Can a Team Score 1 Point in American Football?-College Leagues, NFL

John Rizzo

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Team Score 1 Point in American Football

American football is a sport known for its complex rules and intricate scoring system. While touchdowns and field goals are the primary means of accumulating points, there exists a rare and often overlooked method for a team to score just one point. 

This unique scoring play is known as a “safety,” and it results from a combination of defensive prowess and an obscure rule known as the “fair catch kick.” 

In this intriguing facet of the game, a team can potentially earn a solitary point by orchestrating a sequence of events that involves a failed fair catch kick attempt and subsequent safety. 

Though infrequent, this unusual scoring scenario adds an element of complexity to the sport’s rulebook.

Can a Team Score 1 Point in American Football?

In American football, scoring is typically associated with multiples of 6 or 3 points, with touchdowns being worth 6 points and field goals being worth 3 points. 

However, there is a way for a team to score just 1 point, and it’s a relatively uncommon play known as a “safety.” A safety is a defensive play that results in the opposing team being tackled or otherwise downed in their own end zone. 

When this happens, the defensive team is awarded 2 points, not 1. So, you might be wondering how a team can score just 1 point.

The answer lies in an obscure rule called the “fair catch kick.” This rule allows a team to attempt a free kick from the spot of a fair catch after a punt.

If the receiving team makes a fair catch, they can choose to attempt a field goal without any defensive players rushing them. If the field goal attempt is successful, the team is awarded 3 points. 

However, if the field goal attempt is unsuccessful, the opposing team gains possession of the ball at the spot of the kick.

Here’s where the possibility of scoring 1 point comes into play

If the field goal attempt is unsuccessful, and the opposing team does not advance the ball out of their own end zone on the ensuing possession and is tackled or downed in the end zone (resulting in safety), the kicking team is awarded 1 point. 

This is a rare occurrence in football and is hardly ever seen in professional games.

Concept of the 1-Point Play in American Football

Concept of the 1-Point Play in American Football

The concept of a 1-point play in American football is indeed a myth. In the standard scoring system of American football, points are awarded in multiples of 6 (touchdowns), 3 (field goals), and 1 or 2 (extra points or two-point conversions). 

However, there is no legitimate way for a team to score just 1 point through a single play or action.

The misconception likely arises from the idea of a “single point” being associated with safety. In American football, a safety is worth 2 points. 

This occurs when the defensive team tackles or down the offensive team in their own end zone. Some people might mistakenly think that safety is equivalent to 1 point, but it’s actually worth 2.

It’s important to emphasize that the scoring rules in American football are well-defined, and there is no provision for a single-point play in the game. 

The closest a team can come to scoring a single point is through a successful extra point kick following a touchdown, which is worth 1 point, or through an unusual combination of events like a failed fair catch kick and a subsequent safety, which would still result in 1 point, not a single play directly worth 1 point.

In summary, while the concept of a 1-point play in American football may be a common misconception, the actual scoring rules of the sport do not include such a provision. 

Points are scored in multiples of 1, 2, 3, or 6, depending on the specific play and situation, but a true 1-point play does not exist in the game.

Point Scoring System In American Football

Point Scoring System In American Football

The American football scoring system is a fundamental aspect of the game that determines how teams earn points during a match. It involves several methods for scoring, each contributing to the overall score of a team.

Here’s an overview of the key scoring elements in American football:

Touchdown (6 points)

The most significant scoring play in American football is the touchdown. It occurs when an offensive player carries the ball across the opponent’s goal line or catches a pass in the end zone. A touchdown is worth 6 points.

Extra Point (1 or 2 points)

After scoring a touchdown, the scoring team has the option to attempt an extra point, also known as a point-after-touchdown (PAT) or conversion. 

They can choose to kick the ball through the opponent’s goalposts (1 point) or attempt to score another touchdown from a short distance (2 points). Most teams opt for the 1-point kick, making it the more common choice.

Field Goal (3 points)

A field goal is scored when a team kicks the ball through the opponent’s goalposts during regular play. 

This is typically attempted on fourth down when a team is within range of the goalposts but not close enough to attempt a touchdown. Field goals are worth 3 points.

Safety (2 points)

A safety is a defensive play where the offensive team is tackled or downed in their own end zone. When this occurs, the defensive team is awarded 2 points. 

Additionally, the team that gave up the safety must punt the ball to the opposing team on a free kick from their own 20-yard line.

Two-Point Safety (2 points)

While extremely rare, if the defensive team causes a fumble or interception in their opponent’s end zone and is then tackled or downed there, it results in a two-point safety.

Conversion Safety (1 point)

This is an even rarer occurrence. If the offensive team fumbles or throws an interception on a point-after-touchdown (PAT) attempt, and the defensive team takes the ball into their own end zone and is tackled or downed, the scoring team is awarded 1 point.

Two-Point Conversion (2 points)

After scoring a touchdown, teams have the option to attempt a two-point conversion. Instead of kicking for an extra point, they try to gain two additional points by running or passing the ball into the end zone.

Has Anyone Ever Scored 1-Point in American Football?

Scored 1-Point in American Football

Yes, it is indeed a rare occurrence, but there have been instances in American football where a team has scored 1 point, specifically through a play known as a “1-point safety.” While this is extremely uncommon, it is a legitimate scoring play in the sport.

The most notable example of a 1-point safety happened during the 2013 Fiesta Bowl, a college football game between the Oregon Ducks and the Kansas State Wildcats. 

In this game, Oregon attempted an extra point following a touchdown. However, the kick was blocked, and the ball ended up in the hands of a Kansas State player.

That Kansas State player, while trying to return the blocked kick, was tackled in his own end zone. This resulted in a 1-point safety being awarded to Oregon.

In American football, a 1-point safety occurs when the defensive team legally gains possession of the ball in its own end zone after a blocked extra point or a blocked field goal attempt, and the player is subsequently tackled or downed in the end zone. 

The scoring team is then awarded 1 point. It’s important to emphasize that these occurrences are exceedingly rare, and most fans and even players may never witness such a play in their lifetime of following or participating in football. 

The rules governing these situations are intricate, and the conditions necessary for a 1-point safety to be awarded are highly specific.

How American Football Is Played

How American Football Is Played

American football is a popular and complex sport played primarily in the United States, characterized by physicality, strategy, and teamwork. 

It is played on a rectangular field with specific markings and involves two opposing teams trying to score points by advancing an oblong-shaped ball known as the “football” into the opposing team’s end zone.

Here’s an overview of how American football is played:

Teams and Positions

  • Team Composition: Each team consists of 11 players on the field at a time, divided into offense and defense. Teams also have special teams units for kicking and returning kicks.
  • Offense: The offensive team is responsible for scoring points. It includes positions like the quarterback (the leader of the offense), running backs (who carry the ball), wide receivers (who catch passes), offensive linemen (who block for the ball carrier and protect the quarterback), and tight ends (who block and catch passes).
  • Defense: The defensive team aims to prevent the offense from scoring. Positions on defense include defensive linemen, linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties.

Game Structure

  • Four Quarters: A standard football game consists of four quarters, each lasting 15 minutes (in professional football) or 12 minutes (in college football). There are breaks between the first and second quarters (the end of the first half), the third and fourth quarters (the end of the second half), and halftime.
  • Kickoff: The game begins with a kickoff, where one team kicks the ball to the other. The receiving team then attempts to advance the ball as far down the field as possible.
  • Scoring: Teams can score points in various ways, primarily through touchdowns (6 points) when the ball is carried into the opponent’s end zone, and field goals (3 points) when a kicker successfully kicks the ball through the opponent’s goalposts. Extra points (1 or 2 points) or two-point conversions (2 points) follow touchdowns.
  • Downs: The offense has four attempts, or “downs,” to advance the ball at least 10 yards toward the opponent’s end zone. If successful, they earn a new set of downs. If not, the opposing team gains possession.
  • Punts and Turnovers: If the offense fails to gain enough yards in their allotted downs, they often choose to punt the ball to the opposing team, giving up possession. Turnovers can also occur through interceptions (when the defense intercepts a pass) or fumbles (when a player drops the ball).
  • Clock Management: The clock runs continuously during a play but stops between plays. Teams must manage the clock strategically, especially in the final minutes of each half.
  • Overtime: In the case of a tie at the end of regulation, the game may go into overtime, where both teams get a chance to possess the ball and score. Overtime periods continue until a winner is determined.


The game includes a wide range of penalties for infractions such as holding, pass interference, and unnecessary roughness. 

Penalties result in yardage gains or losses, which can greatly impact a team’s field position.


Can a team score 1 point by intercepting a pass in their own end zone and then getting tackled there by the opposing team?

No, a team cannot score 1 point through this scenario. In American football, the interception itself doesn’t result in points.

Is there a way to earn 1 point if the opposing team commits a penalty in their end zone?

No, a penalty in the end zone typically results in either a safety (2 points) or a half-the-distance-to-the-goal penalty.

Can a team score 1 point if the opposing team commits a holding penalty while attempting an extra point kick or field goal?

No, a holding penalty during a kicking play may result in a retry of the kick from a closer position, but it doesn’t award points to the opposing team.

Is it possible for a team to score 1 point during a kickoff?

No, a kickoff itself cannot directly result in a 1-point score. Kickoffs are primarily used to start the game or resume play after a score, and the points scored in American football generally involve plays from scrimmage, field goals, or extra point attempts.

Can a team earn 1 point if a player fumbles the ball in their own end zone and it’s recovered by the opposing team there?

Yes, it is possible for a team to score 1 point through a fumble recovery in the opposing team’s end zone.

Wrap Up

While the idea of scoring a single point in American football may appear elusive, it is indeed a rare but legitimate occurrence in the sport. The concept of a “1-point safety” underscores the intricate rules and unique scenarios that can unfold on the gridiron. 

From blocked extra point attempts to fumble recoveries in the opposing end zone, these exceptional circumstances can result in a solitary point being added to a team’s tally. 

Such instances remind us that the game of American football is not only about the more common touchdowns and field goals but also about the unpredictability and complexity that make it a fascinating and dynamic sport.

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John Rizzo

I am a professional rugby player in the Washington DC-Baltimore area. I have been playing rugby for over 10 years and have had the opportunity to play in many different countries. I am also a coach for both youth and adult rugby teams. I graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Sports Management and Marketing. I am currently working on my MPA from American University and plan to pursue this career path after graduating next year. LinkedIn

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