End zone

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The end zone is a term used in both Canadian football and American football. The end zone is the area between the end line and goal line bounded by the sidelines. There are two end zones, each being on an opposite side of the field. It is bordered on all sides by a white line indicating its beginning and end points, with orange, square pylons placed at each of the four corners as a visual aid. Canadian rule books use the term goal area instead of end zone, but the latter term is the more common in colloquial Canadian English.



The end zones were invented as a result of the creation of the forward pass. Prior to this, the goal line and end line were the same, and players scored a touchdown by leaving the field of play through that line. Goal posts were placed on the goal line, and any kicks that did not result in field goals but left the field through the end lines were simply recorded as touchbacks (or, in the Canadian game, singles. (It was during the pre-end zone era that Hugh Gall set the record for most singles in a game, with 8.)

In the earliest days of the forward pass, the pass would have to be caught in-bounds, and could not be thrown across the goal line (as the receiver would be out of bounds). This also made it difficult to pass the ball when very close to one's own end zone, since merely dropping back to pass or kick would result in a safety (rules of the forward pass at the time required the passer to be five yards behind the line of scrimmage, which would make throwing the forward pass when the ball was snapped from behind one's own five-yard line illegal in itself). Thus, in 1912, the end zone was born. Each league used a different approach: Canadian football, which adopted the forward pass and the end zones in 1929 (far later than the Americans), merely appended 20- to 25-yard end zones to the ends of the existing 110-yard field, leaving the goal posts on the goal line and creating a much larger field of play. American football, on the other hand, took a different approach: 12 yards of end zone were added to each end of the field, but in return, the playing field was shortened from 110 yards to 100, resulting in the physical size of the field being only slightly longer than before. Goal posts were originally kept on the goal lines, but after they began to interfere with play, they moved back to the end lines in 1927, where they have remained in college football ever since. The National Football League moved the goal posts up to the goal line again in 1932, then back again to the end line in 1974.


A team scores a touchdown by entering its opponent's end zone while carrying the ball or catching the ball while being within the end zone. If the ball is carried by an offensive player across the goal line, it is considered a score as soon as the ball crosses the imaginary vertical plane of the goal line, which theoretically extends in a great circle around the world and infinitely into space as long as the player does not set any part of his body on the ground out of bounds (i.e. outside the sidelines) before the ball penetrates the plane. A touchdown can also be scored if the player makes contact with one of the pylons by the sideline. In addition, a two-point conversion may be scored after a touchdown by similar means.

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