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Dead zone (gridiron football)

The Colorado Mesa Mavericks attempt a 54-yard field goal from the 37-yard line against the Texas A&M-Commerce Lions in 2016. A field goal from that range has a low rate of success but was chosen over punting or going for a fourth down conversion.

The dead zone refers to an area on the field of American or Canadian football. An offence enters the dead zone of a football field when they are on their opponent's side of the field but kicking a field goal would likely be unsuccessful (any attempt over 50 yards) and punting the ball would not dramatically change field position.[1] The dead zone may exist anywhere from the opponent's 33 to 43-yard line where a field goal attempt would be between 50 to 60 yards and punting the ball would likely result in a touchback (the punt bounces into the opponent's end zone and they begin their drive on their own 20-yard line resulting in a net gain of 13-23 yards on the punt).

Depending on the quality of a football team's field goal kicker and their confidence in him a team's offensive dead zone may vary. A team's decision on fourth down in the dead zone is also dependent on game score and time remaining.[2] Many teams that find themselves in the dead zone prefer trying to convert a short fourth down rather than risk a missed field goal or punting the ball for minimal gain.[2] However, as field goal kickers in the NFL have become increasingly accurate (especially from longer distances), the dead zone on an NFL football field has been moved back.[3] For instance, as recent as 2013 NFL kickers were successful on 67.13% of their field goal attempts 50 yards or longer (a 50-yard field goal attempt means the offence was at their opponent's 33-yard line when attempting the field goal).[3]


  1. ^ Morris, Benjamin. "Kickers Are Forever". FiveThirtyEight. ESPN Inc. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  2. ^ a b Burke, Brian. "4th Down: When to Go for It and Why". NY Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Playing it Safe: Should Coaches Kick the Field Goal?". GeorgeTownSportsAnalysis. The Georgetown Sports Analysis Business and Research Group. Retrieved 17 January 2017.