Congratulations! You've made it all the way through the Rookie Road's Football Basics Tutorial. At this point, you should understand the basic rules and concepts about the sport of American football. Football is a pretty cool sport, right? Let's review what we've learned chapter by chapter.
Chapter 1: Football The Field (Recap)
There are four types of lines that make up a football field
The end lines and sidelines make up the perimeter of a football field. They are also the boundary lines on the field and determine if a player is either inbounds or out-of-bounds.
The goal lines and sidelines make up the field of play and the field of play is 100 yards.
The goal lines mark the start of each end zone. End zones have a goal post located on the end line where all kicking scoring opportunities occur.
Yard lines each indicate a single yard on the field. Each yard line has a name like the 50-yard line, which divides the field in half.
White numbers and arrows show the distance to the closest goal line and also help spectators know which yard line is which.
Hash marks determine the placement of the ball and the alignment of players at the start of each scrimmage down. The ball is either placed on the closest hash mark or left in between the two sets.
Chapter 2: Football Clocks & Time (Recap)
Football games are divided into two halves or four quarters of game time. Professional and college games are clocked at 60 minutes with four 15-minute quarters.
Halftime is after the 1st half.
Overtime occurs when the score is tied at the end of the 2nd half to decide the winner.
The coin toss determines the initial setup of a football game like who gets possession of the ball first and which end zone each team gets to defense. A coin toss will also happen at the start of overtime, but the coin toss options are different in NFL and NCAA football.
All clocks in football count towards to zero. The game clock keeps track of the time left in each quarter. The play clock keeps the pace of breaks between downs and is either 40 or 25-seconds long. Each team is given three (3) timeouts for each half that don't carry over. There is a two-minute warning that stops the clock only in the NFL.
Chapter 3: Football Teams (Recap)
Every pro football team has 53 players on its roster, 45 of which can dress for game day. During a scrimmage down, only 11 players can be on in the field of play per team.
Teams consist of three units the offense, defense, and special teams. At all times one team is on offense and the other team is on defense. The offense has the football and wants to score points. The defense wants to defend against the other team from scoring and to get their team on offense. The special teams can be called on the field at any time in place of the offense or defense to perform all kicks and returns.
Chapter 4: Football Scoring Points (Recap)
All scoring happens in the end zones.
A touchdown is worth six (6) points and requires the team with the ball to break the plane of the goal line.
After a touchdown is scored the offense is given an untimed down to score one (1) or two (2) additional points. The extra kick is worth one (1) point and the two-point conversion is worth two (2) points.
A field goal is worth three (3) points and like the extra kick must pass through the opposing team's goal post.
The defense can score two (2) points on a safety if an offensive player retreats into their own end zone and makes a mistake.
Chapter 5: Football Ball Movement (Recap)
The line of scrimmage tracks the movement of the ball on the field and is used to align players at the start of a scrimmage down.
The 1st down line shows the distance the team with possession of the ball needs to travel to to get a new set of four (4) scrimmage downs. It is always placed ten (10) yards away from the line of scrimmage unless a team is within 10 yards of the opposing team's goal line.
The offense is given four (4) scrimmage downs or plays at the line of scrimmage to move the ball. It's a cycle that restarts if the offense reaches the 1st down line.
If the offense fails to reach the 1st down line in four downs, they must turn the ball over to the other team for a turnover on downs.
Downs begin with the players lining up on the line of scrimmage where the ball becomes live with a snap of the football to the quarterback.
The down ends and the ball is declared dead for reasons like an incomplete pass, a score, or tackling the ball carrier to the ground.
Chapter 6: Football Ball Control (Recap)
The team that has possession of the ball is said to be on offense since they will bring their offensive unit onto the field. The other team is on defense.
There are five (5) ways teams change possession of the ball in a football game.
On turnovers, the offense turns the ball over on downs, interceptions (a pass), or a fumble (dropped ball).
On missed field goals, the defense gets the ball at the spot of the kick or the 20-yard line when kicked from inside it.
On punts, the offense kicks the ball to the opposing team typically on 4th down to create space on the field. Whenever a team scores, they trade possession.
Lastly, after at the start of the 2nd half teams exchange possession.
Chapter 7: Football Returning (Recap)
The special teams unit performs returns in football. Returns happen on punts and kickoffs.
The returner is a player on the special teams that catches the kicked ball and performs the return.
His goal is to score points and give his team good starting field position for the upcoming offensive drive.
The returner can signal a fair catch by waving his hand in the air while the ball is in the air. This allows him to catch the ball without being touched by a player on the opposing team. On a fair catch, the return ends once the returner catches the ball.
Touchbacks happen when a kick goes out-of-bounds in the end zone or when a kicker drops down on one knee, placing the ball on the 20-yard line.
Chapter 8: Football Offense (Recap)
The offense is designed to counter the opposing team's defense, maintain possession of the ball, and score points for their team.
The offense may form a quick meeting or huddle to discuss the upcoming play. If pressed for time, they may skip the huddle entirely called hurry-up offense.
The offensive line operates on the line of scrimmage and shields the quarterback in an area called the pocket.
The backs & receivers operate in the offensive backfield.
On running plays, the quarterback hands the ball to the running back or runs with it himself for a quarterback sneak.
On passing plays, the quarterback can pass the ball to any eligible receiver such as the wide receiver, tight end, or running backs.
Chapter 9: Football Defense (Recap)
The defense is designed to counter the opposing team's offense, to prevent a score by the other team, and to get possession of the ball.
Both man-to-man coverage and zone coverage are two defensive strategies used to force a change of possession.
Man To Man Coverage
The defensive line is made up of five players the nose tackle, left & right defensive tackles, and defensive ends.
Linebackers are versatile players who provide protection against both the run and the pass depending on the play.
The secondary operates in the defensive backfield is made up of cornerbacks and safeties. They serve as a last line of defense against the pass.
Chapter 10: Football Special Teams (Recap)
The special teams perform all kicks and returns in football. There goal is to score points with field goals and extra kicks and to maintain good field position for their team.
The kicker (K) is a player on the special teams who performs all types of kicks in football.
The returner (R) is responsible for performing a return on kickoffs and punts.
The snapper (S) snaps or hikes the ball to either the holder (H) or the kicker (K) depending on the type of kick.
Blockers (B) are in every unit on a football team. They are especially important on the special teams because they give time for the kicker to perform the kick.
Finally, gunners (G) position themselves on the sidelines and have a job of tackling the returner (R) on returns.
Chapter 11: Football Flags & Penalties (Recap)
The rules of football are enforced by the officials.
The officials will throw a yellow penalty flag onto the field if a rule is violated.
The head coach can throw a red challenge flag onto the field if he disagrees with the call by the official. A challenge flag requires the use of a timeout. Officials will review the previous scrimmage down with instant replay. Each team only gets two (2) challenge flags per game.
Every penalty comes with a consequence such as a loss of yards, automatic 1st down, loss of a scrimmage down, or replaying the previous scrimmage down.
Finally, as a football fan you should know some of the most common penalties:
Where To Go From Here
We hope you've enjoyed this tutorial on the basics of American football. We will be creating more tutorials for football in the near future. If you'd like to be notified when we launch new sports content sign up for our newsletter.
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You are now officially a football fan :)
-The Rookie Road Team