Football for new fans: A overview of the game.
“The game of football draws me to the screen to watch the game and characters of players and coaches. I get frustrated and eventually tune out because of a lack of understanding and knowledge of some of the basic elements of the game.”
If you are one of these new fans I will explain the very basic objectives, then go through a position by position description to get you up to speed so you may enjoy one of the most popular sports.
Let’s start with the basic objectives. The football field is 100 yards long from Goal line to Goal line and 53 1/3 yards wide. The objective is for the offense (the team with the football) to get the ball across the opponent’s goal line. You can do this by running or passing. Crossing the goal line with the ball is a touchdown (six points).
When a touchdown is scored, that team chooses to attempt an extra point or “go for two” as they say. An extra point is worth just that by kicking the ball through the uprights. When going for two, the ball is placed on the 2-yard line and the scoring team can again run or pass the ball across the goal line for two points.
The opponent plays defense and obviously is trying to prevent the score. The one with the ball on offense is called the ball carrier. Everyone without the ball is a blocker. A blocker tries to push, impede, or knock defenders out of the way so the ball carrier can advance across the goal line. The defense will try to prevent the ball carrier from advancing by tackling the ball carrier to the ground. When the ball carrier hits the ground, that play is whistled dead and the new play begins. Each team gathers together in what’s called a huddle to communicate the next play. Blocking (offense) and tackling (defense) are the most basic elements of the game. You will hear coaches constantly preaching about blocking and tackling.
There are 11 players on offense and 11 players on defense. The offense has four downs or plays to score or get a first down by advancing the ball 10 yards or more. A first down means the offense gets another four downs to score or advance the ball another 10 yards.
If the offense fails to advance the ball 10 yards it turns the ball over to the opponent at that spot. Most often when the offense doesn’t advance the ball 10 yards on three downs or plays, it will elect to punt the ball. Punting the ball means the offense will have a player kick the ball high and deep so the opponent will have further to advance in order to score. That is called field position. A strategy to make the opponent go the length of the field. On a punt, the team receiving the ball may advance the ball like any other play.
There are times when the offensive team is close to the opponent’s goal line. On fourth down the offense may elect to kick a field goal. Kicking the ball through the uprights is a successful field goal attempt and worth three points. If the ball doesn’t go between the uprights it is unsuccessful and the opponent takes control of the ball. These are the most basic objectives of the game.