– FOOTball –

The objective of the game is to outscore your opponent by advancing the football into the end zone (this can be done multiple ways). The game is played in two teams of 11 and in four 15-minute quarters (NFL and NCAA) or 12-minute quarters (high school).

The Leagues: National Football League (NFL), the Canadian Football League (CFL), and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).  

The Game

1. Each team takes turns with possession of the ball. When a team has possession of the ball, they have 4 downs, or attempts, to move the ball a total of 10 yards towards their opponent’s end zone to score.

a. If they can accomplish that, they get another set of 4 downs and continue playing until they are no longer able to move the ball 10 yards in 4 downs and must turn the ball over to the other team for their turn.

b. If they cannot move the ball down the field as expected, the team can either punt the ball on fourth down (punter kicks the ball as far as possible in an attempt to reset the line of scrimmage for the other team as far down the field as possible) or attempt a field goal if they are close enough to effectively kick the ball through the goal post of the end zone they are trying to reach.

2. Teams can score in a number of ways. What you will see most are touchdowns and field goals.

a. A team scores 6 points with a touchdown by running inside the end zone with ball in hand or by catching a pass anywhere inside the end zone. Touchdowns are worth 6 points and teams are given the option of either attempting an extra point kick/point after touchdown/conversions or a two-point conversion.

i. An extra point kick/point after touchdown/conversion is when a kicker attempts to kick the football through the goal post from the 15-yard line and is worth 1 extra point, just like its name indicates.

ii. A two-point conversion is pretty much another touchdown attempt. Teams line up at the 2-yard line and try and bring the ball into the end zone in single attempt for 2 extra points.

b. A team scores a field goal by using their 4th down to kick the football through the goal post instead of attempting to move the ball down the field.

3. Less common ways of scoring:

a. Safety: when the defensive scores by tackling an opponent in possession of the ball into their own the end zone, as in, the one they are protecting. They are awarded two points.

b.  Even less common, the defensive two-point conversion, which happens when the team who just scored a touchdown attempts an a conversion, the defensive team gains possession of it, and then returns it to the other end zone for a touchdown.  They are awarded two points, and the team who originally scored the touchdown kicks off as normal.

4. Big defensive plays: 

a. Sack: when a defensive player tackles the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage. This results in a loss of yards on whatever down the offensive team is on.

b. Stuff at the line: this describes the instance when an offensive teams attempts to run the football past the line of scrimmage and gets completely denied by the opposing defense. You’ll see this most in situations when the offense needs one or two yards to travel to get a fresh set of downs.

c. Interception: a pass that is caught by a defensive player and stolen from the opposing offense. It can be taken all the way into the end zone, or if the player can’t travel that far, an interception results in the loss of the possession for the team that threw the interception.

5. Timeouts: points in the game where teams can stop the clock of the game and huddle up—each team receives three timeouts per half of the game

The FIeld


Total length of the football field: 120 yards—100 of those yards are used for active play (any point after the ball is set for a play) and two, 10-yard end zones on each end of those 100 yards are the scoring areas of the field.

A. Goal line: These are lines that can technically be considered the “0-yard lines” and separate the field of play and the end zone.

B. Sidelines: these are the outermost horizontal lines of the field that separate the field of play from the out-of-bounds area. In the NFL, players must have both feet inbounds (not touching the sideline) to be considered fair catch. In college football, players need just one foot inbounds.

C. Goal post: U-shaped posts that stand at the end of each end zone. Kickers must pick the football through the two raised poles in order to score field goals and extra points.

D. End zone: the ten foot area connected to either side of the field of play—players must cross into this area with the football or catch the football in this area in order to score a touchdown.

E. Hash marks: two sets of white tick marks that run parallel to each other down the center portion of the field and on the inside portion of the sidelines to mark the 100 yards of the field.

F. Yard lines/numbers: these are the 21 white lines that run vertically from one end of the field to the other and break up the field into 5-yard increments. The white numbers mark 10-yard increments on the field. They start at 10 and go to 50, which lands directly at midfield, and then count down by 10 in the other direction.

Line of scrimmage: this one is tricky since it’s not actually a line you will see on the field and moves with ever play of the game. The line of scrimmage is essentially an imaginary line between both teams before the ball is snapped. It is where the ball is placed to mark the start of every play. You measure how far a team travels on down from this line. If you’re watching the game on TV, it’s actually nice because the line isn’t imaginary. It’s a thick blue line added in by the television production crews.

The Players

At any given time, teams can a max of 11 players on the field. This changes depending on whether they are playing or offense, kicking off, or punting. Here are the player basics.




special teams


blow the whistle

  • Defensive pass interference: when a defensive player interferes with a receiver’s ability to make a fair catch to a forward pass i.e. moving a receiver’s arms or shoving them to keep them from the ball. This results in an automatic first down at the spot of the foul.
  • Offensive holding: when an offensive player uses his hands or arms to restrict an opponent or change the course or angle of his pursuit—an offensive player can’t tackle, hook, or pull someone to ground. This is a 10-yard penalty.
  • Encroachment: when a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage and makes contact with an opponent or has a direct path to the quarterback before the snap. This is a 5-yard penalty.
  • False start: when an offensive player (not counting the center) moves after getting into the set position before the ball is snapped—this results in a 5-yard penalty.
  • Unnecessary roughness: an illegal play in football when a player uses unnecessary methods to tackle or block a player. This is a 15-yard penalty, and if it’s called on a defensive player, it also results in an automatic first down.
  • Defensive offside: when a defender crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. This results in a 5-yard penalty.

Talk that Talk

Uh could you use that in sentence please? Hey I thought I was getting the hang of the sports terminology? You are! But you’re not like a regular sports fan; you’re a cool sports fan. Talk like ESPN sportscasters and talk that talk.

  • Backfield: the area behind the line of scrimmage that includes the QB, fullback, and running back—you can also say defensive backfield to refer to the same area on the other side of the ball.
  • Dirty laundry: when a ref throws a flag on the play—the flag is the dirty laundry.
  • Defensive back: this is similar to the a square is rectangle but a rectangle is not a square argument—basically a defensive back refers to any of the defensive players playing in the secondary behind the linebackers and can include different safeties, cornerbacks, and nickelbacks.
  • Run the clock/run out the clock: when the team in the lead lets the clock wind down with running plays (usually) to preserve the lead and win the game. You’ll see this happen more towards the ends of halves or towards the end of the game.
  • Run the table: to win the rest of the games in the season.
  • Pay dirt: the end zone—you will hear announcers say the receiver “finds pay dirt.”
  • 3rd and long: when a team is on third down with lot of yards to get before getting that first down. This number is subjective.
  • 4th and short: when a team is on fourth down with not very long to go before they get the first down; this number is also subjective.
  • Hail Mary: it’s kind of what it sounds like—a quarterback is essentially throwing up a prayer aka a really long pass into a group of receivers in the end zone in order to score. This is often a last ditch effort to score, and typically only seen at the end of the first half or the end of a game.
  • Pick six: when a player gets the interception and successfully runs the ball back to the end zone for a touchdown.
  • 3 and out: when a team plays three downs and is forced to punt on 4th down and get off the field because they were not able to move the ball 10 yards.
  • Under center: when a QB lines up directly behind the center to receive the snap.