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CFL X-Factors: Understanding the Rouge, a unique situational aspect only found in the CFL

Sometimes when you watch a CFL game you see things that you would never see in any other professional football league. One of those aspects is the existence of the Rouge or Single. In most football leagues, when a team punts or kicks a field goal that outcome is fairly predictable. But the existence of the Rouge takes a pedestrian play and adds many unique elements of excitement.

So what is a Rouge? Well, a Rouge is a one-point score that is awarded for certain plays that include the ball being kicked into the end zone. A Rouge can occur on kickoffs, punts, and field goals. If a kicking team kicks the ball into the end zone and the opponent fails to return the ball out of the end zone, then the kicking team is awarded a single point.

While the receiving team surrenders the single point they do get to start their next offensive possession from their 40-yard line. This dynamic adds several elements of strategic decision-making that can directly affect the outcome of any CFL game.

Different teams have different perspectives on how to handle Rouge situations. For example, if a team punts the ball into the end zone, the receiving team decides to return the ball out of the end zone to prevent the single being awarded to the kicking team.

The result is that the receiving team ends up starting its offensive possession from tight quarters relative to their end zone. If the offence fails to get a first down, the team that avoided the Rouge ends up having to punt the ball out of their end zone and giving up poor field position or they take a safety, which gives up 2 points and still sets their opponents offence up for outstanding field position as well.

In contrast, a receiving team decides to settle for a touchback and give their opponents the single point for a Rouge. But the result is that the receiving team gets to start their next possession at their 40-yard line rather than in backed-up field positions. The odds of an offence scoring greatly improves when it starts a drive at its 40-yard line rather than in the shadow of its end zone. This example shows the level of strategic complexity that the Rouge creates.

Other unique outcomes can occur in Rouge situations. It is legal for the receiving team to catch the ball in the end zone and punt it out of the end zone, and the kicking team can also catch that punt and kick it back into the end zone to still score the single. While this outcome is rare it creates incredibly dynamic scoring situations, especially for those fans who do not understand the details of the CFL rules.

Some less experienced CFL fans do not understand that a touchback can occur in the CFL that does not result in a Rouge. Those situations are: when a ball is downed after an interception in the end zone when a ball is fumbled out of the end zone, when a field goal hits an upright of the goal post, and when a ball is kicked into the end zone and rolls out without being touched by the receiving team. These 4 situations result in a touchback with the receiving team starting their next offensive possession at their 25-yard line.

While the Rouge is a commonly misunderstood rule that is only found in the CFL, it adds several elements of strategic complexity that no other brand of professional football can match. When a team punts the ball or kicks a field goal, the outcome is very predictable. But in the CFL any kickoff, punt, or field goal can be the difference between a team winning or losing a game.

It can also be the difference between a receiving team starting their offensive possession with great field position, or finding themselves in a worst-case scenario with regards to field position. The next time you watch a CFL game pay close attention to these situations and observe how each team approaches the Rouge situation philosophically.

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Aaron Sauter Reporter
Aaron Sauter is a 23-veteran high school football coach that is also an fan of all levels of football. He is especially interested in alternative football leagues like the CFL, UFL, and IFL. Aaron enjoys analyzing innovative schemes on offense and defense during his free time.
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