Safety

A one-point safety occurs when a team trying a two-point conversion ends up turning the ball over. It leads to the defense taking the ball from the end zone. However, before leaving the end zone, they get tackled.

Well, that’s how difficult it is for a one-point safety to occur. Simply put, a one-point safety can only occur when a team is attempting an extra-point or two-point conversion.

It’s a very doubtful scenario that has only happened twice in the NCAA. Since 1940, the one-point safety didn’t occur again in the NFL. In the NCAA, it happened twice as follows:

  • The first was in November 2004 in a regular season game between Texas and Texas A&M.
  • The second occurrence was in 2013 in a Super Bowl between Oregon and Kansas State.

In both instances, the ball was recovered by the defense that fumbled and threw the ball in their end zone.

How Often Do Safeties Happen in the NFL?

Safeties are not common in football. You’re not going to see them every day in a football game. They occur rarely; therefore, they are very exciting to watch. Safety is the least common way to score in a football.

american football athletes in a match

According to the NY Times, teams score a two-point safety at least after every 14 games. A safety is a rare occurrence in a football game, something that makes it exciting to watch.

You’ll experience like one safety on a weekend of the NFL. One-point safeties are even rare compared to two-point safety. The NFL has experienced one-point safety in 100 years.

Isn’t Safety Also a Player Position in Football

Yes, safety is also a player position in football. It’s a group of players that play on the defensive side of the ball. There are usually two types of safety, strong and free safety.

Has a Safety Ever Won a Football Game?

Football games have been won by a safety. A good example is when the Dolphins beat the Bengals on a third overtime safety. The defensive end Cameron Wake sacked Bengal quarterback Andy Dalton leading to a third overtime safety.

Who Gets Possession After Safety?

The team that scored the safety gets possession. The offensive team is forced to kick the ball to a team that scored the safety.


Well, that wraps everything from me! You now know what safety is and the different types of safety. Safeties remain the rarest ways to score in a football game. They are exciting when they happen and can change the game outcome.

Football fans need to understand the difference between a safety score and a safety position. Both are terms used in football but mean two different things. While the term safety is confusing, I hope the article was able to clarify things.

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