Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson nearly scored a touchdown with 41 seconds left in the half during Thursday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field, but fumbled out of bounds right before reaching the pylon.
The football crossed the plane as Jefferson lost possession and it was called a touchback, which means Eagles recovered the ball. They went on to score a field goal for a 13-7 halftime lead.
Touchbacks in the NFL happen all the time during kicks and punts, but the type Jefferson gave up is extremely rare.
Section 7, Article 3, Item 4-a of the 2023 NFL rule book states: “If a ball is fumbled in the field of play, and goes forward into the opponent’s end zone and over the end line or sideline, a touchback is awarded to the defensive team.”
Jefferson, 24, finished the contest with 159 receiving yards on 11 catches, but failed to score a TD. His touchback could have been the game-changer.
Justin Jefferson touchback can happen three different ways
The first way a touchback such as the one Jefferson suffered can happen is if the quarterback throws an interception in the opponent’s end zone and the defender takes a knee.
When the offense fumbles the ball into the end zone and the defense recovers on the ground, or if the defender takes a knee, a touchback is called.
The third way is exactly what happened to Jefferson. He fumbled the ball through the end zone and out of bounds after it had crossed the goal line with no clear recovery.
A touchback, which is not to be confused with a safety, always gives the receiving team possession at the 25-yard line. A safety happens when the ball carrier is downed inside their own end zone. Eagles beat Vikings 34-28.