What is a Total Touchdown? When Does it Happen in the NFL?

Total Touchdown is a phrase I invented, to refer to a different scoring rule in the NFL than what you might expect. When you hear the term “Total Touchdown,” you are probably thinking of the NFL’s rules today: If a player picks up the ball at his own 20-yard line and runs it into the end zone, he gets six points. (If he runs it out of bounds, he gets zero.)

But that’s not the only way to score points, or even the most common one. In fact, Total Touchdown wasn’t even the first scoring rule used in pro football.

In 1892 there was a new variation on the old point-after-touchdown kick: if a player picked up the ball at his own 10-yard line and ran it into the goal, instead of just getting six points as under today’s rule, he got eight!

Then after World War II came another change: if a player picked up the ball on his own 15-yard line and ran it all the way to the other end zone, instead of just getting eight points as under today’s rule, he got ten!

A total Touchdown is not just a touchdown, it is a touchdown that counts as almost a touchdown. This can happen on the first play from scrimmage, the second play from scrimmage or anywhere in between.

It has nothing to do with who scored the touchdown. It’s a rule that determines what’s a touchdown and what’s not.

The NFL employs 17 scoring rules, but only one of them — Total Touchdown — is based on what actually happens during the game. The rest of them are based on what people assume happened when they watched games on TV and/or read newspapers or magazines.

If Total Touchdown were applied correctly all the time, the NFL would be twice as long.

In the NFL, a touchdown is called when a player catches the ball and gets both feet in the end zone. This is called scoring by a “total Touchdown.” But it can happen for different reasons.

In college, a touchdown can be called if a forward pass bounces off the ground or through the hands of an offensive lineman. This is called scoring by “touchback.” It happens so rarely that it doesn’t really count as a rule, even though we all try to follow it. In high school, not surprisingly, you can score touchdowns either by catching passes or by getting them into the end zone. Then there are soccer and Australian rules football.

But what about other sports? I asked this question on Quora , and people came up with many different answers. The most common was that in hockey a goal counts only if it’s scored by shooting the puck into the net. Not into your own goal, mind you: into someone else’s goal.

I don’t know about soccer or Australian rules football, but in rugby you can score by kicking the ball through the posts–but only if it goes between two posts. So there are at least four ways to score in rugby games, depending on which decision rule you choose for each case.

There are a lot of different ways to score in football, and the way a touchdown is scored has changed over time.

The old way of scoring was to count the total number of points a team got, plus any touchdowns it scored. The touchdown was not part of the total, so if the other team got one then the score would be 0-0.

In 1900, teams started to deal with this problem by counting any touchdown as six points. Since three points were still needed for victory, when you converted an extra point into a touchdown, you would now get one point instead of five and the score would go from 0-6 to 6-1 or 1-6. This is why it often happens that there is a kick for an extra point after a touchdown on a game-tying 2nd down play, but by rule you can’t add two points for the kick.

Then in 1948, the NFL adopted what was called “the Total Touchdown” rule: if after three tries the other team gets no further than your own 15 yard line — no matter how far they go — you will get six points from the game’s first down instead of three. Now if you convert that into a touchdown, you get nine instead of six and you win

Rules can be written to make scoring a touchdown easier or harder. They should be designed not to make scoring a touchdown too hard, but too easy is also a bad idea.

The NFL is organized around the concept of “total touches,” which is what passes, rushes, sacks and interceptions add up to. So you need three points for a touchdown and two points for an extra point.

Total Touchdowns are rare; since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 there have been about 32 seasons of games with at least 14 total Touchdowns. That’s about one every three years. But it’s not hard to imagine even more total Touchdowns happening in the future. In the 1992 season there was one; in 1983 there was one; in 1980 there was one; and so on.

The 2010 NFL season was the first in history in which a team went 2-14, 0-16 and 1-15. That same season there were three games with a total touchdown:

Week 14: St. Louis vs. San Francisco (49ers won 31-26)

Week 16: San Francisco vs. New Orleans (49ers won 10-7)

Week 17: San Francisco vs. LA Rams (49ers won 23-17 in OT)

So it would seem that when a total touchdown is called, it can be called on any forward pass. But that isn’t the way the rule book says it works. In those three weeks, the referee ruled that the receiver had to have both feet “touching” the ground. If either foot is still in the air by the time the ball gets to him, no touchdown.

In other words, if you get a fumble at about waist level and both feet hit the ground simultaneously, you are given credit for a touchdown six times out of seven games during the regular season.

Your team must be ahead by a margin of five points with 15 minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

This is called “the fourth quarter rule.” It’s not really a rule, but rather a tradition that goes way back. The only reason it exists is that fans used to have the game on their TV sets and the TV stations got complaints if they lost a few points at the end of each quarter. They were afraid viewers would get upset.

Throughout the 1940s, NFL games ended after three quarters, even though NFL teams still had to be ahead by at least nine points with 15 minutes left. But fans complained that they had to watch two full games and then wait an hour for the final quarter. So in 1946, the league changed its rules. Instead of ending a game after three quarters, they said they’d just leave the clock running until there was a touchdown.

And then in 1950 the Packers won 35-32 in overtime against Cleveland in Green Bay (later known as Lambeau). The first thing Commissioner Bert Bell did when he got back to New York was call his bosses in New York City and say, “You know what we’ll do from now on?” And his bosses said no: “We’re not going to let you do this

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