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  1. american football
  2. scrimmage downs
  3. first and goal

Why Do They Call It First And Goal In American Football?

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What is First and Goal in Football?

First and Goal in football is a term used to express a situation in which a team is in its first attempt in the down cycle and in a distance of 10 yards or less from the end zone. Football teams advance towards the end zone in down cycles, in which the goal is to travel 10 yards in four or fewer tries. Eventually, if a team keeps advancing, it will find itself close to the ultimate goal, the touchdown. The term "first and goal" is used instead of "first and ten, or three, or six" because it makes it easier for watchers to understand what is going on.

When Does a First and Goal Situation Happen?

Imagine a situation where a team has the ball 30 yards away from the end zone. A play happens and though a pass and rush the teal travels 22 yards forward, finishing the play exactly 8 yards from the end zone. Since the team traveled more than ten yards, they get a first down, A

and because they are less than 10 yards away from the scoring zone, the term first and goal is used, instead of first and eight.

football first and goal

Why do they call it first and goal in American football?

In order to understand the meaning behind "1st & Goal" we need to make sure we understand the following:

Goal Line

The goal line is the line that marks the front of each team's end zone. It's used to determine if a score is made.

Line of Scrimmage

The line of scrimmage is just a regular yard line that always shows the spot of the ball on the field. You can see it as a blue line when watching football on TV.

1st Down Line

The 1st down line is just a regular yard line that shows the distance a team needs to travel to get a 1st down. You can see it as a yellow line when watching football on TV.

Scrimmage Downs

A scrimmage down is just a fancy word that means any play that starts on the line of scrimmage. For short, people call them downs.

The Down Cycle

When a team gets possession of the ball in football they are given a set of four scrimmage downs to move the ball down the field. These scrimmage downs are called:

The 1st down line is initially placed 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. If a team fails to reach the 1st down line in four scrimmage downs they must "turn the ball over to the other team" for a turnover on downs. However, if a team reaches the 1st down line on any of the downs, the down cycle starts over and the 1st down line is once again placed 10 yards away from the line of scrimmage.

Down & Distance

Now that we understand the basics of ball movement in football, we can put it all together to understand down & distance or your question on what is "1st & Goal"?

Usually, you will see down & distance represented by a number like "1st & 10", "2nd & 15", or "4th & 1". The first part of the phrase is the current scrimmage down. The second part of the phrase is the distance to the 1st down line a team needs to travel to get a 1st down and for the down cycle to start over.

"1st & 10"

Down: 1st Down

Distance: 10 yards (to the 1st down line)

"2nd & 15"

Down: 2nd Down

Distance: 15 yards (to the 1st down line)

"4th & 1"

Down: 4th Down

Distance: 1 yard (to the 1st down line)

In some cases, the 1st down line is replaced with the word "Goal". This means that the 1st down line is the goal line and the team with the ball is within 10 yards of the goal line. So back to your initial question:

"1st & Goal"

Down: 1st Down

Distance: The Goal Line (1st down line)

"2nd & Goal"

Down: 2nd Down

Distance: The Goal Line (1st down line)



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