Field goal

What is the Definition of Field Goal in American Football?

A field goal in American Football is a means of scoring that involves a specialized kicker propelling the ball through the uprights of the goalpost. This method of scoring is typically attempted when a team is within field goal range, which is usually within 40-50 yards of the goal line. Successfully kicking a field goal earns the team three points, making it an essential element in a team’s offensive strategy.

The attempt begins with the ball being snapped from the line of scrimmage to the holder, who places it on the ground, held steady by his fingertips. The kicker then takes a few steps back and at an angle, runs forward, and kicks the ball off the ground, aiming for the goalpost’s uprights and over the crossbar. To be considered a successful field goal, the ball must pass both between the uprights and above the crossbar. The art of perfecting a field goal kick requires precision, accuracy, and power from the kicker.

Key Takeaways

  • A field goal is a means of scoring three points by kicking the ball through the goalpost’s uprights
  • The attempt involves snapping the ball to the holder, who steadies it for the kicker’s powerful and accurate kick
  • Successful field goals depend on strategic decision-making, the kicker’s skill, and the support of the team’s other players.

Field Goal Basics


A field goal in American Football is a scoring play where the kicker place kicks or drop-kicks the ball through the goalposts over the crossbar during regular gameplay. It is a strategic option teams choose when they attempt to score points.

Point Value

A successful field goal is worth three points. Teams will generally attempt a field goal instead of striving for a touchdown, which is worth six points (plus a potential extra point or two-point conversion), in specific situations. Field goal range is the part of the field where there is a better chance that a field goal attempt will be successful.

Components of a Field Goal Attempt

A field goal in American Football is a scoring play where a team attempts to kick the ball through the opponent’s goalposts. It is worth three points and can be attempted from any location on the field. This section covers the three key components of a field goal attempt: the long snapper, the holder, and the kicker.

Long Snapper

The long snapper is a crucial part of a field goal attempt. They are responsible for snapping the ball to the holder, who is positioned 7 to 8 yards behind the line of scrimmage. This specialized player must be able to deliver an accurate and consistent snap, allowing the holder and kicker to execute the field goal properly. Precision and timing are essential for the long snapper’s role, as a poor snap can disrupt the timing and ultimately result in a failed attempt.


After receiving the snap from the long snapper, the holder is responsible for catching and placing the ball on the ground, typically on a small rubber tee. The holder must position the ball with the laces facing away from the kicker and at the correct angle to help ensure a successful kick. In addition to placing the ball, the holder must keep their knee on the ground to provide stability and help maintain the angle of the ball during the kick.


The kicker is the player responsible for actually kicking the ball through the goalposts during a field goal attempt. They must possess excellent leg strength, accuracy, and consistency to be successful in these high-pressure situations. The kicker will usually take a few steps back and slightly to the side of the ball before beginning their approach. As they move towards the ball, they must maintain their balance, strike the ball with the appropriate part of their foot, and follow through to generate the necessary power and accuracy to send the ball through the goalposts.

In summary, the long snapper, holder, and kicker each play essential roles in executing a field goal attempt. Each must perform their specific tasks with accuracy and precision to ensure a successful kick and secure the three points for their team.

Rules and Regulations

Distance and Alignment

In American Football, a field goal is a scoring play in which the offensive team attempts to kick the ball through the goal, i.e., between the uprights and over the crossbar. The entire ball must pass through the vertical plane of the goal. The distance from which a field goal is attempted varies, but the most common distances include between 30 and 50 yards. The success of a field goal largely depends on the accuracy and power of the kicker and the positioning of the ball by the holder.

Timing and Dead Balls

Field goal attempts can be made at any point during the game, usually on fourth down if the offensive team does not believe they can achieve a first down or a touchdown. The clock will continue to run during a field goal attempt unless there is a dead ball situation. A dead ball occurs when the ball has gone out of bounds, a penalty has been called, or a play has been blown dead by the officials.

Penalties and Fouls

Various penalties and fouls can occur during a field goal attempt, which can impact the success of the play. Common penalties include:

  • False start: An offensive player moves before the snap of the ball, resulting in a 5-yard penalty and replay of the down.
  • Holding: An offensive player illegally grabs or restrains an opponent, causing a 10-yard penalty and replay of the down.
  • Offside: A defensive player moves into the neutral zone before the snap, resulting in a 5-yard penalty and repeat of the down.

If a field goal attempt is successful despite a penalty committed by the defensive team, the offensive team can choose to decline the penalty and accept the points scored. If the defensive team commits a penalty during an unsuccessful field goal attempt, the offensive team may accept the penalty and retry the field goal from a closer distance.

Field Goal Records and Statistics

NFL Records

The NFL has seen its fair share of impressive field goal achievements. The longest field goal in NFL history is held by Justin Tucker, who made a 66-yard kick in 2021. The record for the most field goals in a single season is 44, set by David Akers in 2011. As for the career record, Morten Andersen leads the pack with a total of 565 field goals.

In terms of field goal percentage, Justin Tucker currently holds the top spot with 90.7% accuracy. The record for the most consecutive field goals made goes to Adam Vinatieri, who successfully kicked 44 in a row between 2015 and 2016.

NCAA Records

In college football, the NCAA also has its notable field goal records. The title of the longest field goal in NCAA history belongs to Ove Johansson, who kicked a 69-yarder in 1976. Meanwhile, the most career field goals record is held by Zane Gonzalez, achieving 96 field goals during his time at Arizona State from 2013 to 2016.

The most field goals in a single season record is shared by Kevin Kelly and Billy Bennett, who both kicked 29 field goals in 2004 and 2003, respectively. In terms of the highest career field goal percentage, Alex Henery holds the record with an 89.5% success rate while playing for Nebraska from 2007 to 2010.

Both the NFL and NCAA have witnessed some truly outstanding field goal achievements. These records showcase the skill and precision required by kickers to be successful in such a high-pressure position.


A field goal in American Football is a critical scoring opportunity that involves the kicker successfully kicking the ball through the goalposts. The goalposts consist of a crossbar and two uprights located on the end lines at the back of the end zones.

Teams may choose to attempt a field goal during regular gameplay for various strategic reasons, such as increasing their lead or catching up to their opponents. The field goal is worth three points, making it a significant aspect of a team’s offensive strategy.

Field goal range is another important consideration for teams when determining whether to attempt a kick. This range is typically 18 yards longer than the distance from the line of scrimmage to the goal line, as it includes the end zone and additional yardage for the holder to place the ball. Knowing the kicker’s capabilities and the field goal range can greatly impact a team’s decision-making during a game.

Special teams play a vital role in executing successful field goals, with units dedicated to specific tasks like kickoffs, kick returns, punts, punt returns, extra point attempts, extra point blocks, field goal attempts, and field goal blocks. Coordination and practice are essential for performing these tasks effectively and seamlessly on the field.

To sum up, a field goal in American Football is a pivotal scoring opportunity, and understanding the intricacies surrounding it can contribute to a team’s overall strategy and success.