For the love of logic, put the touch back in touchdown

It’s a contact sport. Yet players can score without contacting the end zone. Why is that?

All of these plays were ruled touchdowns. Yet never did the ball or ball carrier touch the end zone. From 2020 to 2022, fans watched this more than 200 times.
Clockwise from top left: NBC Sports, Fox Sports, CBS Sports. Fox Sports

Airspace touchdowns 1) occur too often (almost 1 in every 4 games), 2) are farcical to watch, and 3) diminish the game we love. Fans deserve better.

Airspace touchdowns (ATDs) are:

Regular-season TD totals confirmed via Pro Football Reference.

Select (or scroll to) Scoring Offense, then view the AllTD column.

2023               2022              2021             2020

Fix the Rule NEWS of the WEEK

ATDs in the UFL

During the UFL’s inaugural 80-game regular season and three postsesaon games, we spotted 11 airspace touchdowns — and could have argued for a few more, but we counted only the most conclusive no-touch touchdowns that replays confirmed.

One of them, as seen in the accompanying video, involved Jacob Saylors of the St. Louis Battlehawks, who (to our eyes) was stuffed in front of the goal line by the DC Defenders’ defense.

Yet he was given credit for momentarily reaching a fraction of the ball into the end zone’s airspace (see our screenshot with the ball circled). THAT’s worth six points?

Our other photo shows Birmingham’s Marlon Williams performing a midair pylon poke that, even by UFL rules, qualifies as a touchdown even though neither he nor the ball ever contacts the end zone.

We had hoped that maybe the UFL, willing to test rule modifications, might be willing to give our proposed rule fix a chance during its debut season. Not this year. Maybe next?


Game images: ESPN/ABC Sports

What if break-the-plane logic was applied to other games?

Hole in one

The ball is clearly breaking the plane of the cup, so it’s in. Put me down for an ace.

Home run

Who cares if the ball is in the glove? It broke the fence’s plane on the fly.


Your corner three rimmed out? Easy. It dipped below the rim, so it’s good.


That bag is breaking the plane of the hole. We’ll take three points.


Look, the shoe is breaking the plane of the stake. Three points for me.

Inside Fix the Rule

In brief

What we’re up to, in as few words as we can manage.


Learn about the Super Bowl touchdown that lit our inquisitive fuse.

New rule

Few rules are perfect, but we say our idea is better than the existing rule.


What exactly are these orange foam antennae intended to do?


Not all ATDs are equal. The ugliest of them earn The Full McEnroe.