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THE OFFENSE     THE OFFENSIVE PLAYERS     Offensive Strategy    
THE DEFENSE     THE DEFENSIVE PLAYERS     Defensive Strategy    

Getting Started: 

One 11-man team has possession of the football. It is called the offense and it tries to advance the ball down the field-by running with the ball or throwing it - and score points by crossing the goal line and getting into an area called the end zone.

The other team (also with 11 players) is called the defense. It tries to stop the offensive team and make it give up possession of the ball.
If the team with the ball does score or is forced to give up possession, the offensive and defensive teams switch roles (the offensive team goes on defense and the defensive team goes on offense). And so on, back and forth, until all four quarters of the game have been played.



The field measures 100 yards (360 feet) long and 53 yards (160 feet) wide. Little white markings on the field called yard markers help the players, officials, and the fans keep track of the ball.
Probably the most important part of the field is the end zone.
 It's an additional 10 yards on each end of the field. This is where the points add up! When the offense - the team with possession of the ball -gets the ball into the opponent's end zone, they score points.

Obviously the team with the most points at the end of the game wins. So the offense tries to get as many touchdowns as they can and the defense tries to stop them.
 That is the simple part. 
How the offense and defense try to reach their goal is the tricky part.


 There are rules (OFFICIAL NFL RULES) and procedures to follow like in any sport. Breaking a rule is called a penalty. The team that gets called for a penalty usually looses yardage.
 Some examples of penalties are: holding, clipping, interference, and off sides.

In the game the Officials (nicknamed "Zebras" because of their striped shirts) can call a penalty by "throwing a flag", a yellow flag is carried in the back pocket of each man. When the flag is thrown the play is normally run and the penalty assessed after the play. Various penalties, normally 5, 10 or 15yards are enforced depending on the infringement. If the team who has been offended has gained more yards than would be enforced on the penalty then they can "decline" the penalty and take the yardage gained.


Games are divided into four 15-minute quarters, separated by a 12-minute break at halftime. There are also 2-minute breaks at the end of the first and third quarters as teams change ends of the field after every 15 minutes of play.

At the end of the first and third quarters, the team with the ball retains possession heading into the following quarter.
That is not the case before halftime.
 The second half starts with a kickoff in the same way as the game began in the first quarter.
However, whichever team kicked off in the beginning of the game will NOW recieve The Kickoff in the second half.

Each offensive team has 40 seconds from the end of a given play until they must snap the ball for the start of the next play,
otherwise they will be penalized.
See Summary of Penalties - Automatic First Down

The clock stops at the end of incomplete passing plays, when a player goes out of bounds, or when a penalty is called. The clock starts again when the ball is re-spotted by an official.

If a game is tied at the end of regulation, a 15-minute overtime period will be played.
In the NFL, this is sudden death and the first team to score wins. Possession is determined before the period begins by a coin toss.


Each team has 3 separate units: 
the offense (see section below), those players who are on the field when the team has possession of the ball;
 the defense (see section below), players who line up to stop the other team's offense;
and special teams that only come in on kicking situations (punts, field goals, and kickoffs).
 Only 11 players are on the field from one team at any one time.

To see how the players line up
click here 


Teams also must kick the ball. They use another set of players call special teams. To start the game there is a kickoff. When the offense cannot move the ball they punt. After a score the scoring team kicks an extra point. The offensive team may try a field goal to score points. These are specific formations and need special players called kickers and punters.


A game starts with the kickoff. The ball is placed on a kicking tee at the defense's 30-yard line, and a special kicker (a "placekicker") kicks the ball to the offense. A kick return man from the offense will try to catch the ball and advance it by running. Where he is stopped is the point from which the offense will begin its drive, or series of offensive plays. When a kickoff is caught in the offense's own end zone, the kick returner can either run the ball out of the end zone,
kneel in the end zone to signal a touchback (a sign to stop the play). The ball is then placed on the 20-yard line, where the offense begins play.


All progress in a football game is measured in yards. The offensive team tries to get as much "yardage" as it can to try and move closer to the opponent's end zone. Each time the offense gets the ball, it has four downs, or chances, in which to gain 10 yards. If the offensive team successfully moves the ball 10 or more yards, it earns a first down, and another set of four downs. If the offense fails to gain 10 yards, it loses possession of the ball. The defense tries to prevent the offense not only from scoring, but also from gaining the 10 yards needed for a first down. If the offense reaches fourth down, it usually punts the ball (kicks it away). This forces the other team to begin its drive further down the field.


A play begins with the snap. At the line of scrimmage (the position on the field where the play begins), the quarterback loudly calls out a play in code and the player in front of him, the center, passes, or snaps the ball under his legs to the quarterback.
 From there, the quarterback can either throw the ball, hand it off, or run with it.


There are two main ways for the offense to advance the ball.
 The first is called a run. This occurs when the quarterback hands the ball off to a running back, who then tries to gain as many yards as possible by eluding defensive players.
 The quarterback is also allowed to run with the ball. 


The other alternative to running the ball is to throw it.
 Or as they say in football, pass it! Usually, the quarterback does the passing, though there are times when another player may pass the ball to confuse the defense. Actually, anyone on the offensive team is allowed to pass the ball as long as the pass is thrown from behind the line of scrimmage. A pass is complete if the ball is caught by another offensive player, usually the "wide receiver" or "tight end."
If the ball hits the ground before someone catches it, it is called an incomplete pass.


The defense prevents the offense from advancing the ball by bringing the ball carrier to the ground. A player is tackled when one or both of his knees touch the ground. The play is then over. A play also ends when a player runs out of bounds.


The object of the game is to score the most points. 
There are four ways to score points in football. 


A touchdown is the biggest single score in a football game. It is worth six points, and it allows the scoring team an opportunity to attempt to get an extra point. To score a touchdown, the ball must be carried across the goal line into the end zone, caught in the end zone, or a fumble recovered in the end zone, or an untouched kickoff recovered in the end zone by the kicking team.


Immediately following a touchdown, the ball is placed at the opponent's two-yard line, where the offense has two options. Usually the offense will kick an extra point, also called the point after touchdown, conversion, or PAT. If the offense successfully kicks the ball through the goal posts, it earns one point. The offense can also score two points by running or throwing the ball into the end zone in the same manner as you would score a touchdown. Since going for two points is more difficult than kicking an extra point, the offense generally chooses to kick the extra point.


If the offense cannot score a touchdown, it may try to kick a field goal. Field goals are worth three points and often are the deciding plays in the last seconds of close games. They can be attempted from anywhere on the field on any down, but generally are kicked from inside the defense's 45-yard line on fourth down. For a field goal to be "good", the placekicker (or field goal kicker) must kick the ball through the goal-post uprights and over the crossbar. The defense tries to block the kick and stop the ball from reaching the goal post.


The safety is worth two points. A safety occurs when the offensive ball carrier is tackled behind his own goal line.


While trying to advance the football to the end zone, the offense may accidentally turn the ball over to the defense in one of two ways:


When the ball carrier or passer drops the ball, that's a fumble. Any player on the field can recover the ball by diving on it or he can run with it.
The team that recovers a fumble either gets-or retains-possession of the ball.


An aggressive defense can regain possession of the ball by catching (intercepting) passes meant for players on the other team.

Both fumble recoveries and interceptions can be run back into the end zone for touchdowns.



Whichever team has possession of the ball is the offense. While only the quarterback, the wide receivers and tight ends, and the running backs can legally handle the ball, it is the quarterback who is the leader of the team and the playmaker. In fact, he's a man of many talents - he not only throws the ball, he outlines each play to his team.

The offense uses many different formations to set their players to start a play. The quarterback calls plays and leads the team. The can handoff or pass the ball to a running back or full back. He can pass to a wide receiver or tight end. The linemen, tackles, guards and a center, block for the quarterback and running backs.
When a play is run all players work together to move the ball.

The offensive formation many times can tell you if they are going to pass or run the football. The formation can also tell you what side of the field the play might be run. Offenses use extra wide receivers when they need to pass the ball, or extra blockers and running backs when they need to run the ball.

Teams use different strategies to try and score. Some teams like to run the ball more than pass. Some teams prefer to pass. This all depends on the type of players a team has and the style of play the coach likes to use.


- The quarterback ("QB") passes or hands off the ball. 

- The center snaps the ball to the QB and blocks the defense. 

- 2 guards and 2 tackles keep the defense at bay. 

- 2/4 wide receivers catch the ball thrown by the QB. 

- 1 or 2 running backs take the ball and run with it. 

- 1 or 2 tight ends block the defense and can also catch passes. 

Offensive Strategy

Football calls for many different strategies in a game. The offense decides on a way to play and the defense does same. What plays are chosen and against what defensive formations are all part of the offensive and coaching strategy.


1. Running game. This way a team can control the pace of the game. They can control the clock. All coaches say this is an example of what some coaches call ball control offense. 

2. Passing game. Teams with good quarterbacks and receivers like to pass. They move the ball down the field by throwing long or short passes. 

3. Two Minute Offense: This is when the game is in the last two minutes of either half. The offense wants to move the ball quickly down the field. Usually there is no huddle and the plays are called at the line of scrimmage. Most plays are run to the side line so the players can get out of bounds to stop the clock. If they do not get out of bounds they have to use a timeout. This stops the clock and they can get organized for the next play. The two minute offense is used also when a team gets too far behind on the score.

4. Play calling. Calling the right play at the right time can make all the difference. If the defense is expecting a run and the offense passes, a big play may result. Many teams rely on their quarterback to make the right call. A quarterback may call an audible if he sees that the defense is at a disadvantage.



Teams have scouted their opponents and look for tendencies in the way they play defense and what they do in certain situations. For example if a team always blitzes on third and long, then the offensive coaches would call a screen pass or draw. Each offensive segment coach scouts their opponent to look for ways of running a specific play. The line coach watches for the way the defensive line rushes. He then plans out the blocking scheme. The backs watches the linebackers and secondary to see how they move and where they defend. He checks if they play man or zone defense. The receivers coach watches the backs and how they cover the receivers. All the coaches then meet as a staff and report their findings to the offensive coordinator. Then they come up with the game plan for the opponent.


The job of the defense is to stop the offense. The 11 men on the defensive team all work together to keep the offense from advancing toward the defense's end zone.

The defense uses different players to help stop the offense.
 The defense uses ends, tackles and nose guards to stop the run. Linebackers help in runs and passes. Cornerbacks try to stop passes. The strong safety helps against passes and runs. The safety prevents long plays.

The defensive formation usually matches up with the offense. But the defense can try to do different strategies to stop the offense. The defense can move players around to cause the offense problems. Defenses add extra lineman or backs if they think the offense is going to run or pass.


- Linebackers defend against the pass, and push forward to stop the run or tackle the QB.

- The defensive line (ends and tackles) battles head-to-head against the offensive line.

- Cornerbacks and safeties defend against the pass from the QB to the wide receiver and help to stop the run.

Defensive Strategy

Football calls for many different defensive strategies in a game. The offense decides on a play and the defense tries to counter with a way to stop the play. It is like a chess match, each team trying to out wit the other. Watching how teams try to stop a play is what coaching defense is all about. What plays are chosen and against what offensive formations are all part of the defensive and coaching strategy.


1. Base Defense. This is when the defense sets in their basic or normal set. The defensive coordinator calls different plays from this set. He can call for linemen to rush differently, linebackers where to go and what pass defense to run. 

2. Run prevent. This is a way the defense uses extra linemen to stop the run. The defense expects running plays and commits players to the run. A team faces an opponent that runs the ball alot will use this style. 

3. Pass prevent. Defenses expect a team to pass. Many times near the end of the game if the offensive team needs to score quickly they will pass on every down. Defenses like to use this prevent style which includes extra defensive backs.

4. Zone Pass Defense. This is a pass defense where the defensive backs go to a zone or area on the field. They cover the player that comes into the zone. 

5. Zone blitz. This is a new style of defense. Defenses use a zone blitz to trick the offense on how they will play the pass and who is going to blitz.

6. Play calling. Setting up the offense in a certain formation does not mean they will pass or run. Teams have many different plays for each formation. The offensive coaches try to make the defensive coaches guess what play is going to be run.


Teams have scouted their opponents and look for tendencies in their play calling and what they do in certain situations. For example if a team always passes on second and ten, then the defensive coaches would call a pass defense. Each defensive segment coach scouts their opponent to look for ways of beating them in a specific defense. The line coach watch's for the way the offensive line blocks. The linebacker watches the quarterback and running backs how they move and where they run. The secondary coach watches the receivers and the patterns they run. All the coaches then meet as a staff and report their findings to the defensive coordinator. Then they come up with the game plan for the opponent.


For such a long and rough sport like football, substitutions are a mandatory part of this team sport since player fatigue and injury may incur as the game progresses.   Therefore, substitutions can occur at any point during the game as long as no play is occurring (i.e. the ball is "dead") and that there are only 11 players from one team on the field at a time when the ball is snapped.

The offense is not allowed to rush and start a play when substitutions are still occurring on the defense.  If that occurs, than the play is restarted with no penalties inflicted on any side.  This rule does not apply after the two-minute warning in the second and fourth quarters because time becomes a factor at these points of each halves.



There are other factors in the game of football. 

Whether to go for it on fourth and one or kick, which play to run in certain situations and how to change to the flow of the game are all part of coaching strategy.

Many coaches are conservative and do not like to take many chances during the game. Many feel that field position is very important. If you can keep the opponent on their side of the field and not move the ball much, coaches feel that the offense will move the ball. Starting with the ball your own twenty yard line (meaning you have 80 yards to go) make sit hard to score consistently. On the other hand, when you get the ball on the 50 yard line, you can score without having to gain many yards. This is known as a short field. These games with field position a big struggle can become boring on the offensive side. Teams do not want to make a mistake and run the ball more. They hope the defense will stop the other team and get the ball back with good field position. This is where special teams comes into play.


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