NFL Touchback rule: what exactly is this?

The divisional playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs had a lot riding on it. The Buffalo Bills looked to use their home advantage at Highmark Stadium to cause an upset, while the stacked lineup of the Chiefs looked to keep their juggernaut going.

In the end, it turned out to be quite an attritional affair as both teams battled it out in the cold. However, the game was marred by controversy, with one obscure touchback rule popping into prominence during the proceedings.

What is NFL touchback rule?

The NFL touchback rule is applicable to the result of a fumble that goes out of bounds behind the goal line. Consequently, if a player loses control of the ball and it escapes from the field after crossing into the end zone, it’s called a touchback, and the opposing team takes over. However, if the ball goes out of bounds before entering the goal line, the offense keeps possession where it fumbled.

Furthermore, if a ball touches any part of a pylon, it is considered a touchback, hence possession will be handed over to the defense at the 20-yard line. This rule makes football games more complicated because it emphasizes taking care of the ball and its positioning around the scoring area.

NFL to review the Touchback rule

After the conspiracy involving the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills’ defense, the NFL is now considering removing this archaic rule and replacing it with something that has little more relevance to the modern game.

According to CBS Sports, the touchback rule, “If a ball is fumbled in the field of play, and goes forward into the opponent’s end zone and over the end line or sideline, a touchback is awarded to the defensive team.”

Jonathan Jones, a leading NFL analyst, informed me that the league had already considered scrapping the rule in September last year. According to him, the rule changes could be: instead of automatically awarding possession to the defense, the line of scrimmage for the fumbling party could be pushed back to the 20-yard line. This could be treated like an intentional grounding penalty with a loss of down.

What are your thoughts on the league scrapping this archaic rule? Let us know in the comments below.


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