Intro to Sports Part 1: Football

Football Field

Football is played on a 100 yard field, with an additional 10 years on each end. The 10 yard sections on each end are called “end zones”, and the goal is for a player to cross into the end zone to score points. There are hash marks on both sides of the field each yard. These help officials with ball placement, and teams use them to execute plays. If a team has yet to cross the midfield line (50 yard line) on offense, they are considered to be on their own side of the field. If they have crossed the midfield line, they are considered to be on the opposing team’s side of the field.

Time and Clock Management

The National Football League (NFL) and college football use four 15 minute quarters, for a total of 60 minutes. Two 15 minute quarters are played before halftime, and the remaining two are played after. There are times when the clock is stopped during play, including: incomplete passes, timeouts, penalties, changes in possession, or when players run out of bounds. The game clock continues to run after every play that stays inbounds. Each team is given three timeouts per half, but they do not carry over if not used. At the end of a quarter, teams are allowed to continue playing after the game clock reaches 0:00 if the ball was snapped with at least one second left on the clock.

Positions (Offense)

There are 11 players on the offense side at one time and each position plays an important role for the team. The offensive line, which protects the quarterback consists of five players: two tackles, two guards, and one center. The tight end has multiple jobs. They typically line up next to the offensive line and block during running plays, but run routes during passing plays. The other players who run routes are wide receivers. Typically, there are either two or three wide receivers on the field at once, but it can vary depending on the offensive formation the coach wants. The running back receives handoffs from the quarterback and tries to get as many yards possible. They line up next to the quarterback behind the offensive line, and occasionally run routes. The quarterback is considered by many as the most important player on the offense. They are responsible for play calling, handoffs, and passing. Quarterbacks are responsible for most of the offensive production, which makes them valuable to an team.

Positions (Defense)

Just like the offense, there are 11 players on the field at once on defense. The “front line” consists of defensive lineman who line up in front of the offensive line. Their job is to rush the quarterback in an attempt to either tackle him or force the ball out of his hands. Defensive tackles line up in the middle of the line, and they are typically bigger in size. They try to force their way through the offensive line to get to the quarterback. Defensive ends line up on the outside of the line, and they are more agile and mobile. They use a combination of power and finesse to reach the quarterback from the outside.

Players who line up behind the defensive line are called linebackers. Depending on the defensive formation, there will be either three or four linebackers on the field at once. Their job is to back up the defensive line in stopping the run, or assist the secondary (defensive backs) in pass coverage. Linebackers are often referred to as the most important part of the defense due to the amount of responsibility they have.

The “secondary” refers to defensive backs who mainly defend passing plays. The first part of the secondary are cornerbacks whose job is to defend the wide receivers on the opposing team. There are usually two on the field at once, one on either side. They are put in many situations that require them to defend a receiver while also having their back to the quarterback. This makes it tough for them to stop the opposing passing attack. The second part of the secondary are the safeties. Safeties line up behind the linebackers, and they either play in a zone coverage, or cover extra wide receivers. Much of their job involves prediction, which makes the position hard to play.


In football, each play is considered a “down”, and the offense is given four downs each possession to go ten yards. If the offense is able to advance past ten yards, they are given four new downs to go another ten yards. On first down, many teams opt to make the safe play by running the football, but pass on occasion. The goal is to get three to four yards which makes the next down more manageable. If this is executed correctly, teams can either go for the first down by passing, or get more yards by running the football. If they run the football and third down is reached, is is typical for the offense to choose a passing play to get the yards needed for a new set of downs. If a team reaches fourth down, a decision is made depending on their field placement. If they are on their own side of the field, a field goal attempt would come up short, which forces them to punt. If they are on the opposing team’s 40 yard line or closer, they will usually choose to kick a field goal for three points. In some situations when the offense only has one or two yards left, they will take a risk by running a play on fourth down. This only happens if the coach is confident in his team’s offensive ability, and the aforementioned options are not desirable.


There are multiple ways to score both on offense and defense. On the offensive end, teams can score a touchdown which awards them six points. In order to score a touchdown, a player from the offensive team needs to cross into the end zone the team is moving towards. Touchdowns can be scored through either a running or passing play, and teams are given an option after the score. The most common option is a point after touchdown (PAT). The PAT is scored by a placekicker who kicks the ball through the uprights from the 15 yard line. The uprights are located past the each end zone. If the ball goes through, the team is awarded one point, but they get none if the kick misses. The other option is a two point play. The ball is placed on the two yard line, and a team can choose to run or pass. In order to get two points, the player needs to run into the end zone or catch a pass as cross the goal line. Many games are decided by the risk/reward option given to them after a touchdown.

Touchdowns are also a possibility for the defense. If a player from the defense intercepts a pass from the quarterback, they can run the ball into the endzone they are facing and score six points. Then, they are given the same options after the touchdown as mentioned before.

Field goals are only scored by the offensive team, and award them three points. If a team is close enough after they reach fourth down, they will opt to kick a field goal instead of taking the risk of turning the ball over. They are executed in the same fashion as a PAT, but they are usually kicked from a further distance and mean more to the team. Many games are decided by three points or less, which makes a kicker’s job the most expendable. If they are inconsistent and are the reason a team loses a game, the team will waste no time cutting the player from the roster.

A safety is a unique way of scoring that can only be executed by the defense. If the offensive team is tackled by the defense in their own endzone, the defense is awarded two points and possession of the ball. This is the most rare method of scoring, as it is tough to put the offense in this type of situation.