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What Is Fumbles In American Football?

Fumble is a common word in the English language. However, does it have the same meaning as what you hear during intense games of football? What is a “fumble” in American football? 

A fumble in American football happens when a player loses possession of the ball. The player loses control of the ball when he is tackled or is struggling to stay inbounds. Fumbles could ultimately cost a turnover, an interception, or a down. 

Which NFL Player Has The Most Fumbles?

If there is a list of NFL players who have the most touchdowns, there is also a list of players with the most fumbles. Here they are:

Brette Favre, 166 Fumbles 

Brette Favre had 166 fumbles over the course of his 19-year career. He played most of his games for the Green Bay Packers. [1] Favre was tackled more than 500 times. 

Since he was a quarterback, all eyes of the opposing teams were focused on him. He was sacked even before making a forward pass. This attention was mainly the reason why he accumulated a lot of fumble throughout his playing career. 

However, fumbles didn’t make Favre a bad player for his team. He still earned multiple awards including some MVP and championships. Remember, American Football is a team sport – Favre might have been tackled a lot of times but you can’t blame him. Perhaps the receivers didn’t spread out to find the opening. Or maybe the offensive line didn’t block well. Since he was their quarterback, he received all the sackings which resulted in fumbles. 

Players Next To Brette Favre

Next on the list with the most fumbles are:

  • Warren Moon who has 161 fumbles in total.
  • Dave Kreig with 153. 
  • Kerry Collins with 139. 

There is a long list of names after these three players. 

Among the active players, Eli Manning has the most with 125 fumbles. Manning has been in the league since 2004 and played his entire career for the New York Giants. [2]

All names that were mentioned have one thing in common. They are all players who played in the quarterback position.

What Is A Fumble Recovery?

A fumble recovery is a term when a player of either team recovers a loose ball. The defense may run into the endzone and score if they recover the loose ball. However, if the offense is the one trying to recover the ball, they will most of the time, “down it.” Still, it would depend on where the ball falls after a fumble. 

Take note that fumbles are different from not being able to catch a forward pass properly. If the player stumbles as he receives a forward pass, it would be an “incomplete pass.” It is completely different from a fumble. 

Teams practice how to recover a football properly. They try to fall on top of the ball instead of picking it up. But take note that this is not safe at all. This position could cause injury to anyone trying to dive for the loose ball.

There are also no rules on this kind of occurrence during a football game as long as players are making a massive effort in recovering the ball. Since there is no clear possession for either team, players will “pile on” the ball. To illustrate, a player jumps on top of another player. 

During these times, players can also be seen taking advantage of the moment. It was reported that some players poke the eyes of their opponents when they pile on top of each other. There are also reports that some players pinch their opponents rather than focusing on getting the ball. 

Can You Fumble on Purpose?

No, you cannot fumble on purpose. If the offensive team fumbles the ball beyond the carrier who loses possession, the play will be dead. But if it falls behind the player, they can recover it. 

This rule was set because of what happened on September 10, 1978. The Oakland Raiders defeated the San Diego Chargers through an intentional fumble. Clock is ticking towards the final whistle, Oakland is trailing 20-14. 

Ken Stabler intentionally fumbled to avoid himself being tackled. It was batted forward through the end zone. Dave Casper fell into the ball and scored a touchdown. Oakland converted the extra point and won the game 21-20. 

After that season, the NFL modified the rules of the game. During the last two minutes of play, a fumble ball may only be recovered by the player who was fumbled. Also, if the ball rolled forward as it fumbles and another offensive player recovers it, it would be ruled as a forward pass. 

Can A Quarterback Throw The Ball To Himself?

Yes, a quarterback may throw the ball to himself. Considering that he is wearing an “eligible number.” Another consideration is that he did not make a forward pass before passing it to himself. Plus, the quarterback did not pass beyond the scrimmage line

An example of this play was during the game between the Titans and the Chiefs back in 2018. Marcus Mariota of the Titans could not find an open receiver. So instead, he improvised. Mariota made his opponent deflect the ball, caught it, and scored a touchdown

In reality, a quarterback must be skillful to make a pass to himself. The pass should be high over the head of the defenders and he should run fast while ensuring that no defender is going to stop him. Yes, the quarterback may pass to himself but this kind of play is very idealistic. The pass can easily be intercepted, and teams would never try to do it on purpose. 

Final Words

Fumble is an important aspect in the game of football. The number of sacking and fumbles each game shows how much the players want to win. Winning a 50/50 ball is about concentration and determination. Players should be strong over the ball. They should also play through their opponents to get the possession. Do you think that fumbles make football more interesting to watch? Let us know what you think!

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1. “Green Bay Packers NFL – Packers News, Scores, Stats ….” 11 Aug. 2020, Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.
2. “New York Giants | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Scores ….” 11 Aug. 2020, Accessed 11 Aug. 2020.

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