American Football Rules

American Football
Photo credit: Torsten Bolten (source)

American Football is one of the biggest North American sports. Whilst the game is played worldwide, the professional leagues in North America (such as the NFL) easily attract the best players in the world making its leagues the most competitive. The pinnacle of the sport comes in the form of the Super Bowl played out every year to millions of people around the world.

Object Of The Game

The object of American football is to score more points than your opponents in the allotted time. To do this they must move the ball down the pitch in phases of play before eventually getting the ball into the ‘end zone’ for a touchdown. This can be achieved by either throwing the ball to a teammate or running with the ball.

Each team gets 4 chances (downs) to move the ball 10 yards forward. Once they pass the 10 yards their downs reset and they start again for another 10 yards. After 4 downs have passed and they have failed to make it over the 10 yards required the ball will be turned over to the defensive team.

Players & Equipment

Whilst there are only 11 players from each team on the field at any team, an American football team is actually made up of 45 players. The teams are generally split into three groups of attacking (generally smaller, stronger, faster type of players, including a quarterback who is said to run the attacking plays and throw the ball to their teammates), defence (larger, more powerful players designed to stop players from running) and special team players (responsible for the kicking and punting side of the game with a mixture of larger and faster players).

An American football field is generally around 100 yards long and 160 yards wide. Lines are drawn on the field at 10 yard interval to indicate how far each team has to go before reaching the end zone. The end zones are added at each end of the pitch and are roughly 20 yards in length each. Posts can also be found at each end of which the kicker kicks the ball over.

Scoring

When a player scores a touchdown six points are awarded to their team. A touchdown can be scored by either carrying the ball into the end zone or receiving the ball from a pass whilst in the end zone. After a touchdown has been scored the attacking team have opportunity to kick the ball for an extra point. The ball must pass between the upright posts for a successful kick.

A field goal can be scored from anywhere on the pitch at any time (usually on the final down) and a successful kick will result in three points. A safety is where the defensive team manages to tackle an attacking opponent in their own end zone; for this the team will receive 2 points.

Winning The Game

The team with the most points at the end of the game will be deemed the winner. If the points are tied then over time will come into play where the teams will play an additional quarter until a winner is found.

Rules of American Football

  • Games last for four 15 minute quarters. A 2 minute break between the 1st & 2nd and 3rd & 4th quarters is had along with a 15 minute rest between 2nd and 3rd quarters (half time).
  • Each team has 4 downs to gain 10 or more yards. They can either throw or run the ball to make the yards. As soon as the team gains the required yards then the downs reset and the yardage resets. Failure to make the yardage after 4 downs will result in a turnover.
  • There are hundreds of different plays that players can run on any down. Plays are made up by the teams and often have players running all over the place (routes) in what is essentially organised chaos. The head coach or quarter back calls the on field plays for the attacking team whilst the defensive captain calls the plays for the defensive team.
  • At the start of every game is the coin toss to decide which team receives the ball first and which side of the pitch they want to start from.
  • The game begins with a kick-off where one team punts the ball down field for the other team to then run back with the ball as far as possible.
  • On fourth down the offence has the option to either try to make up the yards they are short or to kick the ball. If they decide to kick they have two options; to punt or to try for a field goal. Depending on their position on the pitch will usually dictate their paly. Anything within 40 yards or so of the opposition’s goal posts will result in a field goal attempt. Further back will likely mean they take the punt option.

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