American Football Explained to Our European Friends

Published on January 17, 2009 by     Seahawk Fanatic

Welcome to American Football, our across the pond friends. It has come to my attention, that many of our European friends have no idea what the hell they are watching, when an American football game is being observed.

I will attempt to explain our wonderful game to all, who are just a bit confused.

Our football is played on a 100-yard long field, with goal lines on each end. The field is marked in increments of one yard.

The main object, is to score more points than your opponent, as it is with most games, in the time allotted to do so.

This game as we play it, is mainly a battle of territory gained or lost by 11 people on each team, much like war!

There is an offense and a defense. Both entities are usually separated on the rosters by designated positions.

The main scoring occurs if either team crosses the opponent’s goal line, by running the ball across, or by throwing it to a teammate who catches the ball, not allowing it to touch the ground until firmly in possession of the ball.

This is called a touchdown and is rewarded by six points. After every touchdown, a team is given the option of adding on 1 point, by a kick through the uprights,or goalposts.

A team can also try for two points by placing the ball three yards behind the goal line, and scoring across the goal again.

Secondary scoring includes field goals, where the ball is kicked through the uprights, or goalposts, anywhere on the field of play where the team possesses the ball,which results in three points.

The only other way to score is when the defense traps the opponent in its own end zone, or scoring zone, which results in what is called a safety, for 2 points.

The team that gets caught in their own end zone, then must kick the ball back to the opponent.

Lets name all the positions that the players are called, with a brief explanation of duties.

On the offense there are 11 players. The quarterback is the leader of the team, and receives the ball , almost every time. If you notice the picture on the article, that is the great Joe Montana, who won four American Super Bowl Championships.

He, without an argument, is on all lists of top 10 quarterbacks of all time, is number one.

The quarterback passes the ball to receivers down the field, hands the ball off the the runners, and calls all the signals to start the plays.

A good quarterback means stability and success in the National Football League. A poor quarterback means, instability, failure, and frustration for your team.

This is the most important position on a team.

The quarterback has runners to hand the ball to called running backs, or full backs.

He also has receivers to throw the ball to, called, wide receivers, flankers, or tight ends.

The tight end lines up on the end of the blocking line most of the time, and is used as a blocker for the runners, or a receiver.

The wide receivers are usually on the outside, near the side boundaries, with the flankers, somewhere in between.

The center is the player who snaps, or relays the ball to the quarterback, and must block the defense from rushing the quarterback, and also block for the runners.

On the line there are usually two players to the left and right of the center, called right or left guards, and right or left offensive tackles. These players block and give protection for the quarterback or protect the runner, advancing down the field.

Now to the defensive players.

First we have the defensive linemen. They are called defensive ends and defensive tackles, Their job is to rush the quarterback, tackling him with the ball if possible, called a sack, or tackling the runners trying to advance down the field.

The players directly behind the defensive linemen are called linebackers. they, of course back up the linemen, helping with tackles and rushing the quarterback, as well as defending against short passes , mainly.

There are three of these players, called an outside linebacker, lining up on the outsides of the line, back a bit, or the middle linebacker, who positions himself, basically in the center of the field, behind the linemen a bit.

The middle linebacker usually calls out to the defense, what to expect or defend against, also known as the defensive signals. He is often the defensive team captain.

The defensive backs defend against the pass receivers, in a zone coverage where they defend a certain area or man to man, where they try to stay step for step with one particular player.

There is one last position called a safety on defense, who can be used to defend, passes, runs or attack the quarterback.

Sometimes the defense will line up with three lineman, and four linebackers, called a three/four defense and other times they line up with four lineman and three linebackers, which is called a four /three defensive set.

This is determined by the offense’s ability to throw the ball, or run better.

When other players besides the linemen, try to stop the quarterback, or the running backs, such as the linebackers or the safety, that is called a blitz.

For instance, if the safety is used as an extra pass rusher, that is called a safety blitz.

Sometimes no one blitzes, and sometimes everybody comes. The quarterback’s ability to recognize these situations, makes him more dangerous to the defense.

All right, now you know what everyone is expected to do. Let’s go over some basic rules and penalties.

Once the offense is lined up and set, the offensive linemen must remain still, until the ball is snapped, or hiked to the quarterback. This prevents them from drawing the defense offsides into a penalty prematurely.

If a lineman moves prior to the snap, it is called movement, or illegal procedure. The offense is penalized five yards.

If a defensive player jumps over the line before the ball is snapped and makes contact with an offensive player this is called encroachment by the defense, and the defense is penalized five yards.

If a defensive player jumps over the line too soon, without making contact, but the ball is snapped, or hiked to the quarterback, while the defender is on the opposing side, that is called offsides, and results in a five yard penalty on the defense as well.

No one on the offense may hold another player, by the jersey, or grabbing any part of the opposing player to detain him from making progress down the field. That is called holding.

The only player you may grab and tackle is the player with the ball.

This also goes for the defensive players. They cannot hold anyone either.

A receiver may not be touched after he runs for five yards downfield. This is called illegal contact, which is a penalty as well.

If you bump, grab, or impede the receiver on a pass play before the ball comes in contact with him, that is called pass interference, and a penalty results as well.

Simultaneous contact between the defender and the ball is allowed, however. Most of the time it will not be called a penalty by the official, depending on his judgment as when the ball arrived.

You cannot reach inside the player’s jersey at the neck and tackle. This is called a horse collar tackle and could result in injury to the person being tackled.

You cannot aim your helmet as a weapon, to tackle a player, or have helmet-to-helmet contact. This could cause serious injury to a player.

Also you cannot pick a player up and slam him into the ground, especially the quarterbacks. This is called unnecessary roughness and results in a penalty.

Sometimes because of the ferocity of a tackle, being borderline malicious, and rough, a player may be ejected from a game, fined, or even suspended.

A player can not block another player in the back, or block someone below the waist, from behind, which is called clipping, and could also result in serious injury.

Some players are rougher than others, and some are even called dirty players for the tactics they employ during the game.

Most NFL players do however, conduct themselves on the field cleanly and expect other players to do the same in a warrior like code of ethics.

Now, the last and maybe a liitle more confusing aspect of the game, how to advance the ball on downs and score.

The team that has possession of the ball gets four chances to advance the ball down the field. These are called downs. Every time you advance the ball 10 yards, it is called a first down, which means your chances start over.

Let’s say your team has the ball on the 20 yard line. You have four chances to advance the ball beyond the 30 yard line, to keep possession of the ball. There is no limit on how far you advance.

You keep running or passing the ball until you score or give the ball back to the opponent. If you fail to advance 10 yards, the other team takes over possession of the ball.

If you don’t advance the ball 10 yards in three tries, you may punt, or kick the ball back to your opponents, taking them further back, to bring your defense back out.

Sometimes you can try to make a first down if you are deep in your opponent’s territory, and sometimes if you are in your own territory, you will punt the ball, to give your defense good position.

It’s all about field position and risk taking, with the proportionate rewards.

I think I covered all the basics and I hope you enjoy the games a little better knowing more about our great game of football.

If you have any questions or comments, I will answer and respond to all!

Thanks, enjoy the Conference Championships this weekend, and the Super Bowl on Feb. 1.

I have picked the Pittsburgh Steelers to win this game and their sixth Super Bowl Championship, which will be a new record for the most winning the most Super Bowls.

Thanks for reading this article, my European friends, skoal, cheers, and down the hatch, mates.

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