Intentional Grounding – Is it a sack? Is it Reviewable?

If you are watching football (and maybe grinding out a tight fantasy battle on a Sunday afternoon) you may see a quarterback throw the ball away to bail on a potential sack, and get called for intentional grounding. Is intentional grounding a sack and is it reviewable?

Intentional grounding is not a sack. Despite it functioning like a sack because it results in a loss of down and the ball being placed at the spot of the foul (as if a sack had occurred there), it is not recorded in the official game stats as a sack.

Intentional grounding is not a reviewable play. Illegal forward passes are a reviewable play, but that is only applicable to when a quarterback attempts to throw a forward pass when he is already past the line of scrimmage. Intentional grounding does not qualify to be reviewed under the current NFL review system.

Some fans and players think intentional grounding fouls should be counted as official sacks. In this article we will discuss that topic, plus discuss the potential of intentional ground becoming a reviewable play in the near future. We also will talk about related questions surrounding intentional grounding and how they impact the game.

Is Intentional Grounding a Sack?

For those wondering is intentional grounding a sack, as we discussed above, intentional grounding is not recorded as a sack. Even though how a play is recorded into the official statistics has no impact on the outcome of a game, some fans and players are left wondering why intentional grounding, which functions the same as a sack, is not recorded as a sack.

If a player tackles a quarterback behind the line of scrimmage, and at the last second in an attempt to avoid the sack the quarterback makes an illegal forward pass, then why wouldn’t this still just be recorded as a sack?

The answer is although some intentional grounding situations would have clearly resulted in a sack, not all intentional groundings are committed while a defensive player is taking a quarterback to the ground. This means not all intentional groundings would have for sure resulted in a sack had the quarterback not committed the intentional grounding penalty.

For example, a quarterback could panic and feel pressure (even if there isn’t any) and fire the ball into an open patch of ground with no receiver in the area and get flagged for intentional grounding. In a situation like that, there was no guarantee that a sack would have occurred.

So although all intentional grounding penalties result in the same outcome, which is a spot foul and loss of down (what is a spot foul in football?), it’s not fair to say all intentional grounding penalties would 100% have been sacks had the quarterback not committed the foul. This is likely the reason why the foul is not also recorded as a sack.

Also, it has always been recorded in this manner and so no change will likely ever be pursued because how it is recorded into the official statistics has no bearing on the outcome of the game. But there is no doubt that players can lose out on potential sacks because of how intentional groundings are recorded.

Compare this rule to the goal tending rule in basketball. When a shot is illegally touched in basketball, resulting in goal tending being called, the points are still awarded to the offensive player (even though there is no guarantee that the ball would have actually gone through the basket).

So with intentional grounding in football, we are left to wonder why a similar process can’t be used. If a quarterback illegally tries to avoid a sack, why can’t it still be recorded as a sack, rewarding the defensive player(s) for his effort? This is probably a case of, yes, it could be, but no, it never will be.

Intentional Grounding Fantasy Implications

If you are wondering whether your fantasy defense will be awarded with sack points because of an intentional grounding, the answer is no, they will not be awarded points.

Most all standard fantasy football leagues do not award points for intentional grounding penalties.

Having played fantasy for many years, this is a sick way to lose out on a couple fantasy points because the quarterback takes away a sack by committing an illegal forward pass. If this is you right now, I send my condolences.

Intentional Grounding Frequently Asked Questions

Is Spiking the Football Intentional Grounding?

Spiking the football is not considered intentional grounding. The rules do allow a quarterback to receive the snap and immediately spike the football to stop the clock. But if he drops back to pass, he forfeits that right and is no longer allowed to spike the ball to stop the clock unless he fires it near a receiver.

Is Intentional Grounding a Spot Foul?

Intentional grounding is a spot foul in football. This means the ball will be placed where the quarterback was when he released the pass.

Is Intentional Grounding in the End Zone a Safety?

Intentional grounding in the end zone results in a safety being awarded. Because intentional grounding is a spot foul, and the spot occurred in the end zone, the result of the play is a safety awarded to the defense.

Is Intentional Grounding a Loss of Down?

Intentional grounding is a loss of down. If a quarterback is called for intentional grounding on 2nd down, the next play will be 3rd down. The only time this would not be applicable is if the play had offsetting penalties, meaning the defense had also committed a penalty. Offsetting penalties result in the replaying of the down.

Does Intentional Grounding Result in a 10-Second Runoff?

Intentional grounding does result in a 10-second runoff near the end of a half, if all other components of the runoff rule are applicable. Intentional groundings throughout the other parts of a game do not result in a 10-second runoff.

Will Intentional Grounding Be Reviewable in the Future?

Although intentional grounding is not currently a reviewable play, will it be reviewable in the future? This obviously depends, but as of 2019 there is considerable energy in the sport to expand replay to cover penalties (but perhaps not all penalties) due to the New Orleans Saints NFC Title game loss in which a pass interference play was missed late. So, yes, there is a possibility that in the future intentional grounding could become a reviewable penalty. If you want to read more regarding the matter, click here.

Paul Johnson

Paul has been with us from our beginnings. He focuses on a wide range of sports, including NFL, NBA, MLB and golf.

Recent Posts