Q – When a team is awarded a first down from a defensive penalty, do they receive credit for the third down conversion?
A – No, because the actual result of the play did not result in a first down. And, unless it is an “add-on” penalty (facemask, personal foul, etc.) where yardage is tacked on at the end of the play, there is a very good chance that you won’t even have a recorded play from scrimmage (run, sack or pass)!
Defensive Holding, for example, results in a five yard penalty from the previous line of scrimmage, but no actual run or pass is recorded, so there is no play. And, if you have no play, you cannot have a third down conversion attempt.
Let’s say it is 3rd and 8 and you complete a pass for 10 yards and there is a personal foul penalty on the defense, resulting in an additional 15 yards added to the end of the result. You would, in that instance, have a successful third down conversion and a passing first down, PLUS an additional first down via penalty, because the penalty went at least ten yards from the spot of the passing first down! That’s right – two first downs on the same play!
But, had the completion only gone for five yards, leaving you three yards shy of a first down, the penalty, only, would have resulted in a first down. In that case it is an attempted third down conversion that did not succeed.
Here’s another example. Let’s say it is 3rd and 1 and the running back gains 3 yards, but the defense was offside. The offensive coach elects to accept the penalty because it results in two more yards in his favor. By accepting the penalty, the third down play was erased, and, if it does not happen, it’s not even a third down conversion attempt.