A Guide to Football Rules

Football rules! How can you not like a game that combines strategy and tactics with strength and physical ability? America's favorite spectator sport is played at many different levels: from kids in elementary school to professional athletes making millions of dollars a year. Although there are different versions of the game, the basic football rules are pretty consistent.

The Basic Rules Of Football
The goal of football is to score more points than your opponent before time runs out. A football game is broken down into four quarters of 15 minutes each. The playing field is 100 yards long, with two 10-yard scoring areas (called end zones) at either end. Each end zone has a Y-shaped goal made up of a goal post and two uprights. The width of a football field is typically 53 yards. Each team defends the end zone behind it, and the teams switch ends of the field between quarters.

Each team may have 11 players on the field at any given time. The team in possession of the ball is called the offense, while the team protecting itsend zone is called the defense. The offense is given four attempts (called downs) to advance the ball 10 yards. If it successfully moves the ball 10 yards, it is given another set of downs and thus move down the field. If the offense fails to move the ball after three downs, it has the option of punting (kicking the ball) into the defender's territory. A punt results in a change of possession of the football. The offense may move the ball by running with it (called a rush) or by throwing it from one player (called the quarterback) to another for a pass.

The defenders try to stop their opponent's forward progress by tackling (bringing to the ground) the player carrying the ball. Defenders can gain possession of the ball by a turnover. When the ball changes possession, the defending team becomes the offense. A turnover can be:

  • An interception - Defenders can catch passes intended for the other team. Once a defender has intercepted the ball, that player can run the ball toward the opponent's end zone.
  • A fumble - If the player carrying the ball drops it before he is tackled, the ball is considered fumbled and may be picked up by players of either team. If a defender picks up the ball, possession of the ball changes sides. The defender who recovers a fumble can run the ball toward the opponent's end zone.

Scoring In Football
Points can be scored in a number of ways:

  • A touchdown - 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. Touchdowns are worth six points.
  • An extra point attempt - Once a touchdown has been made, the scoring team may add to their score by kicking an extra point attempt (kicking the ball through goal posts in the end zone) worth one point or by attempting a two-point conversion, which involves crossing the opponent's goal line using only one attempt.
  • A field goal - 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 field goal is worth three points.
  • A safety - A safety occurs when a player with the ball is tackled in his own end zone. Safeties are worth two points.
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