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

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:

  1. Make sure you put some force into the tag. Hard tags are legal, as long as they're not malicious.
  2. Hesitate to consider whether the tag was legal
  3. Assuming it was, stay at the spot, raise your hand, and loudly announce the down.
  4. Maintain your position until the new neutral zone is set. Defense is responsible for spotting the ball.

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 netural zone for a tag, even on a blitz. The defender must have both feet through the neutral zone before a tag is allowed.

Last updated: Dec.16.2017