Ask Ray . . . Football Rules and Scoring Questions

If you have football scoring or rules questions, please direct them to me.  Having been the head statistician for the Tampa Bay Bucs for a number of years back in the 1980’s, and also the head statistician for the 1984 Super Bowl (Redskins-Raiders), I have probably seen just about every iteration of how to score certain plays or how to understand different NFL rules.

So, if you are curious about how to interpret a ruling, or, if you’re just trying to win a bet with your buddy, feel free to reach out to me through this website and we’ll get you the answers you want.

Just hit the reply button at the bottom of this post and give me your questions.  All inquiries will be answered in this forum.

Ray Dunlap

15 thoughts on “Ask Ray . . . Football Rules and Scoring Questions

  1. Do fair catches count as a punt return for stat purposes?

    How do you treat running into kicker (5-yard penalty) and illegal block on return team?

    How do you score Time of Possession (TOP) when punt returner fumbles and offensive team recovers?

    How would you score net yardage for a 41 yard punt with holding on the offensive team during the return?

    Are all defensive penalties on an offensive scoring play assessed on the ensuing kickoff?

    If the punt returner fumbles after a 17-yard gain and the fumble is recovered by the kicking team, is any TOP awarded to the receiving (punt return) team?

    How much net yardage does the punter receive whenever a fair catch interference penalty occurs?

    Can defensive offsides (kicking team) be declined on a kickoff?

    How do you score a play when a player recovers a fumble and runs for a touchdown?

    Would a punter receive zero or -3 net yards on a 40-yard punt with a 43-yard return?

    Is holding on a punt return enforced at the spot of the foul or where the punt was caught?

  2. ok, I’m going to work through all the RP results that, over the years, I was never that sure on how to record them statistically! I’ll start with RP1.

    Result 3: QB mishandles snap, ball pops loose and, after mad scramble, he recovers it for 33 yd loss
    Result 4: Loose fumbled handoff is picked up by o6 (o6 attempts pass etc)
    Result 8: QB slips and falls while attempting handoff, loses 3 yds
    Result 9: Broken play, QB collides with another back and fumbles, d3 recovers 8 yds behind line

    Thanks Ray!

  3. Now RP2.

    Result 3: QB fumbles snap, picks ball up & laterals in desperation to o2, who attempts pass
    Result 6: While faking handoff, QB bumps into another back, he retains possession but loses 4 yds
    Result 9: Ballcarrier fumbles in backfield, ball bounces away, he recovers it while running towards own goal, is tackled for 20 yd loss

    thanks Ray!

  4. now RP 3 & 4. I’m getting the hang of it now, so this should go a bit quicker.

    Result 6: Ballcarrier gains 13 yds, then fumbles; ball bounces 12 more yds towards defense’s goal, recovered there by o5.

    Result 5: Bad snap goes through QB’s legs, o11 recovers for 3 yd loss
    Result 8: QB fumbles snap, o4 falls on ball for 1 yd gain
    Result 10: Center snaps ball one count early, ball pops into air and is caught by d2 at line, he returns it 1 yd
    Result 11: Ballcarrier fumbles handoff, ball rolls behind him, he falls on it in end zone, safety

  5. Ray, just had this happen and was wondering how you would score this? 2nd & 10, QB gets sacked for an 8 yard loss, penalty against the defense for incidental face mask.

  6. It depends . . . . . if the facemask happened on the quarterback as he was being tackled, it is scored as a sack for -8 and the 15 yard penalty is marked off from there and it is an automatic first down. If the facemask penalty was, say the defensive end pulling down the offensive tackle by his facemask (and that’s what it sounds like in this case), the sack is ignored and the penalty is assessed from the line of scrimmage – 15 yards and an automatic first down. It doesn’t make any “logical” sense, but that’s how the rule would be implemented.

  7. How much penalty yardage do you give the kicking team on a kick out of bounds………in know the rec. team gets the ball on their 40

  8. Art – On a kickoff out-of-bounds, the receiving team gets to choose to accept the ball 25 yards from the spot of the kick, or where the ball went out-of-bounds. NO PENALTY YARDAGE is assessed. It is a team penalty for zero yards.

  9. Hi Ray,

    2 questions in 1: If a field goal or punt snap is fumbled is that counted as a turnover on downs or as an official turnover? And if it occurs on a field goal is that considered a ‘miss’ for the kicker?


    • Chris – This is an interesting question that has a couple of different scoring interpretations. If the snap is fumbled on either a field goal attempt or a punt, it is charged as a rushing play, not a kick. So, you can never charge the kicker with an attempt and a “miss.” There was no attempt. Now, who gets credit for the run and the fumble? This will not really apply to APBA very often, but if the snap is clearly uncatchable by either the punter or the holder, then it is one run for the punter or the holder for zero yards, but the fumble is charged to the center. If the snap should have been caught, then it is recorded as one run for either the punter or the holder for zero yards, but now the fumble is charged to the person who should have caught the snap. All other yardage is incidental. Whether or not to record it as a turnover has to do with a couple of other factors. If the person recovering the ball is on the defense, then it is a turnover by fumble. If the person recovering the ball is on the offense, then it is a turnover on downs. The exception to this would be if the punt or place kick was attempted on any other down other than fourth down. In that case, if the offensive team recovers the ball, they just retain it and there is no turnover.

  10. Ray,

    If a pass is intercepted and the returner of the interception fumbles and loses that fumble is that a turnover for that team as well? Or are turnovers strictly applied to the offensive team at the start of a play where possession changes?


  11. This one throws me regularly. Completed pass, with a penalty that reads Defense Unsportsmanlike conduct 15 from line. Should that be enforced AFTER the completion?

  12. W68(TH( comes up and result of roll 46 is 5 (d2). I figure NT intercepts 5 yds. downfield.
    Penalty result is 30 facemask on defense. Does the penalty occur before the INT or on the return?

    • Since this infraction occurred as a result of the dice roll on the PASS and not the RETURN, I would consider it a pre-turnover penalty. The offense keeps the ball and the interception is reversed.

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