Undoubtedly the most popular sports in North America, American football which traces its root to rugby football has risen in more than a century to become one of the most popular sports in the world. In recent years, the National Football League (NFL) has been the centre of focus of American football in the world. Yearly, millions tune from around the world to watch the very best teams struggle it out for the ultimate glory of being Superbowl champion. As with every other sport, American football is governed by a set of rules which ensures healthy competition and fair play. We consider in precise and crisp detail, American football rules as well as how to play American football.
Table of Contents
How to Play American Football
The Objective of the Game
As with most sports that bear similarities with American football, the ultimate objective is to score as more points as possible against your opponent during the stipulated duration of the game.
An American football field measures 100 yards between both goal area referred to as an end zone which are 10 yards deep. Gameplay begins with the flipping of the coin by the head referee in order to decide the team to play the opening kick-off or receive the kick-off and to designate an end zone to both teams. The field is divided by white markings 10 yards each which is used in deciding amount of chances or downs a team receives.
Chances often referred to as downs are opportunities given to an offensive team to move the ball 10 yards each time until they successfully get the ball into an opponent’s end zone. Each team is granted four downs, if at the end of four downs a team succeeds in getting the ball in an opponent end zone the game resets with the team moving four downs towards the opponent’s end zone, but if at the end of four downs a team fails to make it to an opponent’s end zone the ball is handed to the defensive team to begin its four downs towards the other teams end zone. The game is moderated by referees who throw yellow flags into the field to indicate a penalty.
Teams and Players Position
An American football team comprises of 45 players while 11 players are chosen to play, the others act as substitutes. In the field of play, a team is subdivided into three teams which are the attacking team which includes the quarterback who throws the ball to the running back who takes the ball into the opponent end zone, the offensive lines who intercepts passes, and tight ends who defend the edge of the line and intercept passes. The defensive team consists the linebackers who attack the quarterback as well as any oncoming player, the defensive line who mount pressure on the opponent’s offensive team and attack the quarterbacks and the cornerback and safeties who attack the opponent wide receivers and attack the quarterbacks. The third team which are called the special team are charged with blocking opponent players from preventing their player from making a clean kick.
American football players are equipped with various gears which serve as means of protection in the physical intensive sport. Players are equipped with shoes, helmet, shoulder pads, gloves, mouth-pads, thigh and knee pads. Elbow pads, neck rolls, rib pads, hip pads, tailbone pads, are also worn. The team equipment manager provides the gears for each player. The ball dubbed the ‘duke’ is spheroid.
Points are earned in American football by various means. A touchdown which occurs when an offensive player successfully gets the ball in an opponent end zone or receives the ball by means of a pass while in an opponent end zone results in six points being awarded to the offensive team, plus an opportunity to earn extra point by kicking the ball between the upright post to earn extra point. A field goal is scored when a ball.is played between the upright poles during a scrimmage. A field goal results in three points being awarded to the offensive team. Safety which carries two points occurs when a defending team successfully tackles an offensive player in the defensive team end zone, safety is often awarded if an offensive player commits a foul in a defensive team end zone.
At the conclusion of the four 15 minutes quarters, the team with the most points emerges winner in an American football game.
American Football Rules
- An American football game is divided into four quarters which spans 15 minutes each, between the 1st and 2nd quarters and the 3rd and 4th quarters there is a 2 minutes break, at the conclusion of the 1st and 2nd quarter, there is a 15-minute break before play resumes.
- Both teams have the opportunity to make four downs or chances towards an opponent’s end zone. A team can move 10 or more yards towards an opponent’s end zone in each down or chance. At the end of four downs if a team successfully gets the ball in its opponent’s end zone the down resets with the team starting another down, but at the end of four downs, if a team fails to get the ball in an opponent end zone they are required to turn over the ball to the opponent team.
- There are different means by which a team can make downs. Players run in various routes in the field in an organised but disruptive manner. The quarterback or head coach organizes the on-field players while the defensive captain organizes the defensive players.
- At the onset of the game, a referee moderate the toss of the coin which helps in deciding the team to make the kickoff as well as which end zone is assigned to both teams.
- The game begins with kickoff where a team player kicks the ball down the field for the other player to catch and run in the opposite direction.
- Offensive players have the option of making up for the downs they are short of in the fourth down. Offensive players have the option of punting or making a field goal. If offensive players are 40 yards away from an opponent end zone they can opt for a field goal but any distance short of 40 yards will result in punting.
- Penalty which involves kicks by moving 5-15 yards towards an opponent’s end zone is awarded when an offensive player moves past the line of scrimmage before a back pass or snap is made, which is often referred to as offside, when a player makes a false start, or holds a player without the ball, when a player interferes with a pass receiver while with the ball is in the air to prevent him from catching the ball or grabs a players facemask, or when an ineligible receiver is down five yards past the line of scrimmage during a forward pass.
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