The Basic Football Rules Explained

Although football can seem like a complicated game, the basic football rules are simple. If you have the ball, your team's objective is to move the ball across the goal line. If the other team has the ball, your team's objective is to stop them from making forward progress.

Football Rules That Define The Game
The goal in football is to advance the ball into the opponent's end zone. The team in control of the ball is called the offense and the team trying to stop the offense is called the defense.

Football is played on a field that is 100 yards long. At each end of the field are10 yard long scoring areas called end zones. The football field is 160 feet wide and the lines that mark the edges are called sidelines.

Progress in football is measured in yards. The field is marked with stripes set at five-yard intervals. Shorter marks (called hash marks) are placed at one-yard intervals.

At the back of each end zone is a goal post that supports a crossbar. Attached to the crossbar are two uprights. Points can be scored by kicking the ball over the cross bar and between the uprights.

A football game is divided into four 15-minute quarters. The clock runs during plays but can be stopped for various reasons during the game. As a result, most football games last longer than the prescribed 60 minutes of play time.

Advancing The Ball
The offense has four attempts (called downs) to move the ball 10 yards down the field. If the offense is successful, they are awarded another set of four downs. If the offense fails to move the ball 10 yards in four downs, possession of the ball changes to the opposing team.

The ball is advanced by carrying it (called a running or rushing play) or throwing it to another player (called a pass play). A player may no longer advance if he runs out of bounds or is tackled (brought to the ground) by another player.

Scoring In Football
The football rules provide a number of ways to score, including:

  • A touchdown (six points) - A touchdown is scored when a player with the ball crosses his opponent's goal line-the line between the playing field and the opponent's end zone.
  • An extra point attempt (one or two points) - Once a touchdown has been made, the scoring team may add to their score by kicking an extra point attempt (kicking the ball through the uprights in the end zone) worth one point or by attempting a two-point conversion, which involves running or passing the ball across the opponent's goal line using only one attempt.
  • A field goal (three points) - A field goal is successfully completed when the ball is kicked through the opponent's goal posts by the team in possession of the ball.
  • A safety (two points) - A safety occurs when a player with the ball is tackled in his own end zone.
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