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The Field The game is played on a field 160 feet wide and 100 yards long between the goal lines. Past the goal lines, there is a 10-yard area called the end zone. When the ball is possessed in the end zone, a touchdown is scored. The field is divided into 20 5-yard sections for simplicity, with numbers printed every 10 yards.
Moving the Ball When a team takes possession of the ball, they are given four plays to move the ball at least ten yards, or they lose possession. If the team can get ten yards before they run out of plays, a new set of plays, called “downs” are awarded, and the process repeats If there are less than ten yards left on the field before the goal line, it is a “goal to go” situation, and the team cannot get another first down and must score.
Moving the Ball cont. Teams taking all four downs to attain the first down is rare. Except for rare circumstances, teams usually elect to punt the ball on fourth down if they can’t kick the field goal. On a punt, the punter kicks the ball as far as he can, in an effort to make the other team go as far as possible to score. A field goal is attempted on 4 th down when a team is in range(usually around the 30 yard line and in). The kicker tries to kick the ball in between the goal posts. If successful, 3 points are awarded.
Penalties There are several penalties in football. Some of the most common are false start/offsides, holding, pass interference, and unnecessary roughness. A false start penalty occurs when an offensive player moves forward before the ball is snapped. It is a 5-yard penalty against the offense. An offsides penalty occurs when a defensive player ends up past the line of scrimmage(where the ball is) before the ball is snapped. They might line up offsides, or jump early attempting to make a play.
Penalties (cont.) A holding penalty can go against the offense or the defense. Offensive holding usually occurs while blocking. The blocker is overwhelmed by the defender and attempts to gain control by grabbing the jersey. This is a ten yard penalty. Holding on the defense usually occurs by the defensive backs covering the receivers, if they lose control of the receiver and are forced to grab them. This is a 5-yard penalty that automatically rewards the offense with a new set of downs.
Penalties (cont.) Pass interference penalties can go against the offense or the defense. Defensive pass interference occurs when a defensive player contacts the receiver before the ball arrives. The ball is placed at the spot where the contact is made and a new set of downs is awarded. If the foul occurs in the end zone, the ball is placed at the one yard line. Offensive pass interference is when the offensive player contacts the defensive player trying to cover him to better his chances of making the catch. This is a 10-yard foul on the offense.
Penalties (cont.) Unnecessary roughness can happen to either the offense or defense. It usually occurs after the play, when a player is frustrated and attacks another player after the whistle. It is also commonly committed by the defense if they attempt to tackle a player who is out of bounds. This is a 15-yard penalty, and if it goes against the defense, it is a new set of downs for the offense.
Penalties (cont.) Roughing the passer is a penalty against the defense. It occurs when a defensive player hits the quarterback after he has released the ball. It also occurs if a defensive player hits the quarterback in the head or the legs. A variation of this is roughing the kicker/punter. This occurs when a defensive player hits the punter or kicker. Both fouls are 15-yard penalties resulting in a new set of downs.
Changing possession There are several ways that teams change possession in a game. The most common is through punting. Teams punt when they are not within field goal range and it is 4 th down. They give the other team the ball as far away from their end zone as possible. If the ball is kicked into the opponent’s end zone, the ball is placed at the receiving team’s 20-yard line. This is an unfavourable outcome for the kicking team.
Changing Possession (cont.) The next most common way teams change possession is on the kickoff. When a team scores, they kick the ball off of a tee from their own 30-yard line, attempting to pin their opponents back as far away as possible. If the ball is kicked into the endzone, the ball is placed at the 20-yard line. Unlike in a punt, this is considered a favourable outcome for the kicking team.
Changing Possession (cont.) The rarest, but most exciting changes of possession occur on turnovers. Turnovers occur when the defense takes the ball away from the offense. This can occur on an interception, a fumble, or on downs. An interception occurs when the quarterback throws a pass and a defensive player catches it. A fumble occurs when the offensive player with the ball drops it before he is tackled. The ball can be recovered by the defense for a turnover, or by the offense to continue the drive.
Changing Possession (cont.) A turnover on downs occurs if the offense tries to get a first down or touchdown on 4 th down. The ball is awarded to the defense wherever the offense advances it to. On any change of possession, the defensive team is allowed to return it. This is when a defensive player or designated returner takes the ball and attempts to run it into their opponent’s end zone.
Scoring the Ball There are three ways for teams to get points in football. These are the touchdown, the field goal, and the safety. Touchdowns occur when the offensive team manages to get the ball into the opponent’s end zone. The offense is awarded 6 points. Following a touchdown, the offense can kick an extra point or try for two. An extra point is a field goal from the 2-yard line. It is considered automatic, and 1 point is awarded. If a team elects to try for two, they attempt to get the ball into the end zone again, from the 2-yard line. This is rarely successful and only attempted when a team needs the two points.
Scoring the Ball (cont.) A field goal is attempted when it is 4 th down a team is close enough for their kicker to kick the ball between the goal posts. Generally, this is around the 30-yard line or closer. If it is successful, 3 points are awarded. A safety occurs when a defensive team tackles the offensive ball carrier in the offensive team’s end zone. It is a very rare play, and 2 points are awarded to the defense. Unlike all other scoring plays, the team that records the safety receives the kickoff from the offensive team, rather than vice versa.
Quarterback The quarterback(QB) is the most important player on the field, as he touches the ball every play. He receives the ball from the center (C), and either passes the ball to a receiver, hands the ball to a runner, or runs the ball himself. The quarterback wears a number between 1 and 19.
Quarterback (cont.) Notable quarterbacks include Tom Brady of the Patriots(previous slide), Peyton Manning of the Colts(inset), Drew Brees of the Saints, Philip Rivers of the Chargers, Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, and Michael Vick of the Eagles.
Runningback The runningback(RB) lines up behind or alongside the quarterback. His role varies depending on the kind of play called. On a running play, he receives the handoff from the quarterback and tries to gain yards. On a passing play, he either blocks to protect the quarterback, or runs out to catch a pass.
Runningback (cont.) Runningbacks wear numbers between 20 and 39. Notable runningbacks include Adrian Peterson of the Vikings(previous slide), Chris Johnson of the Titans(inset), Arian Foster of the Texans, Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs, Ray Rice of the Ravens and Peyton Hillis of the Browns (the only white RB in the NFL).
Fullback The fullback lines up in front of the runningback and behind the quarterback. Their role is primarily to block for the runner or the QB, but some have made a living out of catching passes. Their use is declining and many teams do not feature a regular fullback except in goal line situations. Fullbacks wear numbers between 20 and 39. Notable fullbacks include Tony Richardson of the Jets(inset) and Le’Ron McClain of the Ravens.
Wide Receiver Wide Receivers(WR) line up to the outside of the formation. Their primary role is to catch passes, but they also are expected to block on running plays. Wide Receivers wear numbers between 10 and 19 OR between 80 and 89. Most teams regularly use 2, 3 and even 4 receivers on a given play.
Wide Receiver (cont.) Notable wide receivers include Andre Johnson of the Texans(previous slide), Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals, Roddy White of the Falcons, Brandon Marshall of the Dolphins, Randy Moss of the Titans, and Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens of the Bengals(inset).
Tight End Tight Ends(TE) line up outside the offensive line but inside the wide receiver. Their role is in between a receiver and an offensive lineman. They can be expected to block or to catch a pass on any given play. Some are specialized, their role being nearly purely blocking or pass catching, while others are more balanced.
Tight End (cont.) Tight Ends wear numbers between 80 and 89. Notables include Antonio Gates of the Chargers(previous slide), Jason Witten of the Cowboys, Vernon Davis of the 49ers(inset), and Jermichael Finley of the Packers.
Offensive Line The offensive line is comprised of the 5 players directly in front of the QB. On the outside are the offensive tackles. Inside of them are the guards. And in the middle, directly in front of the QB, is the center. He is the one who snaps the ball to the QB. All offensive linemen wear numbers between 60 and 79.
Offensive Tackle Offensive tackles are generally the most athletically talented players on the offensive line. They have to possess a rare blend of strength, size, speed and technique. They generally block the most athletic defensive players, and the left side tackle has to protect the quarterback’s blind side.
Offensive Tackle (cont.) Notable offensive tackles include Michael Oher of the Ravens(previous slide, and of “The Blind Side” fame), Joe Thomas of the Browns(inset), Ryan Clady of the Broncos, and myself.
Guards Guards are generally larger than offensive tackles, because they line up against the defensive tackles, the largest players on the defense. Their primary role is run blocking, as mistakes made pass blocking in the inside aren’t usually quite as costly as on the outside. Notable guards include Steve Hutchinson of the Vikings(inset), Chris Snee of the Giants, and Ben Grubbs of the Ravens.
Center The center is usually the smallest member of the offensive line. While blocking is very important, they are supported on both flanks by the guards, so it’s okay. They need to be the smartest member of the offensive line, as they aid the quarterback in analyzing the defense prior to the snap, and on some teams, make the adjustments independent of the QB. Notables include Nick Mangold of the Jets(inset) and Maurkice Pouncey of the Steelers.
Defensive Line The defensive line lines up opposite the offensive line. Their primary role involves stopping the run and attempting to tackle the QB before he can pass the ball, called a “sack.” Teams will use 3 or 4 defensive linemen every play, depending on their defensive scheme. Defensive linemen wear numbers between 70and 79, OR 90 to 99
Defensive End Defensive Ends are the defensive linemen on the end of the line(hence the name) There are always 2 defensive ends on the field Their role is usually to attack the QB, but they also need to stop the run. Notables include Ty Warren of the Patriots, Dwight Freeney of the Colts, Julius Peppers of the Bears(inset) and Mario Williams of the Texans.
Defensive Tackle Defensive tackles line up on the inside of the defensive line. Defenses use one or two defensive tackles on a play. Their primary role is stopping the run, because of their immense size(300 pounds or more), but some have made names as pass rushers. Notables include Ndamukong Suh of the Lions(inset), Haloti Ngata of the Ravens, Casey Hampton of the Steelers and Kyle Williams of the Bills.
Linebackers Linebackers line up behind the defensive line. Teams that use 3 men on the d-line have 4 linebackers, while teams that use 4 on the d-line use 3 linebackers. Together, they are the “Front Seven.” Linebackers must be very versatile, being relied upon to rush the passer, stop the running back and cover receivers. Linebackers wear numbers between 50 and 59, OR 90 to 99(rarely).
Outside Linebackers Outside Linebackers (OLBs) are the linebackers on the outside. In a 4 linebacker front(called a 3-4), they’re relied on as primary pass rushers. In a 3 linebacker look(4-3), they are versatile. Notables include Clay Matthews of the Packers(inset), James Harrison of the Steelers and Demarcus Ware of the Cowboys(pass rushers), and Lance Briggs of the Bears and Chad Greenway of the Vikings.
Inside/Middle Linebackers Middle Linebackers(AKA Inside linebackers) line up in the middle of the formation. They often lead their teams in tackles, and have historically been the centrepiece of the most dominant defenses. Notable middle linebackers include Ray Lewis of the Ravens, Brian Urlacher of the Bears, Patrick Willis of the 49ers(inset) and Jon Beason of the Panthers.
Defensive Backs Defensive Backs line up on the outer extreme of the formation and behind everyone else. There are two types of defensive backs: cornerbacks and safeties. Their primary role is pass coverage. They wear numbers between 20 and 49.
Cornerbacks Cornerbacks line up across from the wide receivers on the outside of the formation. They are often the most agile players on the field, as they need to react to the receiver’s moments to stick with him. Notables include Darrelle Revis of the Jets(inset), Nnamdi Asomugha of the Raiders and Champ Bailey of the Broncos.
Safeties Safeties are the furthest players from the ball at the snap. There are two of them: the Free Safety and the Strong Safety. They are bigger than corners, as they need to tackle runners that escape the front seven. They often provide highlight reel hits on receivers over the middle and record a lot of interceptions. Notables include Ed Reed of the Ravens, Troy Polamalu of the Steelers and Sean Taylor of the Redskins(inset and Rest in Peace)
Kickers and Punters Their only use is to kick or punt the ball, so most people hate them even though it’s kinda important. It’s probably because they sit around kicking a ball at practice while everyone else is running to the point of vomiting and killing each other.