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A Womans and Non Sports Fanatics Quick Guide to American Football

Updated on February 3, 2013

Women Can Learn Football Too

Super Bowl Sunday is the annual sports fanatics occasion to have a party and watch the clash of two football teams as they battle for the coveted title of Super Bowl Champions.
Many women, for dislike of the sport, or lack of knowledge of the game choose to go shopping, have a girls day out, or go see a movie. Having a girls day out is great. But for women and those non sports fanatics who feel shunted from the hoopla, you now have a way to understand the game easily.

I love football. When I am at a party (a non football party) during the year, and guys are talking football, I actually find myself gravitated towards their conversation. I think it is an intelligent sport played like a chess game strategy, with the added benefit of guys in tight uniforms. You don’t have to be one of those sports fanatics to understand the game. This article will teach you what you need to know to understand and enjoy the game. In just a few hundred words from now, you will have a better understanding of this great American sport. If you are not a sports fanatic and don’t like the game, the advertisements make the event worth watching anyway.

While I love football, I am not an expert, so if this needs some correcting, please teach me. Also there is much more to the game than what I am explaining, but it should be good enough to start you off to become a football sports fanatic or have more fun around a football sports fanatic. The game description relates to NFL Pro Football, The rules vary slightly for college football.

I Object of the Game

  • Basically football players are focused on 1 thing during the game, which is getting the ball into their endzone so they can score points, or they are focused on stopping the team that has the ball from scoring.
  • The winning team of the Super Bowl gets a trophy called The Vince Lombardi Trophy
  • Each player on the winning team gets a Super Bowl ring. 

II The Beginning of the Game

  • Every game starts with a coin toss, the winner of the coin toss will get possession of the ball
  • Now you might think the team that wins the coin toss just gets the ball and begins the game. Noooo... The only way a team can get the ball is if the opposing team kicks it in the air towards them. This is called punting.
  • The loser of the coin toss will send their special team on the field to punt the ball to the opposing team. This team can try to catch the ball and run as far as they can down the field.
  • If they don’t catch the ball, because it went out of bounds or landed in the endzone, it will automatically be placed on the 20 yard line and is called a touchback.
  • If you see a player catch the ball after it is kicked and kneel to the ground, that means the kickoff play is over, and the ball will be placed where he touched the field. Otherwise, if you see the player running, where he gets tackled is where the play will begin.
  • Where the play begins is called the line of scrimmage
  • Then there will be an advertisement

line of scrimmage

III The Game

  • When the game comes back, the quarterback and his offense will line up against the defense of the other team. The offense has possession of the ball and will try to score. The defense will try to stop them from scoring.
  • The offensive line will stand where the ball is placed. The defense lines up facing them.(the line of scrimmage) The quarterback stands behind the center who “snaps” the ball to the quarterback. Sometimes the quarterback yells out a bunch of numbers which is a code for the play
  • The quarterback runs backwards a few feet and looks to find someone to give the ball to by either throwing or passing the ball to someone. He is in a “pocket” protected by his own offense, but the defense tries to get through this pocket to tackle the quarterback before he throws the ball.
  • If that guy, the receiver or running back, successfully receives the ball, he will run with it until he either is tackled, drops the ball, or falls.

interceptions make the game exciting

  • If the quarterback is not protected well, the defense will come at him, called a blitz, and tackle him. Then the team can even lose yardage.
  • The other team can intercept the ball if they catch the ball the quarterback threw, or if the receiver or running back drops the ball and the other team touches it before the ball touches the ground. Then there will be an advertisement and when the play resumes, the other team will bring their offense and quarterback to the field, and the team that lost the ball brings their defense to the field to stop the other teams offense. The downs start again for this offense. The ball is placed where it was intercepted.
  • The quarterback has 4 tries called downs to move the ball 10 yards.
  • After 10 yards or more have been completed, the 4 tries start over again. Each try is called a down.
  • The team that has the ball runs or throws the ball down the field until they can get the ball into the endzone and score points either through a touch down or a field goal.
  • Points are scored in 6 ways: 1)when a player carries the ball into the endzone ~ worth 6 points and called a touchdown 2) when a player catches the ball in the endzone ~ worth 6 points and called a touchdown 3) after either of these points are scored the team can try for an extra point by kicking the ball through the posts near the endzone ~ worth 1 additional point added to the touchdown 4)sometimes, but not too often the team will go for a 2 point conversion. Instead of kicking the ball through the goal posts, they will run into the endzone with the ball ~ worth 2 points added to the touchdown 5) when the kicker kicks the ball through the end zone posts ~ worth 3 points and is called a field goal 6)If the quarterback is tackled while holding the ball in his own endzone ~ worth 2 points (called a sack) to the opposite team
  • After these points are scored the team will kick the ball to the opposite team
  • The offense players are the only ones who can score unless the defense players took the football away from the opposing side and ran with it into the endzone (interception).
  • Only the team that has possession of the ball can score
  • The team that has the ball gets it in 2 ways either by receiving it as kickoff from the other team, or because they intercepted the ball while the other team was trying to score
  • To keep possession of the ball, the offense has 4 chances to get the ball 10 yards further from where they got the ball.

Thick White Sidelines Mark What is in Bounds

  • When the guys run down the field they have to stay within the sidelines. Those are the real thick lines running the length of the 100 yard field. If they run or catch the ball beyond the sidelines they are out of bounds and the play starts back from where the quarterback threw the ball
  • After the 3rd try the team usually kicks the ball to the opposing team. Otherwise the opposing team would get the ball where the play stopped.
  • Sometimes the team will use the 4th down to score or go for a field goal.

100 Yard Football Field plus EndZones

IV The Field:

  • The field is 100 yards long and the thick white lines you see mark 10 yard intervals.
  • The middle of the field is the 50 yard line.
  • At the end of both sides of the field there is a 10 yard colored area, or the area has the name of the home team, these areas are called endzones. Getting the ball in the endzone is the only way to score points.

V The Length of the Game:

  • Football is a game played between 2 opposing teams. The Super Bowl is a face off between the NFC and AFC leagues (National Football Conference) and (American Football Conference)
  • The game is divided into 4 quarters lasting 15 minutes of playing time each quarter. This is actually tricky because when your guy says there is only 6 minutes left in the quarter, it means playing time. Playing time is when the ball is on the field and the players are doing something. Time outs, tv commercials, penalty plays, reviewing instant replays, do not count as playing time. So just like dog years, football time is not real time. 6 minutes could really be 20 minutes of real time.
  • When there are 2 minutes left of the quarter you will hear about the 2 minute warning. This usually means the offense will rush up their plays to score before time runs out on the play clock
  • You will also hear about letting the clock run out. Sometimes the offense will try to waste time and keep possession of the ball so they don’t have to kick the ball to the other team and give them an opportunity to score.

Kicking the Football to the Other Team

  • At the end of every play the special team kicks the ball to the opposing team to give them posession of the ball. (kickoff)
  • After 2 quarters have been played, there is half time. During the Super Bowl, half time is a big deal with shows, and usually someone famous entertaining.
  • When the 2nd half begins, the teams switch sides of the field they were playing on. This is designed to give equal advantage to both teams if wind or adverse conditions affect one side of the playing field.
  • If both teams are tied after 60 minutes of playing, they go into overtime for one quarter or an additional 15 minutes. Overtime starts with a coin toss again, and the first team to score wins. This makes getting your offense on the field first very valuable to winning the game.



special team

VI The Teams:

  • The Super Bowl is held in a city that was chosen years before. Usually both teams are not from that area

  • During the year each game is played in one of the team's home cities. The guys wearing dark shirts are the home team. The guys in light shirts are the away team. Sometimes with warm weather teams, there are exceptions.

  • Each team consists of 3 parts: the offense, the defense, and the special team

  • The offense is the team who has the ball.

  • The defense comes on the field to stop the offense of the other team to try to stop them from scoring

  • Each side brings 11 men to the field. The team that has their offense on the field will oppose the defense of the other team. Football players are all big. The defense players tend to be bigger guys. They are the ones who run towards the offensive player who has or might be getting the ball. They will tackle that guy. This is the main reason you see guys in tight uniforms piled on top of each other.

  • The special team is called on the field when the team is going to kick the ball for one of three reasons; either to try for a conversion point (worth one point after a touchdown), to try for a field goal, or to give the ball to the other team (punting).

  • The defense goes after anyone who has the ball. At the beginning of the play they will try to tackle the quarterback. As soon as the quarterback lets go of the ball, they can’t go after him, or there will be a hefty penalty, called roughing the passer.

Quarterback throwing the Football to a Receiver

referee telling about penalty and hand signals
referee telling about penalty and hand signals
umpire seeing a foul
umpire seeing a foul
Chain gang measuring yards completed
Chain gang measuring yards completed

VII Important People in Football

  • quarterback ~ he is the guy chooses that how the ball will get down the field. The quarterback can hand off the ball, throw the ball, or run the ball himself. He can only hold onto the ball for about 40 seconds, otherwise there will be a penalty. The longer the quarterback holds onto the ball, the more likely he will be tackled.
  • receivers ~ are the guys who catch the ball from the quarterback and move the ball down the field until they bring it into the endzone
  • running backs ~ receive the ball from the quarterback, usually from a hand off or a very very short throw and run with the ball up the field
  • umpire ~ they wear black and white striped shirts, carry a whistle and have lots of cloths in their pocket called flags. They throw the flags on the ground and blow the whistle to show they saw someone do something wrong on the field (foul plays). The whistle stops the play
  • the referee ~ is the guy who will make the announcement about the penalty. He will also use hand signals to indicate what the penalty was.
  • When a player does something wrong, that particular team is penalized either by losing yards or having to redo the play. 
  • Instant Replay  ~ when the play is reviewed to make sure the penalty is correct
  • guards ~ left guard, right guard, left tackle, right tackle are the players who protect the quarterback. These are very big guys who try to stop the defense from going after the quarterback while the quarterback has the ball. 
  • kicker ~ he is the guy on the special team who you will see kicking the ball for field goals and extra points while someone else is holding the ball vertically on the ground 
  • punter ~ he kicks the ball to the opposite team on a 4th down 
  • the chain gang ~ these are the guys hauling a chain with 2 big red or orange things at each end of the chain down the side lines. They are measuring how far the ball went to see if the 10 yards were completed, so the 4 downs can start again.

VIII Lingo of the Game

  • you will often hear terms like 1st and 10. This means 1st down and 10 yards to go. 2nd and 8 means it is the 2nd down and 8 yards to go. If you hear 3rd and 15, the offense lost yardage either because of a penalty or because the quarterback was tackled (sacked)
  • Sacking the quarterback means he was tackled
  • Blitz means a lot of guys tackled the quarterback
  • Safety means the ball ended up in the opposing teams endzone and gives 2 points to the opposing team.
  • Hail Mary Pass means the quarterback threw the ball almost the whole length of the field and the player caught it. Hail Mary Passes -- when successfully completed -- are beautiful to watch (unless of course it took the victory away from your team).

Hail Mary Pass in Action

The Team is in Field Goal Range

  • A Bomb is a long pass, but not as long as a Hail Mary
  • Incomplete Pass is when the quarterback throws the ball, but the player didn’t catch it. The next play starts where the line of scrimmage was and they used up 1 of the 4 downs.
  • Field Goal Range means the team is beyond the 50 yard line and can possibly complete a field goal on a 4th down
  • Fumble ~ a player carrying the ball drops it. When you see a bunch of playes landing on top of each other and they have to be peeled away, a player at a time, a fumble was probably involved. The offense loses possession and gives the ball to the opposite team
  • Turnovers ~ giving the ball to the opposing team because of either a fumble or an interception
  • Interception ~ a defensive player catches the ball thrown by the quarterback that was meant for an offensive player.  The offense looses possession and the opposite team gets a chance to score.

Super Bowl Commercials are Some of the Best

IX For Non Sports Fanatics who want to know when to expect the advertisements:

  • Advertisement will show up often and anytime. But you can be pretty sure there will be ads shown after: the ball is punted to the opposite team, when time outs are called, when there is an injury on the field, when it is the end of every quarter and halftime, and when there are debates about referee rulings.

Did you find this article helpful

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hey thanks! Very very helpful and clear.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi toknowinfo very well done hub. I think more and more woman are getting in tune with understanding football.

      Great hub and very well written and explained.

      Thumbs up!!!

    • BJBenson profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      I have watched football for a long time.

      GO BOISE!

      GO BROWNS!

    • DiamondRN profile image

      Bob Diamond RPh 

      9 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

      I'll show this to my wife and beg her to read it :0)


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