What Is a Pick 6 in Football And How It Can Be A Game Changer?

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One of the most glorious moments in any American Football or Canadian Football game is a “Pick 6”. It is definitely one of my favorites, and it gets the crowd on their feet for a good reason, too.

So, what is a Pick 6 in American Football?

A Pick 6 is when one of the defending team’s players intercepts the ball and scores a touchdown. It sounds simple enough, but a Pick 6 is one of the rarest events you’ll see in a game.

Immediately upon intercepting a pass, everyone on defense becomes a blocker. Their job is to get as much yardage as possible for the player who caught the ball. And in some cases, the player who intercepted performs a touchdown. This is what we refer to as a Pick Six in American Football.

Why Is It Called A Pick Six?

Now, I understand that someone who has not watched a lot of Football won’t be familiar with the lingo and terms associated with the game.

However, if you are passionate like me (I’m a football coach), you know that it is essential to understand the terminology used in this game, especially a term like pick-six.

The term Pick-6 was derived from the expression “Pick off”. When a player intercepts a pass in American Football, it is called a pick or picking off.

The “six” comes from the points awarded to the team that scores a touchdown, and it is the same thing as an interception returned for a touchdown, which you might see in the official stats.

So you see, the term is derived from the actual play itself and doesn’t mean anything else. It is a slang term used in American Football and Canadian Football for ages.

In my opinion, it is one of the most fun and exciting plays ever to be created. The fact that it is so rare makes it all the more special when you get to see one, and I get excited whenever I spot it in action in a game.

You can think of it this way: a defensive player catches a pass meant for an offensive player and then runs to the end zone for six points. This comparison can help you remember what a pick-six means.

What Kind Of Effect Does A Pick Six Have On The Game?

As you can probably imagine, a pick-six can be a massive momentum shift in any game. The team that has been scored against now has to fight back from the deficit, and it is what I call an instant offense for the defending team.

I always remember this moment from a college football game back in my days. Undoubtedly, I was and still am a big fan of the game! I was fortunate enough to be present on the field while one of our cornerbacks scored a pick-six in the last moments of a game where we were trailing by 4. It remains one of my favorite moments in my entire life.

Let’s talk about a more recent incident that has stayed with me. This is from Super Bowl LI, where Atlanta Falcons cornerback Robert Alford returned an interception 82 yards for a touchdown. 82 yards!?! This was a ‘pick six’ on the biggest stage ever.

The Falcons ended on the receiving end of a historic loss, and Tom Brady and the New England Patriots mounted an epic comeback to seal the win. But in any case, Robert’s pick-six play is something I will remember for life, and it is one of my favorite moments in sports.

How An Interception Differs From A Pick 6

If you’ve ever been to a sports bar where Football is on TV, you’ve probably seen a pick-6 play in action. It is a play that is unique, but it is a play that can be confusing, even to the most avid fans.

As I have already told you, a pick-6 is when the defensive players intercept the ball and promptly go for a touchdown. It’s a play that can end up as a game-changer, especially when the score is tight.

So how is it different from a regular interception? Let me make it simple for you to get to the bottom of.

When a defensive player intercepts a pass, that is called an interception. He will generally run with it and try to score a touchdown but is tackled before he reaches the endzone. An interception is when a player catches an opponent’s pass and gains possession of the ball.

On the other hand, a Pick-Six is when the player catches the ball and scores a touchdown.

You can see now how a pick-six cannot occur without an interception. On the other hand, an interception will not always result in a pick-six.

The Players You’ll See Getting a Pick 6

From the above sections of this article, you must know how a pick-six gets executed on the field of play. If not, let me make it clear.

The quarterback is the one that gets picked off and throws a pick-six. The defending player who intercepts gets awarded six points when he completes a touchdown.

I hope that clears any doubts about how it goes in this game.

You will probably not see many defenses getting pick-sixes during a game. The reason is apparent – it is not an easy feat to accomplish. If you look at the stats for the last five seasons, only once has a player managed to get three interception return touchdowns in an entire season. The players that manage more than 1 INTD are a minority. Often you’ll see this number is below 7-8.

Rod Woodson, the defensive back, holds the career record for most INTD with 12 touchdowns. One of the best football players in the NFL, he is a hall of fame member who spent most of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also won the Super Bowl XXXV with the Baltimore Ravens.

RankPlayerPick 6Years
1Rod Woodson121987-2003
2Darren Sharper111997-2010
2Charles Woodson111998-2015
4Aqib Talib102008-2019
5Ken Houston91967-1980
5Deion Sanders91989-2005
5Aeneas Williams91991-2004
8Eric Allen81988-2001
8Ronde Barber81997-2012
8Jackrabbit Jenkins82012-2022
Source: https://www.pro-football-reference.com/leaders/def_int_td_career.htm

Frequently Asked Questions

Who holds the record for most interceptions returned touchdowns in NFL history?

Rod Woodson has the most interceptions returned for a touchdown with 12 throughout his career. The next best is Darren Sharper and Charles Woodson, with 11 each, and Charles Woodson is another Hall of Fame member.

Do interceptions for touchdowns mean the same as defensive touchdowns?

No, a defensive touchdown could have been scored after a fumble, for example. They are not the same as interceptions for touchdowns or a pick 6.

Who has thrown the least amount of Pick Sixes in their career?

Aaron Rodgers has thrown just two pick-sixes out of 5,492 passes in his career. That is a spectacular stat with a 0.036 ratio. Everyone else on the Top 20 Most Passes list has at least ten pick sixes.

Another incredible stat comes from Tom Brady. The man has registered only 13 pick-sixes out of 9,375 pass attempts. Yeah, wrap your head around that! He is top 4 on the list of most pass attempts in NFL history.

Who has thrown the most amount of pick-sixes in the NFL?

Brett Favre has thrown the most amount pick-sixes in NFL history with 35. He has 10960 total career passes to his name.

What is the difference between a pick and a pick 6?

A pick is a simple interception, whereas a pick 6 is an interception that leads to a touchdown.

Final Words

The Pick Six is among the most exciting plays in any football game, especially at larger stages. I hope all your questions and doubts regarding a pick six, interception return touchdowns, and defensive touchdowns are solved now. I am sure now you see how impactful yet straightforward this run of play is in an actual football game.

Brad Smith
Brad Smith
Brad Smith has been coaching high school Football for 6 years in Florida. He and his wife have 3 beautiful children who he hopes will become the first Jaguars to win a Superbowl. Other than Football, Brad loves American litterature, parenting, gardening, and home remodeling.