Difference Between Intentional Grounding vs Spike In American Football

Intentional Grounding vs Spike is a topic that fascinates many fans of football. Spike is entirely legal in the game whereas Intentional grounding is illegal.

Intentional grounding happens when a quarterback throws a pass with no chance of completion. This is usually done to avoid a loss of yardage, but the result is the 10-yard penalty. 

On the other hand, the spike is a time when a quarterback intentionally throws the ball into the ground. The main reasons for a spike to occur are to stop the clock in the late-game situation and to set up a play for the next play. It is not penalized in football.

The quarterback organizes both plays to stop the forward progress of the ball intentionally. But they are used in different situations and have different consequences.

Intentional Grounding vs Spike

The main difference between Intentional grounding and Spike is the receiver’s involvement in the play.

The receiver is only present at the time of grounding. Besides the roles of the receiver, we can find other significant differences in both plays. 

1. Purpose of the Play

The first major difference we can find in both plays is the purpose of the play. 

During the use of Intentional grounding, there is no realistic chance of pass completion. The play’s primary purpose is to avoid a sack or the loss of yardage. The quarterback is looking to get rid of the ball quickly, so the pass is thrown out of bounds or at a spot where there is no receiver. 

On the other hand, a spike occurs when the quarterback intentionally throws the ball to the ground to stop the clock during the ending moments of the game. In this situation, the quarterback is looking for time to plan the next move in the game. 

Spike is expected when the team is in the red zone and is looking to score a touchdown before the clock runs out. 

2. Penalty

The other main difference between the two plays is a penalty, as intentional grounding results in a loss of a down and a 10-yard penalty from the spot of the foul. The penalty is proven expensive for teams as it results in losing down, and the penalized team is forced to give up the yardage. 

But when the quarterback goes for the Spike, the team doesn’t get any penalties, and the team can continue their drive without losing any yardage. 

3. Requirement of Receiver 

The receiver is the main difference between these two plays. For intentional grounding to occur, the quarterback must throw the ball toward an eligible receiver which means that the receiver has to be in bounds and must have the ability to make a play. 

However, during the play of a spike, the ball is thrown into the ground, so the receiver is not a requirement. The quarterback throws the ball into the ground without worrying about the receiver’s position in the play. 

4. Movement of the ball 

The other key difference we can find at the time of both plays is the ball’s movement.

In intentional grounding, the ball can be caught and returned by the opponent for a touchdown after the ball is thrown. The ball is considered live during the whole play. 

But for the Spike to occur ball has to b thrown into the ground. The ball cannot be caught by anyone in the field, meaning it is considered dead once it hits the ground, and the opposing team cannot return it for a score. 

5. Time of the play 

The time of the play is also the main difference between both plays. Intentional grounding can occur at any given moment, but the Spike is mainly used during late-game situations where the team is in a hurry and is looking to score quickly to win a game.

What Is Intentional Grounding In Football?

Intentional grounding is a penalty in American football that occurs when a pass is thrown without an eligible receiver. The rule started in 1914. 

We have already talked about how Intentional Grounding and Spike are different from one another. But the rule of Intentional grounding might still be unclear to you. 

So, the rule has been around for quite some time, but with time, it has been modified several times to be a better fit for the game. 

According to the standard intentional grounding rule, if the passer throws the ball without a realistic chance of completion and there are no eligible receivers in the area, intentional grounding will be called. The team loses possession of the ball and must give it up to the opposing team when it occurs in a match.

But there are a few exceptions to this rule. One is in the grasp grounding, which occurs only when the quarterback throws the ball at the time of being tackled or is about to be tackled. This exception doesn’t award a penalty to the opponent. 

Intentional Grounding rule in NFL

Apart from the variations and exceptions, a few conditions must be met for intentional grounding to happen. 

The first condition is the passer should be facing the loss of yardage. The rule is not called if the receiver couldn’t complete the run to complete a pass. 

The second condition is the quarterback has to exist inside the tackle box for the penalty to be awarded. This rule was introduced in NFL in 1993 for the protection of Quarterbacks. Later in 2022, high school football started following the rule. 

The third and final condition is the ball must be passed when the receiver is well out of bounds. If a receiver is near and they just couldn’t catch the ball, then there is no penalty. If the pass gets deflected, then the penalty isn’t invoked.

What Is Spike In football ?

When the quarterback intentionally throws the ball into the ground just after receiving the snap, it is called Spike.

Homer Jones accidentally invented the Spike in the 1960s. During the game in 1965, Jones made a catch from a throwdown pass from Earl Morall. Back then, throwing the ball into the crowd was quite popular.

Jones was also about to throw the ball to the crowd, but he remembered that the act was banned then, making him throw the ball to the ground and invent the spikes.

But the play became more famous in the 1970s as the teams in NFL had found a new way to stop the clock without wasting a timeout. Before the Spike, teams had to rely on timeout or delayed penalties to stop the clock. 

The Spike is more often during the end moments of a game. The quarterback will receive the snap, drop back, and intentionally throw the ball into the ground as quickly as possible, hoping to score a touchdown or field goal later. 

Spike Rule In NFL

In the NFL, the spike play is governed by Rule 7, Section 2, Article 4 of the NFL rulebook. The rule states that a quarterback can spike the ball to stop the clock, but specific requirements must be met.

First, the Spike must be done immediately after the snap. If the quarterback takes more than one step or makes any other move before spiking the ball, the play will be considered an incomplete pass and will not stop the clock.

Second, the Spike must be done with the intent to stop the clock. If the Spike is done to conserve time before the next snap, it will be considered a false start.

Third, the Spike should be done behind the line of scrimmage. If the Spike is done after crossing the line of scrimmage, it will be considered an illegal forward pass.

Fourth, the Spike must be done with a one-step drop and a quick release. It will be considered a delay of game penalty if not done so.

If executed correctly, Spike is a dangerous tool for the winning team. But the slight delay at the time of Spike can result in wasted time and penalty. For instance, if the QB doesn’t throw the ball to the ground quickly, then the officials will call it a delay of the game, and a penalty will be awarded. 

To execute a spike play correctly, the quarterback must know the game situation and the ball’s location. They must also be aware of the location of their teammates and the opposing team’s defense.

Additionally, the quarterback must practice spiking the ball to develop the muscle memory necessary to execute the play quickly and accurately.

Intentional grounding and a spike are two unique plays in American football that involve the quarterback intentionally stopping the forward progress of the ball. However, they are used for different purposes and have other consequences. Understanding the differences between these two plays can help coaches and players.