A Safety Score in American Football: Why is It Called a “Safety?”

Last Updated on July 12, 2022 by

Instead of risking a fumble or having to punt from the end zone and risk a blocked punt, the team would bring the ball down inside their endzone. This means they could stay within the 25-yard line, so there is no risk of a block. Because this strategy doesn’t take a lot of guts, it is considered to be a safety.

The safety is a defensive player who usually (but not always) plays behind the position of the linebackers. Their primary role is to defend against the opposition passes. However, they must be good open-field tacklers since they’re often the last man between a runaway right-back who’s busted a long run and the end zone.

A ‘safety’ allows the team possessing the ball to put it down in their own zone and then have the ball placed on their 25-yard line. This wouldn’t have made sense since there are no forward passes, but it would be unnecessary in today’s game. Safeties are the most uncommon method of scoring in the NFL and usually count for two points; however, it would count as a point if scored as an attempt at an extra point or two-point conversion.

The player is called safety because he often prevents scoring plays. He offers “safety” from big downfield plays because he is the last defender to beat. He can also fill in the defense gaps when players get blocked or behind. He is an all-purpose downfield defender and hence offers a backup “safety” to his teammates.

What Is the Most Famous Safety Score in American Football? 

Most Famous Safety Score in American Football

Probably the most famous safety score happened in NFL, by Jim Marshall on October 25th, 1964, as a defensive end for Minnesota Vikings, recovered a fumble, and returned it to his zone accidentally. This has been tagged the ‘Wrong Way Run’ and named one of the most embarrassing moments in professional sports history.

The safety usually covers the farthest back area in the backfield. So, in that sense, they are the last line of defense against the opposition. For example, if a quarterback throws a pass, it flies over the defensive line and the linebackers. Say the cornerback covering the intended receiver has fallen behind by a few steps. In comes the safety who is already downfield and has time to move in, react and attempt to block the pass.

Or, say the running back breaks through the line and is headed downfield for a big score. The running back keeps dodging people, but the safety, who was already downfield, gets the right angle on him and makes the tackle, saving a touchdown since he was the last defender. 

Types of Safety Scores in American Football

Types of Safety Score

Free Safety

The free safety tends to watch how they play; they fold and follow the ball and mount the role of the “defensive quarterback” of the backfield. The free safety is typically assigned to the quarterback to cover the man. Still, as the quarterback usually remains in the pocket, the free safety is “free” to double cover another play player well.

On pass plays, the free safety assists the cornerback and closes the distance to the receiver by the time the ball gets to him. If the offense puts a receiver in the slot, then the free safety may be called upon to cover the receiver. Because of their deep coverage and speed, free safeties are especially likely to make interceptions.

Strong Safety

The strong safety tends to be somewhat more robust and more prominent than the free safety. However, the word strong in this context is used because he is assigned to cover the “strong side” of the offense, a typically big—side on which the tight-wonderful receiver-type player lines up on offensive plays.

The strong safety tends to play closer to the line against the free safety, and assists in stopping the runs being made. He may also cover a player, such as an H-back or running back, who comes out of the backfield to receive a pass. A strong safety’s duties are a combination of those belonging to those of the other defensive backs and a linebacker in a 3-4 defense, in that he both covers the pass and stops the run.

Frequently Asked Questions

How did safety in football get its name?

Safety in football has two meanings. One is a defensive position, and the other implies the two points that can be scored for pinning the opposing team in their end zone. The score is the reason for the name ‘Safety.’

What is the meaning of safety in the NFL?

It is a Safety:

  • when an impetus by a team sends the ball behind its goal line.
  • If the offense committed is a foul in its end zone, the ball is out of bounds behind the goal line, or the ball is dead in the end zone in its possession.

What is a safety score in football?

In the NFL, a safety is scored when any of the following conditions occur: The ball becomes dead in the end zone, except for an incomplete forward pass, and the defending team is responsible for it being there. The ball carrier is tackled or forced out of bounds in his end zone. 

Why is a safety two points?

The defensive team at the time of the safety is rewarded with two points. The defense is rewarded for forcing the offense out of bounds within their endzone, tackling the offense in the end zone, or getting the offense to commit a penalty to force the ball into the end zone. 


In football, safety is a scoring play that gives the defense two points. It also refers to a position group on the defensive side of the ball that consists of the solid and free safety. Safeties are also called defensive backs and play a heavy role in pass/defense.

Regarding scoring plays, safeties are not very common in football. The safety position is more critical in making and defending plays in stopping the run and pass.

Reference 1: What Is a Safety in Football? Everything You Need to Know – Coaching Kidz

Reference 2: What is a Safety in Football? (Full Explanation) (footballadvantage.com)

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