About Football Glossary - Pooch Kick

Kicker Nick Folk #2 of the New York Jets has a 'Pooch Punt' against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium on December 21, 2014
Kicker Nick Folk #2 of the New York Jets has a 'Pooch Punt' against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium on December 21, 2014. Al Pereira/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

A pooch kick, also known as a squib kick, is a short, low, line drive kickoff that often bounces around before it is fielded by a player on the receiving team.


In a pooch kick the ball is specifically kicked short so that the players on the receiving team that are typically designated to block are forced to recover the ball first, before the actual kick returners. The players on the receiving team lined up closer to the kicking teams are typically slower than the designated kick returners, so it is the aim of the kicking team to get the ball in their hands. Additionally, the odd bounces of the ball after a pooch kick may make it extra difficult for the receiving team to pick up and control. The added time it takes for the receiving team to field the ball allows the kicking team more time to get downfield and get to the ball-carrier to prevent a large return. Plus, the kicking team has less distance to cover in order to make a tackle, as the ball was kicked short, and there will be less blockers to deal with. So, while after recovery of a pooch kick the receiving team’s field position may be better than after a traditional kickoff, the potential of a big return, or a potential kick return touchdown is minimized. Thus, a pooch kick is often utilized against a team that has an especially dangerous kick returner.

Pooch kicks are also often utilized at the end of a half, as they can take more time off of the clock than a traditional kickoff. As it doesn’t travel to the end zone, the ball must be fielded and returned, and there is no potential for a touchback. Thus, the pooch kick is guaranteed to take time off of the clock, and often works to bring a half to an end.


The initial usage of the pooch kick in NFL football was by the San Francisco 49ers in the 1981 season. The first pooch kick actually occurred by mistake when 49ers kicker Ray Wersching miskicked a kickoff. Wersching’s miskick resulted in a short, low, oddly-bouncing ball that was difficult for the receiving team to field and control. 49ers Head Coach Bill Walsh noticed how difficult the ball was for the opposing team to pick up, and turned the pooch kick into a play in the 49ers’ playbook. The team famously utilized the pooch kick later that same season in Super Bowl XVI against the Cincinnati Bengals. Wesching kicked two pooch kicks in the game, one of which the 49ers recovered after the return was muffed by the Bengals. The 49ers went on to win the game 26-21.

Example: A pooch kick is often used against a team with a dangerous kick returner or as time is running out in the game or half. A pooch kick is less likely to be returned for a touchdown and uses more time off the clock than a normal kickoff.