Football Basics

What are the basics of football?

American football is a game that has been around for over a hundred years. It has evolved into a hard hitting action packed sport that millions watch each year. If you're here, then you're probably looking to learn some of the basics of this popular game So let's get to it!

How to Play

Football is played by two teams in the format of a 60 minute game, with four 15 minute quarters. The game takes place on either a grass or turf field that is 53 yards wide and 120 yards long (100 yards of field and two 10 yard 'end zones').

Teams get four downs to reach a 'first down' which is 10 yards away. If the 10 yards are not achieved in four downs then the defensive team gains possession of the ball. However, most teams elect to 'punt' the ball after three downs. Reaching a first down gives the offensive team four more downs to keep going. This goes on until either the offensive team scores points (explained below) or a 'turnover' occurs.

The team that scores more points by the end of the game is the winner. The result of the game is added to a team's win-loss record, and at the end of the season, teams are chosen for the playoffs based on their record.

How to Score

In football, there are four ways a team can score, each has a different point value and is accomplished by performing different actions.

  • Touchdown - A touchdown is the most valuable action in the sport (6 points). In order to score a touchdown a team must possess the ball in the end zone they are going towards. The ball can be carried in or thrown to a player standing inside the end zone already.
  • Field Goal - If a team is unable to reach a touchdown but is close to the end zone they may elect to go for a field goal. A field goal is worth three points and requires a member of the offensive team (the kicker) to kick the football through the 'uprights' which are located behind the end zone.
  • Point After - After a touchdown is scored a team gets to go for the point after. They have a choice of trying for one or two points. A one point try is called an extra point and is the same process as a field goal except it is from a set distance (15 yard line). A two point try is called a two point conversion and it involves the offense running one play from the 2 yard line. The offense must score a touchdown on this play to be awarded the two points.
  • Safety - Safeties are rare and can only be scored by the defensive team. If a defender tackles an offensive player in their own endzone they are awarded 2 points.

Terminology

Now that the basics of football have been covered, let's go through some of the football lingo that was used in this piece as well as some popular terminology that is used in the sport.

  • End Zone - A 10 yard deep 53 yards wide area that touchdowns are scored in.
  • First Down - An imaginary line 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. It is displayed on television broadcasts as a yellow line projected on the field to help viewers.
  • Turnover on Downs - If a team fails to reach a first down in four tries it is called a turnover on downs and the defensive team receives possession of the ball.
  • Punt - A drop kick by the offensive team to the defensive team. This action changes possession from team to team and is enacted on fourth down.
  • Turnover - The defensive team takes the ball away from the offense. Can be done as either an interception (catch a pass from the quarterback) or a fumble (pick up the ball from the ground).
  • Uprights - The goalpost of football, is made up of a horizontal crossbar and two vertical uprights.