Fumbling Through the Endzone is not the Worst Rule in Football

When Browns receiver Rashard Higgins fumbled out of the endzone in the AFC Divisional playoff game against the Chiefs, and the Chiefs therefore gaining possession, Twitter lit up with people calling it the worst rule in the NFL. I disagree. It makes sense if you understand how the NFL feels about plays that occur in the endzone.

The Argument

Peter Bukowski tweeted “Oh hey look the worst rule in football”. I inquired why he felt that way and soon many people jumped in to agree with Peter. He responded with “Why should the defense get the ball? It’s not like that in literally any other part of the field”. But therein lies the crucial understanding to this play. IT DOES INVOLVE THE ENDZONE. 

Endzones are Treated Differently

Why is roughing the passer play on the 14 yard line penalized half the distance to the goal instead of being placed at the 1 yard line? Why is a holding or intentional grounding play in the endzone ruled a safety? It’s because the endzone is the goal of football so it’s treated differently.

Burden of Proof is on the Offense

Without the current rule, players could reach for the goal line on every play with no consequence if the ball goes out of bounds. They would just get to try again from the 1 yard line. It is supposed to be difficult to score with the onus being on the offense to beat the defense. It’s much like a trial, the prosecution has to prove their case. If the defense can force a fumble, they should be rewarded.


The only thing left to debate is what the punishment should be. The only thing that I agree with is that change of possession is probably too severe. At a minimum, I feel the ball should be moved back to the 20 yard line with a loss of down. This makes it less likely that the offense can score a touchdown but still likely they can get points out of the trip. It would still disincentivize the offense from diving for the pylon.

The Worst Rule in Football

The worst rule in football is when they made the change that defensive going across the line could cause a false start. 

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