what is an interception

What Is An Interception In Football? Why Is It Important

Ever seen momentum change pretty fast in a football game? A defense under pressure from the offensive team can turn things around and become the offense. This usually happens when there is an interception.

So, what is an interception in football? An interception, also known as a pick, is a move that involves a pass where a ball intended for a player from the same team is caught by a defensive player. The pass, whether by hand or foot, can be caught by the opposing team leading to a change of possession.

So, what happens when the defense intercepts a pass from a quarterback intended for a wide receiver? There are also rules around interruptions in football.

Keep reading below to learn more about Interception rules and what happens next.

What Happens After An Interception In Football

After an interception in football, the defensive team that intercepts the ball becomes the ball carrier. In simple terms, the defense changes to the offense while the offensive team changes to the defense.

Play will continue and end only when you’re tackled or when the ball goes out of bounds. Play can also end when a player brings the ball back for a pick 6.

As the defense intercepts, the defensive player with the ball gains momentum and drives into the opposition half. Interceptions are pretty dangerous because of the momentum. 

It becomes quite hard for opposing teams to turn around and start chasing the defender. This is why most interceptions will lead to a pick-six.

After an interception, the momentum in the game changes. The defensive team that regains the ball also gains momentum and advances to score a pick-six. The offensive team will start defending right away and can tackle the opposition players to prevent them from gaining yards.

Interceptions in a football game can help determine the effectiveness of quarterbacks in a season. The number of interceptions a team gets is good stats on the performance of the quarterback and defensive back.

Example Of An Interception In Football

An excellent example of an interception in American football is when a Quarterback throws a forward pass to a wide receiver. However, for one reason or another, a defender ends up catching the ball instead of the wide receiver.

player in red jersey catches the football

Interceptions can occur in so many ways. A passer throwing the ball forward can misjudge and hit a defensive lineman’s helmet. This throws the ball off, and a defender can end up catching it before it hits the ground.

An interception will change the momentum of the game in the same way a fumble does. Catching the ball means you’ve stopped the offensive team from driving forward. You regain possession and start an attack that can lead to a pick-six football.

Even without a pick-six, an interception will give you good yards close to the end zone and excellent field possession to start a drive.

What Are The Rules To An Interception

However, interceptions are guided by rules from the NFL Operations. The main rules are:

  • The ball cannot touch the ground before the interception
  • There cannot be any sort of defensive pass interference

Defensive pass interference is when a player tries to interfere with the offensive team’s player trying to catch the ball. For instance, you cannot have a Free Safety tackle a Tight End player that is catching the ball.

If the Free Safety interferes with the tight end trying to catch the ball, then the referee rules a pass interference. The result is an automatic first down on the exact spot where the foul took place.

What if there is no pass interference and the ball didn’t touch the ground?

The receiver can drop that ball. However, the defense cannot intercept such balls since play becomes dead once the receiver drops the ball. It’s a move that occurs pretty fast, leaving teams wondering whether it was an interception.

There are times when games experience questionable pass interferences. This occurs when the referee reviews to see if the ball hit the ground before the defensive team intercepts. Referees use videos to determine whether the interception took place with the ball in the air after hitting the ground.

Overall, the rules are the same during interceptions as in the regular games. The defender usually needs two feet in bounds. He must also maintain possession of the ball to the ground.

You’ll always see the player intercepting and falling to the ground. However, the fall will not be because of contact. They always have time to get up and continue running for yards or a touchdown.

What if an interception in the end zone? What are the rules? 

While a defender intercepting the ball can run and advance, that’s not always the case as they can easily be tackled. Instead, they can opt to take a knee as opposed to running. When they do, they guarantee the offense the ball at the 25-yard line. 

Players can also decide to take a knee when they intercept the ball on the field. This usually happens when they don’t want to run back with the ball.

What Is Another Name For An Interception In Football?

An interception in football is also called a pick. An interception or a pick can lead to a touchdown of six points. It is what can happen after an interception. If the team goes ahead and scores a touchdown, then we say it has scored a pick six, which is a touchdown of six points after an interception.

football intercepted by player in white jersey

The official name is an interception, while a pick-six is an informal word. You can also hear some commentators refer to it as a pick-off.

Who Has The Most Interceptions In A Game By A Defensive Player

Rob Woodson leads with the most interceptions in a game by a defensive player. He has a total of 12 interceptions that have led to a pick-six. This is according to Pro Football Reference, which places Darren Sharper at number two.

Other players with high interceptions include Charles Woodson, Aqib Talib, Ken Houston, Deion Sanders, and Aeneas Williams.

Who Has The Most Interceptions In NFL History?

In NFL history, Paul Krause tops the list with the most interceptions. He has a total of 81 interceptions so far. In his best season in 1964, while playing for the Washington Redskins, he had 12 interceptions.

He went on and got his second-best number of interceptions in a season in 1975 while playing for the Minnesota Vikings.

Apart from Krause, other players with a good number of interceptions include Emlen Tunnell with 79, Rod Woodson with 71, Dick Lane with 68, and a tie of 65 for Ken Riley and Charles Woodson.

What Is An Interception In The End Zone Called?

Interceptions in the end zones are called touchbacks. This is because most interceptions in the end zones end with a touchback. It happens so because the player intercepting the ball will most likely be tackled before leaving the end zone.

The player with the ball will start at the 20-yard line. End zone interceptions triggers are rarely used, but most rulings end with a touchback.

A good example is a Monday night game between Washington and Dallas where an end zone interception occurred, and the defender was tackled. A touchback was given after a replay view.

Is An Interception A Tackle?

An interception is not a tackle. However, both are ways of regaining ball possession. Tackling does involve a challenge and physical contact with the opposition player. However, an interception does not involve any type of challenge. Players have to rely on mistakes and act fast to take advantage.

two players catching football

An interception involves anticipation, while tackling involves a challenge. When players make an interception, they anticipate the ball’s location after a pass and run to meet the ball there.

What’s The Difference Between An Interception and A Pick?

The difference between an interception and a pick is that a pick involves scoring through a touchdown after interpreting the ball on the same play. 

An interception on the other hand involves a defensive player catching a pass intended for a receiver without scoring a touchdown. 

Interceptions are great ways of stopping attacks from the offense and regaining possession. However, when an interception leads to a touchdown, then we call it a pick-six. 


There you go! That wraps up everything you need to know about an interception in football.

An interception is when a passer throws a ball to a receiver that gets caught by the defense. Interceptions in football are crucial and can quickly change the game’s momentum. They can lead to a touchdown in what we call a pick-six.

Interceptions make a great part in stopping the offensive attacks, regaining possession, and even scoring a pick a six. Teams that hold the upper hand in momentum and lost games because of interruptions. The defense quickly changes into offense, with teams in offense becoming the defense.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *