The NFL Rules for a Drop Kick (with Video)
If a kicker drops the football to the ground and kicks it immediately after it lands, he has completed a drop kick. If the ball drops more than once it is considered a fumble. In American Football's early history, the more rounded ball made drop kicks more predictable, and they were commonly used to score field goals and extra points. With the football's redesign, its pointier ends meant its bounce became dangerously unpredictable, relegating the drop kick to obscurity. However, it remains a legal kick in the NFL's official rules and can be used for field goals, extra points and fair-catch kicks.
Field Goals and Extra Points
An NFL kicker can use either a drop kick or a place kick to kick the ball through the uprights of the opponent's goal for field goals from behind the line of scrimmage, or to score an extra point following a touchdown. In 2006, New England Patriots quarterback Doug Flutie converted a drop kick for an extra point after a fourth-quarter touchdown against the Miami Dolphins. Flutie’s drop kick was the 43-year-old’s last play in the NFL, and the first successful drop kick in a NFL game since the Chicago Bears Earl Clark did it in the 1941 championship during the pre Super Bowl era.
The last drop kick field goal was a field goal at the 9 nine yard line made by Lions player-coach Dutch Clark. This field goal attempt occurred in a 16-7 victory over the Chicago Cardinals in 1937.
The NFL rulebook also allows drop kicks under a rarely used rule that allows the receiving team of a kickoff or safety kick to attempt a field goal. After signaling for a fair catch, if the ball is caught before it hits the ground, the team may attempt a field goal from that spot on their next play. The play is rarely attempted, and was last successfully used in 1968.
Often drop kicks on punts are not purposely done by punters. It often results from a dropped punt that is then converted into a kick attempt. The last to do this was Seattle Seahawks punter Micheal Dickinson in 2018. Cowboys punter Mat McBriar attempted a drop kick punt in a regular season game in 2010 and caused a fumble by letting it bounce more than once before kicking it.
Drop kick free kicks can also occur in the form of onside kicks. The kicking team has never recovered these in NFL history but it has been tried. Maybe Ravens kicker Justin Tucker will be the first to make it happen.
Jennifer Mueller began writing and editing professionally in 1995, when she became sports editor of her university's newspaper while also writing a bi-monthly general interest column for an independent tourist publication. Mueller holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and a Juris Doctor from Indiana University Maurer School of Law.