About Football Glossary - Forward Progress

football forward progress
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Forward progress is a location on the football field to which a ball carrier’s forward momentum takes him before he is tackled to the ground by the defense. A ball carrier’s forward progress is declared to be stopped at a particular point where the officials deem that the player with the ball no longer has a chance of advancing the ball any further, due to the presence of defenders.

Forward Progress

Forward progress is utilized to determine the spot of the football at the end of a play, and where the next play will begin. At the end of a play, the football is spotted at the yard line where the officials ruled that the ball carrier’s progress has been stopped.

Forward progress is marked at the furthest point that a player’s momentum takes him on a play, even if he is pushed backwards by defenders. For example, if a receiver catches a pass on the forty yard line and his momentum takes him to the forty-two yard line, but he is then dragged backwards by defenders to the thirty-eight yard line while remaining on his feet and continuing to fight to move forward, the ball will be spotted at the forty-two yard line; the spot of the player’s furthest forward progress.


The ‘spot’, a central aspect of football games, is directly determined by a player’s forward progress. The spot is the final location of the football on the football field after the play has been blown dead by a referee. The football is spotted at the location of a player’s farthest forward progress. Typically, the furthest forward progress is the same as the furthest spot that the football itself has reached while in possession of the ball carrier.

Occasionally, a referee’s view of the end of a play is obstructed by players on the field. In this scenario, the referee uses his best judgement to estimate where the ball should be spotted. The spot of the football is a challengeable play in the NFL. This means that if a coach on either team does not agree with where the referee has spotted the football after a play he can opt to challenge where the ball was spotted. The referees then go back and look at the instant replay to determine if the placement of the football was accurate. If it was not accurate, the spot of the ball will be changed.

It is also up to the referee to determine the location of the ball horizontally, as well as vertically. This is where the hash marks on each side of the field are utilized. If a play ends between the hash marks, the ball is spotted at its current location. If a play ends outside of the hash marks however, the ball will be spotted at the nearest hash mark.

Examples: At the end of a play, the football is spotted at the point where the ball carriers forward progress is stopped, even if he is pushed backward by the defenders.