Touchdown! What is an Octopus in Football?

Picture this: It’s 4th and goal, the clock is ticking down, and your favorite team is trailing by 6 points. The quarterback takes the snap, scans the field, and fires a bullet pass to the wide receiver in the endzone. Touchdown! The crowd goes wild! But wait, there’s more… The coach boldly decides to go for the 2-point conversion. The team lines up, the ball is snapped, and the running back powers through the defense and across the goal line. That, my friend, is what we call an octopus in the wild world of football!

Eight Legs, Eight Points

So why the quirky name? Well, just like an octopus has eight tentacles, scoring a touchdown (6 points) followed by a successful 2-point conversion adds up to a total of eight points. It’s a rare and exciting feat that can shift the momentum of a game in a matter of seconds.

The term “octopus” was coined by sports writer Mike Tunison in 2019. In an article for Vice Sports, Tunison explained: “It’s a gambling term, but one I’ve always enjoyed… It’s evocative, and accurately conveys the scoring sequence. I hereby declare this to be football canon.”

Since then, the phrase has caught on among fans, commentators, and even some players. It adds a touch of whimsy to an already thrilling aspect of the game.

A Bettor’s Delight

For those who enjoy a friendly wager, the octopus has become a popular novelty bet. Sportsbooks will often offer odds on whether or not an octopus will occur during a specific game or even throughout an entire season.

In the 2020 NFL season, there were 85 octopi (yes, that’s the plural form!) across 256 regular-season games. The Pittsburgh Steelers led the league with 8 octopus scores, while the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts failed to record a single one.

Famous Octopi in Football History

  • In Super Bowl LI, James White of the New England Patriots scored an octopus in overtime to secure a comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
  • Alabama’s DeVonta Smith achieved an octopus in the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship, helping the Crimson Tide defeat Georgia.

The Rarity of the Octopus

Despite the excitement it generates, the octopus remains a relatively rare occurrence in football. Touchdowns are hard enough to come by, let alone adding a successful 2-point conversion on top of that.

In the NFL, teams typically opt for the safer extra-point kick (worth 1 point) after a touchdown, rather than risking a 2-point play from the 2-yard line. In 2020, there were 1,138 touchdowns scored, but only 84 successful 2-point conversions.

So the next time you witness an octopus unfold on the gridiron, savor the moment. You’re watching a special and elusive creature in its natural habitat. And who knows, maybe one day we’ll be talking about a “double octopus” – a touchdown, a 2-point conversion, and a successful onside kick recovery!

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