What is a 1-Point Safety in Football? (Full Explanation)

By Coach Martin | Football Basics


There are many ways to score points in a football game. The most common point-scoring plays include a touchdown (6 points) and a field goal (3 points).

Smaller point totals are also given for conversions after a touchdown, including 1 point for an extra point and 2 points for what's known as a two-point conversion.

Teams can also score 2 points on a safety, which is a much rarer occurrence.

Even more rare is a 1-point safety.

This scoring play is so rare that not many people even know it exists -- but it does.

Let's take a look at the history of the 1-point safety, and what a team would have to do in order to convert one.

What is a 1-Point Safety?

It’s rather complicated for a team to score a 1-point safety.

Part of the reason for this is that it can only happen when an offensive team is either attempting an extra point or a 2-point conversion after scoring a touchdown.

There are three ways that a 1-point safety can occur.

1. The offensive team attempting the conversion somehow gets tackled in their own end zone

The reason this is next to impossible to imagine is that the offensive team will attempt this conversion from the opponent's two-yard line in most instances.

In the National Football League, extra points are attempted from the 15-yard line.

This means that the offensive team would need to fumble the ball and have it bounce all the way back to their own end zone. Then, an offensive player would need to recover the ball and get downed in his own end zone.

That would result in the defensive team getting 1 point.

Obviously, this is highly, highly unlikely to happen.

2. The offense fumbles the ball forward into the opponent's end zone

Then a defender would need to be called for an infraction for illegally knocking the ball out of bounds.

If he does this, he would be called for a safety, and the offense would be awarded 1 point.

3. The offense fumbles the football during its conversion attempt

Then a defender would need to cleanly recover the football and attempt to advance the ball.

While trying to advance the ball, if he goes backward and is tackled in his own end zone, then a safety would be called.

Because this happened during a conversion attempt, the offense would be awarded 1 point instead of the traditional 2 points a safety normally gets.

fumble pile during a football game

The History of the 1-Point Safety

Until recently, only the first instance described above could have even happened in the NFL.

In 2015, the professional football league changed its conversion rules a bit that opened up the possibility for the second and third examples to happen.

Before the rule was changed, a play was immediately called dead if a defensive player got possession of the football during a two-point or extra-point conversion attempt.

It would have been impossible for the second or third example to happen prior to that change.

In other levels of football, a 1-point safety has happened.

One of the most well-known instances happened in college football in 2013 at the Fiesta Bowl that year between Kansas State and Oregon.

Here’s how it happened...

Oregon scored a touchdown.

A Kansas State player then blocked the extra point attempt.

The ball was then picked up by a Kansas State player, who then ran the ball into his own end zone. He was subsequently downed in the end zone, giving Oregon a 1-point safety.

The one question you may have is why would a defender even put himself in the position that he could be tackled in his own end zone.

The reason is that in college football (and the NFL now, too), the defending team can score 2 points if they return a blocked kick, fumble, or interception on a conversion attempt to the other end zone.

This gives them motivation for trying to return a recovered ball, which in turn activates the possibility of a 1-point safety happening.


While the possibility for converting a 1-point safety is quite remote, it’s still a little-known way that a team can score 1 point in a football game.

Most people think that the only way to score 1 point is to kick an extra point.

But that's simply not true.

Still, it's very difficult to convert and, therefore, a very rare occurrence.

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