systemhalted by Palak Mathur

American Football - Beginners Guide

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As a newcomer to USA in 2013, American Football was really confusing at first. Here I summarize the rules at high level for the people who are new to the USA and want to understand and enjoy the game.

American football is a sport played by two teams, each consisting of eleven players. The objective of the game is to advance an oval-shaped ball down the field and score points by crossing the opposing team’s goal line or kicking the ball through a set of goalposts.

The game is divided into four quarters, each lasting 15 minutes, with a 2-minute break between the 1st and 2nd quarters and between the 3rd and 4th quarters, and a 15-minute halftime break between the 2nd and 3rd quarters.

Each team takes turns playing offense and defense. The team on offense, also known as the “offense,” attempts to advance the ball down the field by either running with the ball or throwing it to a teammate. The team on defense, also known as the “defense,” attempts to stop the offense and take control of the ball for themselves. Each team has four chances, known as downs, to advance the ball at least 10 yards. They can do this by running or throwing the ball. If the team successfully advances the ball 10 yards, they get a new set of downs and the yardage is reset. If they fail to make the yardage after 4 downs, the opposing team takes possession of the ball.

There are hundreds of different plays that can be run on any down, and they are often complex and chaotic. The head coach or quarterback calls the plays for the offensive team, while the defensive captain calls the plays for the defensive team.

The game starts with a coin toss to determine which team will receive the ball first and which side of the field they will start from. The team that wins the coin toss begins the game with a kick-off, where they punt the ball down the field for the other team to run back as far as possible.

On fourth down, the offensive team 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 field, they will usually choose one over the other. If they are within 40 yards or so of the opposing team’s goalposts, they will likely attempt a field goal. If they are further back, they will likely choose to punt the ball.

Points can be scored in several ways:

  • Touchdown: 6 points, awarded when the offense carries the ball across the opponent’s goal line or catches a pass in the end zone.
  • Field goal: 3 points, awarded when the offense successfully kicks the ball through the opponent’s goalposts.
  • Safety: 2 points, awarded when the defense tackles the offensive player with the ball in their own end zone.
  • Extra point: 1 point, awarded after a touchdown, the offense can choose to attempt to kick the ball through the opponent’s goalposts for one point or run/pass the ball into the end zone for 2 points.

Go and enjoy the game!