About Football Glossary - Goal-line Stand

A goal line stand is when the defense stops the offense at or near the goal line on a single play, or series of plays.

The Goal Line

The goal line is the line dividing the end zone from the field of play that must be crossed in order for a touchdown to be scored by the offense. If any single part of the football crosses over the goal line while the player in possession of the ball is in-bounds that results in a touchdown.

It is of course the duty of the defense to prevent this from happening, and when they do it on consecutive plays from a short distance this is considered a goal line stand.

Goal Line Defense

Goal line defense is the defensive set played anytime the offense is within ten yards of the end zone, or has ‘goal to go.’ Defenses often have special substitution packages or entire sets for such situations, as the game-plan is adjusted by both the offense and defense at the goal line.

Strategy at the Goal Line

Play at the goal line involves closer cramping of both the offense and defense. There is less ground for safeties to cover and defend, wide receivers do not have as much space with which to operate, run, and beat defenders, and quarterbacks are forced to throw shorter passes. The lack of space with which to operate adds a level of difficulty for the offense. Thus, offenses often rely on their running game when on or close to the goal line.

Offense at the goal line: The playbook is greatly reduced for the offense once they have goal to go. Obviously all deep routes and long passing plays are eliminated from the playbook. Offenses often opt to lean on the running game in the red zone in order to avoid potential interceptions or other turnovers created by proximity of all of the defenders.

Barring any penalties, the offense only has four total downs to get the ball in the end zone once they have goal to go.

Typically, teams will try to score three times, and if unsuccessful on all three, they will then opt for a field goal. However, if a team is down late in a game they may opt to use all four downs to attempt to score a touchdown. If the defense stops the offense of these attempts it is considered a goal line stand.

Defense at the goal line: The defensive strategy changes at the goal line as well, as the team has to worry about defending a limited, finite amount of ground. Many red zone defensive schemes involves blitzes and stacked defensive lines in order to prevent successful runs.

The defense also has the added bonus of the boundary of the back of the end zone. It is often difficult for a receiver to catch a pass and remain inbounds in the back of the end zone. Thus, the back of the end zone is sometimes referred to as the defense’s “twelfth man.”

Example: A goal line stand usually refers to a team's effort that keeps the opposition out of the end zone after they have started with a first down inside the five-yard line.