The following are rules that apply specifically to defense.
Tagging the ball carrier
Easily the most consistently controvertial issue in an OFL game is the tag, thus understand a legal tag is critical.
A legal tag must consist of two palms to the body of the ball carrier. Fingertips do not count as 'hands'; nor does a piece of shirt or the ball count as 'body'. Arms also—unless tight against the body—do not count. The ball or hands never count. Our game is predicated on defenders accurately understanding if they've legally tagged the ball carrier.
Legal tag area
Legal tag area when one arm is tight against the body
The defender—once he's made the tag—must loudly say "I Got Ya!" or "Down!" or something to stop the play. Yelling "I Got Ya!" before actually tagging is a penalty. The play stops when you announce "Got Ya!" or "Down!" Therefore if you say it before you actually get the ball-carrier, you're cheating. Illegal (phantom) tagging is a 15-pace penalty from the spot of the foul, and automatic first down.
A offensive player is considered "down" when and where a defensive player tags the ball-carrier with two hands fully contacting the body (one hand if the player is on the ground). Touching only clothing (i.e. a small bit of T-shirt or the scrimmage vest), or tagging with fingertips, does not constitute a successful tag. Additionally, the ball does not count as part of the body.
Therefore as a defender, on a tag you should:
- Hesitate to consider whether the tag was legal
- Assuming it was, stay at the spot and loudly announce the down.
- Maintain your position until the new line of scrimmage is set. Defense is responsible for setting the line of scrimmage.
Grabbing a ball carrier's clothes to stop him/her is a penalty. Tackling or grabbing clothing is illegal (15-pace penalty from the spot of the foul, and automatic first down). NEW: Intentionally preventing a touchdown in the open field via the grabbing of clothing is an automatic penalty-touchdown, worth 7 points to the team in possession.
- THE PLAY IS DEAD WHEN A DEFENSIVE PLAYER SAYS "GOTCHA". The offensive player is down when and where the defensive team claims the tag occurred. Period.
- A QB is down the moment he/she is tagged, regardless if the arm is in motion.
As such, defensive players should be very sure they have applied a legal tag before yelling "Gotcha". A false tag is a penalty and it stops play dead, and everyone gets mad and the whole thing generally sucks.
Other note: If the quarterback is directly under center (for a direct snap), defenders cannot reach across the line of scrimmage for a tag, even on a blitz. The defender must have his feet across the LOS before a tag is allowed.
Defenses count to "four mississippi" before crossing the line of scrimmage - unless:
- The ball has left the quarterback's hands via a pass, handoff, kick, or dropped ball.
- There is any downfield blocking by an offensive player. Downfield blocking by the offense allows the defense to cross the line of scrimmage at will.
- There is a fumble in the backfield or the snap has been muffed (i.e. the ball hits the ground or is dropped by the quarterback during the hike.)
- The defense calls a blitz.
In any of these instances the defense can cross the line of scrimmage immediately.
Note: "Crossing the Line of Scimmage" means any part of the body going over the line. Therefore reaching over the line to tag the QB before the "4 Mississippi" count is not allowed.
Defenses do not have to rush the quarterback (they may choose to double-team a receiver instead), however they must audibly count to "4 Mississippi" anyway so everyone on the field knows what's going on.
The "4 Mississippi" count can be quick but it must be audible across the whole field.
Intentional grabbing/pulling of clothing is not allowed under any circumstances, even for defensive linemen trying to shed a block. Grabbing is a 15 pace penalty from the spot of the infraction.
Defenders may not line up directly over the center.
Defensive players who've been drawn offside by a fake hand-off or (if blitzing) by a phony snap count, or by accident, can retreat back across the line of scrimmage and re-set while the play continues without penalty. If the defense does not re-set, an illegal blitz will be called.
Defenses are allowed one "chuck" of the receiver to hold up the receiver and screw up the timing of the play, using open hands to the body. This can be only be done within one pace of the line of scrimmage (not 5 yards of the line, as in other forms of football).
Defenses are allowed one blitz per four downs. A blitz allows any number of defensive players to charge in without first counting to "4 Mississippi", as long as someone audibly shouts "BLITZ!". The player blitzing does not have to shout, but at least one defensive player on the field must shout it. Blitzing without yelling the word "BLITZ!" is a penalty (8 paces and automatic first down).
Fake or phantom blitzes are legal. Defenses can yell "Blintz!" or "Bits!" or "Shlitz" without actually blitzing (beer references are encouraged) in order to scare the offense into doing something stupid. Additionally, the defense can yell "Blitz" and not rush in, although they then lose their blitz for those four downs. Essentially, uttering the word "blitz" constitutes the use of the blitz play.
Defenses can also have a delayed blitz where they begin counting the Mississippi Count but then blitz mid-count.
An accepted penalty which re-plays the down allows the defense to blitz again.
- If the quarterback is directly under center (for a direct snap), defenders cannot reach across the line of scrimmage for a tag, even on a blitz. The defender must move his feet across the LOS before tagging.
- No blitzes are allowed on 2-point conversions or X-Point Plays
- Crossing the line of scrimmage without a valid count (example: crossing early before counting to 4 Misissippi) is an "illegal blitz" penalty: 8 paces and automatic first down.
Touchbacks are spotted 15 paces from the goal line (at the first cone).
Defending 2-point conversions and X-point Plays
On 2-point conversions, the defense can run back a fumble or an interception for 2 points (safety).
No blitzes are allowed on 2-point conversions or X-Point Plays.
Spotting the ball
The defense is responsible for collecting the ball and the scrimmage marker at the proper spot after the ball carrier has been downed. Purposely delaying this action during a "hurry-up" offensive series will be a delay of game penalty. An un-sportsmanlike conduct penalty will be assessed if the spotting is continually delayed.