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How to Score One Point in Football (Hint: Safety)

If I asked you how a single point is scored in football, I am 99.9% certain your response would involve the terms “extra point” or “PAT.”

And while your response would not be inaccurate, it would be incomplete.

Right about now, most of you are probably wondering if GameDayr subjects their writers to random drug screenings.

Well, football fans, not only do I enjoy a drug-free existence, ahem, I am about to drop some of the craziest football knowledge on you.

In this article, I address the one-point safety, how it came about, and how we will, one day, see the first one-point scoring play that is not the result of an extra point.  

Key Takeaways

  • A safety that occurs during an extra point or two-point conversion is a one-point safety, and the tackling team is rewarded with one point.
  • One-point safeties may be offensive or defensive, and they are exceptionally rare.
  • Division I college football has seen two offensive one-point safeties in history, while the NFL is still waiting for its first.
  • Defensive safety has never been recorded at any level of organized football.

How to Score One-Point Safety

If you are attempting an extra point or two-point conversion and safety occurs, the result is a one-point safety. [1]

The tackling team is awarded a single point for its efforts.

A one-point safety may be offensive or defensive.

Offensive One-Point Safety

An offensive safety happens as a consequence when the defense gets the ball in the field of play on a conversion attempt, and then a defensive player takes the ball into his own end zone and is tackled: The offensive team will get one point. [2

One way of scoring the offensive one-point safety is for the defense to block the offense’s PAT and recover the ball, only to fumble the ball and recover it in its own end zone. [3]

The video below shows one of only two offensive one-point safeties in Division I college football history. 

Even the announcers from ABC Sports were unfamiliar with the one-point safety and thought the referees had made an error.

Texas had just scored a touchdown off a blocked punt to cut Texas A&M’s lead to 13-12 in the 3rd quarter. The snap on the extra point was low and was bobbled by backup holder Matt Nordgren, causing Dusty Mangum’s kick to be blocked. A Texas A&M player picked the ball up but was immediately tackled and fumbled into the end zone, where another Texas A&M player recovered it. [4]

Related reading:

Defensive One-Point Safety

While an offensive one-point safety has occurred on five occasions in college football history (only twice in Division I college football), a defensive one-point safety has NEVER happened. [5]

This should make sense.

The defensive one-point safety remains nearly impossible.

A team attempting an extra point from their opponent’s fifteen-yard or a two-point conversion from their opponent’s two-yard line would have to screw up so horribly that they would end up in their own end zone, a minimum of 85-yards away and then get tackled in the said end zone. 

And, as that safety occurred during an extra-point attempt (or a two-point conversion attempt), only one point would be awarded – thus the defensive one-point safety. [6]

The Rule Changes that Opened the Door to One-Point Safeties

Before the 1988 season, the NCAA made a rule change, awarding college football teams two points for returning a failed extra point or two-point conversion. [7]

In 2015, the NFL revised the rule book. Extra points were to be moved back from the two-yard line to the fifteen-yard line, and defenses were allowed to return blocked extra points or two-point conversions for two points. [8]

The video below shows the first blocked extra point returned for two points in NFL history.

December 6, 2015 – New Orleans Saints against Carolina Panthers:

Furthermore, 2015 changed the safety rules on extra points and two-point conversions. Rule 11-3-2-c of the NFL Rule book states, “If the try results in what would ordinarily be a safety against either team, one point is awarded to the opponent.” [9]

In fact, in the pre-2015 NFL, if an extra point was blocked, the ball was declared dead when a defender touched it. This would make it virtually impossible to score a one-point safety because the referee would blow the play dead as soon as a defender picked up the ball. [10]

Under the new rules, the defender can touch and return the ball to the kicking team’s end zone for two points. [11]

Hence, there are no recorded instances of a one-point safety in college football prior to 1988, and, at present, there are no recorded instances of a one-point safety in NFL history.

The Last One-Point Safety in College Football

The last one-point safety in college football occurred in January 2013 during the Fiesta Bowl.

The video below illustrates Oregon’s offensive one-point safety against Kansas State:

Oregon vs. Kansas State (Fiesta Bowl), January 3, 2013.

Up 31-10 in the 3rd quarter, Oregon’s extra point was blocked and picked up by Kansas State on its own 2-yard-line. The Kansas State player then retreated into his own end zone, where he was tackled.

The following video examines the one-point safety scored by Oregon in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl and how a team might score one in the NFL (Viewer Discretion is Advised: Language):

The NFL’s Closest Near-Miss

While the NFL has never experienced a one-point safety, the Patriots v. Bills contest in 2018 almost produced the first offensive one-point safety in NFL history.

The Patriots attempted a two-point conversion following James White’s one-yard rushing touchdown.

Bills linebacker Julian Stanford intercepted Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s pass to Cordarrelle Patterson in the end zone.

When Stanford started carrying the ball out of the end zone, he fumbled it before crossing the goal line, and Buffalo recovered it in the end zone.

Had Stanford crossed back into the field of play and fumbled, and Buffalo regained possession of the ball back inside their own end zone, it would have resulted in the first one-point safety in NFL history. [12]

You can use this tweet as well to explain the Buffalo near-miss:

The video below illustrates the historic near-miss:

Closing Thoughts

While the one-point safety seems mythical to most fans, you can now attest to its existence.

If you’re a football fan who found this piece informative, I encourage you to stay tuned as I regularly address little-known football subjects.


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