5-Minute Football : Touchback

A 5-minute lesson on touchbacks from Football for Normal Girls

Here’s another new feature for the 2013 Season: 5-minute Football: a quick lesson to help you better understand one part of the game. Today’s lesson? All about touchbacks.

First and foremost, what’s a touchback?

A touchback happens most often during kickoffs. You know when the receiver in the back of the field catches the ball in the end zone and takes a knee? That’s a touchback, and you’ll often hear it referred to as “taking a knee” in the end zone. But it’s only once instance of a touchback ruling, because a touchback is not a specific play. It’s a ruling in which the ball is brought out to the 20-yard line to start the next drive. (Also: drive = new offensive possession.)

There are several other instances in which touchbacks are ruled. Have you ever seen a kicker boot the ball into/out of the end zone on a kickoff? That’s automatically ruled a touchback, and the offense will start their drive on the 20-yard line as a result.

Here’s a tricky touchback situation: when the offense fumbles the ball into the opposing team’s end zone (the end zone the offense is trying to score in) and a member of the defense recovers the ball in the end zone or provides the impetus for the ball going out of bounds in the end zone, it’s ruled a touchback, and the opposing team will get the ball at the 20-yard line. This also works in reverse, as we witnessed last Thursday night.

For those of you who are keen observers of Week 1 action, you may recall the play. Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan intercepted Baltimore QB Joe Flacco and ran it into the end zone…but got a little overzealous in his celebration and dropped the ball prior to crossing the goal line for the touchdown. (It would have been a touchdown, not a touchback, had he crossed the goal line into the end zone because it was the offense’s end zone, not his own end zone.) (Let’s talk about end zones next week, shall we?) Instead, since the ball went out of bounds in the offense’s end zone and Trevathan, the defender, was the impetus, it was ruled a touchback for the Ravens, who went on to score on their next offensive drive.

In (very) short form: touchbacks occur when the ball is downed in the end zone or outside of the end zone and results in a drive which begins at the 20-yard line.

Make sense?

(Have a suggestion for a 5-Minute Football lesson? I’d love to hear it!)

Preseason Lowdown : Denver Broncos

football, preseason, teams, broncos

What’s the story? 

Would we have guessed that the Broncos would advance to 13-3 in Peyton’s first season in Denver? Maybe. Would we have guessed that the Broncos would be ousted in the final moments of a playoff game they seemed to have had in the bag by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Ravens? Maybe not. The Broncos are hoping to repeat the former and avoid the latter in this year’s Lombardi chase.

Leader and commander:

Peyton Manning John Fox.

New kid on the block:

Wes Welker, former Patriot. One can only imagine that the Patriots are wishing they could pull a Cher and Turn Back Time; one would highly doubt they would have been so quick to deal Welker had they known the apocalypse was coming for their starting receiving corp. Welker, on the other hand, now has the coolest resume of any current receiver, having caught passes from two future Hall of Famers (Brady and Manning) who are in the discussion of best-ever. Not bad company to keep.

Last year was…

…unexpected. A 13-3 season with a red hot Peyton Manning seemed like a formula for a deep playoff run, but one Mile High Miracle was all it took to end the dream before it started.

Survey says:

Peyton will lead the Broncos to first place in the AFC West. That is the closest thing to a sure bet you’ll get in the NFL this year (you’ll soon find out why as we cover the Chiefs, Raiders, and Chargers over the next few days) and is enough to earn the Broncos the #3 spot in the preseason power rankings. But can Peyton overcome his post-season demons (he’s 9-11 with 1 Super Bowl win) to lead the Broncos all the way to a championship? That’s the real question.

Divisional Breakdown : AFC West Teams

Today’s feature: AFC West Teams. And off we go:

The Denver Broncos

History: The Broncos were created as part of the original AFL and kept their identity throughout the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. Their most famous player is former quarterback John Elway, who led the Broncos to five Super Bowls, won two back to back, and is now the Executive Vice President of the team.

Current Players to Know: Peyton Manning, ousted from Indy, landed in Denver. His continuing career in Denver is without a doubt the biggest story of the season. DeMaryius Thomas is the wide receiver who caught the game-winning pass in overtime in last year’s playoff win against the Steelers. Von Miller is an outside linebacker who was selected to the Pro Bowl last year – in his rookie season.

Head Coach: John Fox

2011 Regular Season Record: 8-8

What to Watch For in 2012: Peyton Manning. Watch for his every move to be dissected relentlessly as everyone tries to figure out whether or not he’s still the player he once was.

The Kansas City Chiefs

History: The Chiefs were originally the Dallas Texans, and actually had considerable success under that moniker. However, after the move to Kansas City and the AFL-NFL merger, things started to go downhill. Their one and only Super Bowl win came right after the merger in 1970.

Current Players to Know: Matt Cassel was a standout backup quarterback for the New England Patriots when Tom Brady was injured in the 2008 season. That earned him a starting spot in Kansas City, where he was traded in the 2009 draft. Dwayne Bowe is the team’s best wide reciever by a landslide and an essential component of their offense. Dontari Poe holds down the defensive fort at nose tackle.

Head Coach: Romeo Crennel

2011 Regular Season Record: 7-9

What to Watch For in 2012: Matt Cassel will be starting at quarterback again after losing his spot last season to Kyle Orton, who was traded by the Broncos when Tim Tebow earned the starting job there. Orton has since left to assume the backup role in Dallas. Cassel will now have the responsibility of reclaiming the team and his former prowess.

The Oakland Raiders

History: Oakland was selected as the 8th AFL team even though they had no stadium, no ownership, and had not asked for a team. After holding a local contest, the new team was named the “Oakland Señors,” but after a few weeks the name was changed to the Raiders because…well…that’s so much better. The Raiders moved from Oakland to LA 1982 and then back to Oakland again in 1995. The team is synonymous with long-time owner Al Davis, who, though eccentric, was essential to the history and progress of the NFL.

Current Players to Know: Carson Palmer, former Bengals quarterback, will get the to start his first full season as the Raiders quarterback this year. When he’s healthy, Darren McFadden is an excellent running back. And the whole Defensive Line is of note for the Raiders, who dominate in this area.

Head Coach: Dennis Allen

2011 Regular Season Record: 8-8

What to Watch For in 2012: The Raiders have a new coach this year, but the Raiders have a new coach every year. Sometimes more often than that. Since they aren’t in the strongest division in the NFL they could have a decent shot at the playoffs if they could establish any kind of consistency.

The San Diego Chargers

History: The Chargers were part of the original AFL. They spent one season in Los Angeles before moving to San Diego in 1961. Surprisingly, since they are often playoff contenders, the Chargers have only been to the Super Bowl once (in 1963) and have never won.

Current Players to Know: Phillip Rivers has been the team’s quarterback since 2004. Ryan Matthews is an up-and-coming running back. Melvin Ingram was selected by the Chargers in the first round of this year’s draft and is expected to work wonders at the linebacker position as a pass rusher.

Head Coach: Norv Turner

2011 Regular Season Record: 8-8

What to Watch For in 2012: In the 2000’s the Chargers won five divisional titles in six years. They are always good. But they’re rarely good enough, especially in the past few years. It’ll be tougher for them this year with wide reciever Vincent Brown out with a broken ankle for at least half of the regular season and star running back Ryan Matthews out with a broken clavicle for 4-6 weeks.

Gone Campin’ : NFL Training Camp

I woke up this morning with butterflies in my stomach and giggles escaping with uncontrollable glee. And not because I greet each morning with a smile and a song, ala Snow White. I greet most mornings with decidedly un-Disney-esque sentiments. But this morning was different. Because this morning…Packers training camp begins.


Training camp is the pre-pre-season. It’s basically a really long audition for teams to figure out who makes the 53 man roster. It’s also the ultimate boot camp to get players back into football shape.

Because training camp marks the beginning of the football season and comes at the end of a 6 month football drought, it probably gets more hype than necessary. But really, enthusiasm is warranted after 6 months of racing, X games, and golf on Sunday afternoons. (My apologies to all of those sports and their fans…I just can’t handle it.)

Here’s what you need to know about the big training camp stories this season:


Peyton Manning beginning his reign with the Denver Broncos is the biggest focus point of training camp this year. You may have seen Peyton Manning on any number of commercials for automobiles and/or sneakers and/or Oreos. He was the franchise quarterback* for the Indianapolis Colts for the past 14 years and is one the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. However, after sitting last year out to due injury, the Colts decided to move on with a spring chicken: Stanford’s stand-out prospect and first overall draft pick Andrew Luck. Because transitional quarterback moves can create controversies (like the 49ers Montana to Young transition and the Packers Favre to Rodgers transition), Peyton decided to leave the Colts and pursue greener pastures. He found them in Denver. All eyes will be on how he plays post-injury (he had a year-long rehab from neck surgery) and how he fits with a new organization. (Additional trivia: You may also know Peyton’s brother, Eli Manning, who is the quarterback for the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants.)


Peyton’s arrival in Denver displaced their starting quarterback, Tim Tebow. You may know Tim Tebow because you don’t live under a rock. Homeboy is everywhere, and he’ll be a huge story of training camp because, well, he’s a huge story no matter where he goes, on the field or off.

After Peyton decided to come to Denver Tim was traded to the New York Jets, a media-happy team on their quiet days. The Jets are known for being big talkers and attracting lots of media attention for their unconventional antics, so adding Tebow, who already draws plenty of media attention for completely opposite reasons (parents: if your kids need a role model, look no further!), might cause both the New York and national media outlets to explode. From a football standpoint, it will be interesting to see how the Jets use Tebow, who is currently slated to be the teams back-up quarterback. The Jets are talking about using him in a variety of quarterback and non-quarterback ways, but again, it’s the Jets. And the Jets talk. A lot.


New Orleans. Oh, New Orleans. You’ve probably heard something about the Saints this off-season, whether it’s regarding the bounty program or the Drew Brees contract negotiations. The drama that unfolded over the past 6 months is what multi-million dollar movies are made of, but in short: the NFL uncovered a substantial “bounty” program run by the organization in which players were paid extra to take out other players on the field. The Saints deny the existence of this system and say they had a “pay for performance” program like many teams do. But in the end their head coach, Sean Payton, was suspended for a year as a result, along with numerous other player and coach suspensions.

The good news is that after months of negotiations the Saints finally reached a deal with franchise quarterback* Drew Brees so he will be back in New Orleans for the foreseeable future. Their training camp story is interesting because they’ve basically been decimated during the off-season with suspensions and bad news. They will also be without their interim head coach for the first 6 weeks of the regular season due to the bounty suspensions, so everyone will be waiting to see how they pull it all together in spite of their circumstances.


Training camp wouldn’t be training camp without a good holdout story. This season it’s Maurice Jones-Drew, who is “holding out” (not attending any team activities, including training camp) to try and get a better contract. The tricky part is that the Jaguars owner has already said that they expect Jones-Drew, the league’s premiere running back, to honor the last two years of his contract, and will not give him a long term deal. What happens next is a long, expensive stand-still to see who blinks first.


Namely: Andrew Luck in Indianapolis and Robert Griffin III in Washington. Both will garner lots of debate. They are two of the most highly esteemed quarterbacks to enter the league in the past several years (or…ever), which is why they were picked first and second in this year’s NFL draft, respectively. Too much will be made of their training camp experience because, after all, it’s just camp. But it will be a big story nonetheless, especially for Andrew Luck, who is replacing aforementioned legend Peyton Manning.


Here’s a little hometown love for Buffalo! They did WORK over the off-season, bringing in much-needed big name free agents. The biggest of which is Mario Williams, who chose to sign with Buffalo after leaving the Houston Texans. He plays defensive end, a key position on any team, but his addition to the Bills makes them about 1,000,000 times better. If they can pull it together on offense they could be legit this season.

To get the full effect of training camp, take a look at this video. And lest you think training camp is all work and no play, see Brett Keisel.

*a “franchise quarterback” is a team’s star player, the quarterback who they believe will lead their team for the foreseeable future