NFL for Beginners

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This is why the pitch has clearly marked yardage lines on it. They have four chances, or downs, to gain those 10 yards and if they advance the ball that far, the count resets and the team earns another set of four downs to try go a further 10 yards. If the offensive team fails to move these 10 yards within four downs, possession is then given up and the defensive side gets their turn to play offense. Teams will usually kick for a field goal or downfield to the defending team on the fourth down to try and salvage some points before they lose possession.

Scoring is worked out in the game as follows:. A touchdown is scored when a team crosses the opposition's goal line with the ball, or catches or collects the ball in the end zone. A team will usually attempt these on the fourth down - if the kicker is close enough to the end zone to kick the ball through between the upright posts. Two points are earned by taking the ball into the end zone again, but since it is more difficult, most teams opt to take the 1pt.

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The defensive team can gain 2 pts if they tackle a member of the offensive team with the ball in their own end zone. We hope this guide has armed you with the necessary tools to get to grips with the game. As with any other sport, football has numerous other elements and rules in addition to the ones outlined here, but by understanding the flow of the game and the scoring, you should be able to at least enjoy and understand it as you fill in the gaps. Search Register Login here. Leaderboard realbuzz Leaderboard. Achievers Wall of Fame.

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Close Tick. The rules for overtime changed for the — season and were tweaked again for the — season. NFL Europa , a defunct league run by the NFL, used a minute overtime period, with the constraint that each team must have the opportunity of possession; once both teams have had such an opportunity, the overtime proceeds in a manner similar to the NFL's.

Thus, if Team A has the first possession of overtime and scores a touchdown and converts their kick thus being 7 points ahead of Team B , Team A would then kick off to Team B In the NFL, the game would have ended with the touchdown, without a conversion being attempted. Team B would have to match or exceed the 7 point difference within this ensuing possession; exceeding it would end the game immediately, while matching the difference would result in a kickoff to Team A.

From this point, the overtime is sudden death. The defunct United Football League had also used this rule. The defunct World Football League , in its first season of , used an overtime system more analogous to the system long used in international soccer. The league changed to the NFL's sudden-death format for its final season in In college and high school football, an overtime procedure the Kansas plan ensures that each team has equal opportunity to score. In college, both teams are granted possession of the ball at their opponents' 25 yard-line in succession; the procedure repeats for next three possessions if needed; all possessions thereafter will be from the opponent's 3-yard line.


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A coin flip takes place, with the winning team having the option either 1 to declare that they will take the ball first or second, or 2 to decide on which end of the field the series will occur both teams' series occur on the same end of the field. The losing team will have the first option in any subsequent even-numbered overtime.

In the first overtime, the team with first series attempts to score either a touchdown or a field goal; their possession ends when either a touchdown or a field goal have been scored, they turn the ball over via a fumble or an interception, or they fail to gain a first down. After a touchdown, a team may attempt either an extra-point or a two-point conversion. However, if the team on defense during the first series recovers a fumble and returns it for a touchdown, or returns an interception for a touchdown, the defensive team wins the game.

This is the only way for a college overtime game to end without both teams having possession. Otherwise, regardless of the outcome of the first team's series be it touchdown, field goal, or turnover , the other team begins their series. If the score remains tied after both teams have completed a series, the procedure is repeated.

If the score remains tied after double overtime, teams scoring touchdowns are required to attempt a two-point conversion for next two overtime periods. Starting in , if the game is still tied after four overtime periods, each team attempts one 2-point conversion per period rather than getting the ball at the yard line. In high school football, individual state associations can choose any overtime format they want, or even elect to not play overtime at all ties stand in this case.

However, most states use the Kansas Plan. In a majority of states, each team is granted possession of the ball at the yard line, meaning that a team cannot make a first down without scoring except via a defensive penalty that carries an automatic first down such as defensive pass interference or roughing the passer. As is the case with the college overtime rule, the team that wins the coin toss will have the choice as to whether to take the ball first or second, or decide at which end of the field the overtime will be played.

The other major difference between overtime in college football and high school football is that in some states, if the defense forces a turnover, the ball is dead immediately, thus eliminating the possibility of scoring. However, in Texas , the college overtime rule is used, as both the University Interscholastic League , which governs interscholastic activities for Texas public high schools, and the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools , the largest analogous body for Texas private high schools, play by NCAA football rules with a few modifications for the high school level.

The defunct XFL used a modified Kansas Plan which, upon the first team scoring, required the opponent to score the same or greater number of points in the same or fewer downs i. Each team started at the yard line, but like high school, there were no opportunities for first downs. The league also banned field goals except on a fourth down. Three minutes before the start of the game, the referee meets with captains from both teams for a coin toss. The visiting team calls the toss. The winner of the toss may defer their choice to the start of the second half, or they may take first choice of:.

At the start of the second half, the team that did not choose first either because they deferred their choice or because they lost the toss gets the first choice of options. If a game goes to overtime, a coin toss is held before the start of overtime, but tosses are not held before the start of subsequent overtime periods.

In college, for example, the loser of the toss to start overtime has first choice in the second overtime period. The choices available to the captains in overtime vary among the NFL, college, and various states' high school rules. In high school, the coin toss may be held between the captains or coaches earlier before the start of the game.

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At three minutes before kickoff, the captains meet for a simulated coin toss, where the referee announces the results of the earlier toss. The XFL did not implement a coin toss; instead an event took place called the "opening scramble", in which one player from each team fought to recover a football 20 yards away to determine possession. Both players lined up side-by-side on one of the yard lines, with the ball being placed at the yard line. At the whistle, the two players would run toward the ball and attempt to gain possession; whichever player gained possession first was allowed to choose possession as if he had won a coin toss in other leagues.

The rules vary from the college level to the professional level. In the NFL, unless you are tagged by an opposing player or give yourself up, you are not down. A player carrying the ball the runner is downed when any of the following occurs:. The majority of a football game takes place on plays, or downs , that begin at the line of scrimmage. The officials spot the ball place it in a designated spot on the field on the line of scrimmage and declare it ready for play.

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The width of the spotted football defines the width of the neutral zone , an area of the field no player other than the snapper may position himself in or above before the snap. Each team has its own line of scrimmage, thought of as a vertical plane from sideline to sideline that passes through the point of the ball nearest its own goal line. A typical offense is made up of a quarterback , five offensive linemen , two wide receivers , a running back , a fullback , and a tight end , however teams will vary their personnel on the field to fit any given play.

A quarterback is essentially the leader of the offense. It is most often their responsibility to pass along the play called to the rest of the players in the huddle before any given play. A quarterback is the primary ball handler on offense.


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  • It is their responsibility to call the snap count for the ball to enter play. Once the ball is hiked into play, it is their job to either hand the ball off to one of their running backs, or scout the field for an open receiver to throw the ball to. In some instances, the quarterback will run the ball themselves. A quarterback is guarded by their offensive linemen. The offensive line is made up of a left and right tackle , a left and right guard , and a center.

    It is the center's responsibility to hike the ball to the quarterback. An offensive line has two different jobs. When the offense runs a pass play, it is their job to guard the quarterback from the defense that are rushing. When the offense runs a run play, it is their job to clear a path for the running back to run through. The running back also has multiple roles. They will either take the ball from the quarterback and run, move up and help the offensive line block, or go out and catch a pass. While the role of the fullback is deteriorating currently among professional leagues, it is their primary responsibility to lead the running back.

    Running backs and fullbacks are sometimes also called a halfback, a wingback, or a slotback. Like the running back, the tight end also has multiple roles.