Understanding Football - The Basics

Understanding Football - The Basics
The first time you watch football, it is difficult to understand what is going happening on the field. Here are some of the basics of football to get you started in understand the game.

The Teams

In a football game, there are two teams playing against each other. Each team is allowed to have 11 players on the field at one time. Teams are allowed unlimited substitutions of players, but only when the ball is not in active play (dead). If a team has more than 11 players on the field, they will be accessed a penalty.

Each team consists of offense, defense and special teams.

Offense is when your team has the ball and is trying to score. Defense is when your team is attempting to stop the other team from scoring. Both teams use their special teams when it is a kicking play.

The Field

A football playing field is 100 yards long and 160 feet wide. The horizontal stripe in the middle of the field that marks the center of the field is the 50 yard line. There are stripes horizontally across the field every five yards. The increments go downward from 50 in each direction all the way to each goal line. There are also hash marks along each sideline of the field - small lines which mark every yard.

When the ball passes the goal line and enters the endzone (a 10-yard section stretching the width of the field at both ends of the playing field) the team has scored. Located at the back of the endzone are the goal posts. The goal posts are two poles extended into the air, in which teams score field goals and extra points by kicking the ball between the posts.

The Object

The object of the game of football is for your team to outscore the opponent by scoring touchdowns, field goals, extra points and safeties.

Touchdowns are worth six points. Field goals are worth three points. Extra points are one point. Safeties (which are scored by the defense) are worth two points. In a future article we will go into further detail about each of these ways of scoring.


Downs are basically plays or tries to attempt to move the ball downfield toward your goal.

When your team is on offense, they are allotted four downs (plays) to move forward ten yards. If you make the ten yards within the four downs, you are given a new set of four downs. This is called getting a first down.

If you do not make the ten yards within the four downs, you must punt (kick) the ball to the other team. Your opponent will then go on offense and your squad will send out its defense.

Understanding the concept of downs is the key to understanding football.

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