A punt is a play in football in which a football player kicks the ball down the field. This is done to force the opposing team to start with the ball.
In most cases, punts are made on fourth down in order to avoid giving possession to the opposing team on fourth down.
A three and out occurs when a team fails to get a first down and punts the ball.
It makes scoring considerably more difficult for the opposing team when the punting team punts the ball down the field, ensuring the opposing team’s possession begins much further from the end zone.
How Does A Punt Look?
Okay now we know what a punt is let’s break down what a punting play looks like in football.
To start the punting play the ball will be snapped by the long snapper into the punter’s hands. The punter will then drop kick the ball down the field. The purpose of this kick is to push the opposing team as far back into their side of the field as they can.
The punt receiving team will have a designated punt returner waiting for the punt.
This player will attempt to catch the ball and return it back to the punting team. It is up to the punting team to tackle the punt returner to stop his progression.
As we stated earlier the point of this play is to worsen the receiving teams starting point for their next drive. In other words, you want the opposing team to have to drive as many yards as possible before they score.
There are four ways in which the location of the team’s next drive is determined by a punt.
Punting Out Of Bounds
The receiving team will start its next drive where the ball crosses the sideline if a punted ball goes out of bounds.
Punting out of bounds within the opponent’s five-yard line is an incredible feat and is known as a coffin corner.
In football, punting out of bounds is considered very costly and does not benefit your team very much. However, a punt out of bounds will always prevent the returner from making a big play.
A kicker may be referred to as a brand by Pat McAfee following a great punt.
Tackling The Returner
A second way to down the ball on a punt is by tackling the returner. If the return man catches the ball and begins running towards the kicking team’s end zone, the gunners will tackle him.
The opponent will start their next drive wherever the punt returner is tackled or runs out of bounds.
Additionally, if the punt returner knows he is about to be tackled, he has the option to call for a fair catch, which means the opponents will start from the position the returner catches the ball.
Fair catches are signaled by the player waving his hand in the air and ensuring that he does not receive a dangerous hit. Essentially, the player is signaling he is going to get tackled and the play should be stopped.
Punt Team Downing The Ball
As well as tackling the punter, the team which punted the ball can catch the ball as well. Sadly, catching your own punt does not mean you get the ball back.
Instead wherever the kicking team gets possession of the ball is where the opposing team starts. This allows players on the kicking team to grab the ball and down it before it reaches the end zone for a touchback.
A touchback is the final way in which a punt can be downed. A touchback occurs when a punt makes its way into or through the end zone. When a touchback occurs the receiving team will start with the ball at the twenty-yard line.
It allows the kicking team to grab the ball and run it down before the ball reaches the end zone for a touchback wherever they get possession of the ball.
Why Do Teams Punt Instead Of Trying For It?
It is because of field position that teams punt on fourth down instead of trying for it. Sometimes fourth downs are on your side of the field, so the opposing team must get at most fifteen yards to be in field goal range.
When this occurs, it is better to simply kick the ball down the field. This forces your opponent to move the ball a much wider distance if he wants to score.
What other Duties do Punters Have?
While punters spend most of their time on the field punting the ball, they sometimes have other jobs as well.
In field goals, the punter or backup quarterback usually catches the snap and holds it for the kicker. Another task punters often perform is holding kicks and extra points.
Some punters may also kick off. When a kicker is older, they may still be able to make field goals, but may not be able to consistently execute quality kickoffs.
It is during these situations that the punter takes over this role and kicks the ball down the field using their leg strength.
Punters can be used to play fakes and will run or pass the ball on some occasions.
That is all about punts in football. Learn more with our article on poor punting or the rules of blocked punts.