What is a 1st Down in Football?
A 1st down in football is the first scrimmage down in a series of four downs that the offense has to reach or go past the 1st down line. If a team reaches the 1st down line, it is called a 1st down and the team is given a new set of downs. After a 1st down, the new 1st down line is placed 10 yards forward from the line of scrimmage. The 1st down line is represented by a yellow line that stretches across the field.
The Down Cycle
The 1st down is a part of the down cycle, a series of four downs in which a team has the chance to reach the 1st down line. The other downs in the down cycle are 2nd down, 3rd down, and 4th down. If a team runs a play on 4th down and they do not reach the 1st down line, the ball is turned over to the other team. This is called a turnover on downs.
1st Down Game Strategy
Most often, a run play is called on 1st down. This is usually the case to establish a running game that can open up to the passing game. For example, a very successful run on 1st down would lead the defense to believe that the offense will run again, when they are actually going to pass the ball. In the modern era, 1st downs are nearly unpredictable as passing has become such a big part of the game.