It's Blocked!

How often are field goal attempts blocked? And how does the rate vary by attempt distance?

I received a few requests to answer those questions after Monday night's field goal block for a touchdown return by the Patriots. It would also be a consideration in the final seconds of the Colts-Jaguars game Sunday afternoon.

Note that the distances on the chart below are for the line of scrimmage, not kick distance.

It looks as if the block rate tops out at 3.5% beyond the 25-yard line. I suspect the reason is simple ballistics. Normally, the best angle to launch any object for maximum range is 45 degrees. When a kick attempt is snapped from inside the 25, kickers have ample distance, so they can afford to kick at an angle greater than 45 degrees, which reduces the likelihood of a block. Once they get to the 25 and beyond, there is no benefit to kicking at and angle less than 45, so the block rate tops out there.

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10 Responses to “It's Blocked!”

  1. Anonymous says:

    The optimal angle is actually something less than 45 degrees, since you are trying to maximize the distance that the ball will be greater than 10 feet in the air and not just distance in the air. The logic holds, however. Whatever the optimal angle is, once you reach the distance where you can no longer afford to use a safer, higher angle, you level out.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, you also have the wind to contend with that makes the sub 45 degree launch angle optimal (this is why your golf driver has a ~9 degree loft)

    For a baseball, this launch angle is somewhere in the 35 - 40 degree range according to google answers.

  3. Brian Burke says:

    True. It's rare that 45 deg turns out to be the real optimum after factoring in all the other considerations.

  4. Brett says:

    The Jags undoubtedly made the right decision to attempt a 60-yard FG at the end of a tied game, but here are some important questions to consider: What percentage of blocked field goals are returned for TDs? What percentage of 60+ yard FG attempts are caught in the endzone and returned for a TD? Are game-winning FG attempts more likely to be blocked due to increased defensive effort on these plays? There is not a large enough sample to answer these questions definitively, but I would guess that beyond the 61-yard range, the probability of a return TD is higher than the probability of making the FG, and therefore it should not be attempted.

  5. Dan Schlauch says:

    I'm not sure if this is true, but it would make sense if placeholders were to sneak forward a foot or two on a long FG and move back a little on the chip shots.

  6. Brian Burke says:

    Good point.

  7. Neily says:

    I'm not sure that it would. If the would-be blockers are at the same point, then the height you gain from being able to use a slightly steeper angle would be less than the height you lose from having a foot or two less to ascend. Or would it? I've not worked it out, but it feels like it would.

  8. silentdibs says:

    What data set is used for this graph? All kicks this year, last year, this decade?

  9. Brian Burke says:

    Past 10 seasons.

  10. Anonymous says:

    What is the difference in the number of punts blocked in the different field zones? In other words how many punts are blocked inside the 5YL as to those punts kicked outside the 5YL? Does the number increase or decrease as you move away from your own GL?

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