American Football: Basic Terms & Definitions


For someone just learning the rules of American Football, it is helpful to know definitions of these different football terms, as well as when they are used during gameplay.

American Football: Basic Terms & Definitions

Touchdown ? A team scores a touchdown by running the ball or catching the ball in the end zone. A touchdown is worth six points, and the team is then allowed an opportunity to score one extra point by kicking the ball through the uprights.

Down ? A "down" is essentially a turn with the ball. Each team has four "turns" to move the ball at least ten yards down the field.

First Down - If the offensive team can move the ball ten yards toward the other team's end zone, they are awarded a "first down," which means they have four more downs to move the ball another ten yards.

Ending a Down - Each down is ended when the player carrying the ball is tackled, the quarterback is sacked, the quarterback throws an incomplete pass, when the player carrying the ball is pushed or steps out of bounds, or when the offensive team scores.

Fourth Down ? If the offensive team has not moved the ball ten yards or scored by the beginning of the fourth down, they have the option of kicking a field goal or punting the ball down the field to the other team. Either way, the next play will start with the other team having possession of the ball.

Punt ? A punt is if the offensive drive did not achieve a first down and the team is not far enough down the field for the kicker to be able to get a field goal. The offensive team will punt the ball down the field so that the receiving team will begin their offensive drive as far back as possible.

Field Goal ? A team will attempt a field goal by kicking the ball down the field and through the upright beams behind the end zone. The field goal is worth three points. They will usually attempt this during the team's fourth down, if they have been unable to drive the ball far enough down the field for a first down.

Safety ? A safety occurs when the quarterback is tackled in his own end zone. If the offense has lined up on its own two-yard line and the quarterback gets sacked. This awards the tackling team, or defense, two points. The team that was awarded the two points then gets the ball kicked off to them.

Two Point Conversion ? After a team scores a touchdown, if they would rather attempt to get two points instead of the extra point field goal, they can try for a "two point conversion." The team sets up exactly like they would for any other play and attempts to get the ball into the end zone. The ball is set up at the same point it would be for the extra point field goal.


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