NFL 101

Introduction to Football:


  • Regulation Time:

Football is 60 minutes long, divided into FOUR (4) fifteen (15) minute quarters.

  • Halftime:

Halftime occurs after the first two quarters are played at a fifteen minute length

  • Overtime:
    • If the score is tied at the end of the four fifteen minute quarters during the REGULAR SEASON there will be an additional 10 minutes played. If the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown on their first possession they will win the game. If they don’t score a touchdown down on their first possession the opposing team has an opportunity to match a field goal or win the game with a touchdown.
    • Unlike the regular season, playoff games cannot end in a tie. NEW..Both teams will have the opportunity to possess the ball. If the score is tied after each team possesses the ball, the next score wins. 

Field Layout:

  • Dimensions:
    • The football game is played on a field that is 100 yards in length.  Some homefields in the NFL are turf and some are natural grass. Additionally some doors are played inside and some are played outside.
  • Yards: 
    • The field is marked and labeled in the measurement of yards. Each dash on the field represents 1 yard. Every solid white line measures 5 yards, and every 10 yards is clearly labeled.. 10, 20, 30, 40, and 50. Each game begins with a kickoff from the 35 yard depending on which team wins a coin flip.
  • Goalline:
    • line that divides the scoring zone from out of play.
  • EndZone:
    • The scoring area on the field. It is between the goal line and the end line.
  • Out of Bounds:
    • while in player possession, it touches a boundary line or anything other than a player or an official on or outside such line; or a loose ball touches a boundary line or anything on or outside such line.
  • Field Goal Post:
    •  One of the two vertical side poles of a goal. The tall Y-shaped upright, now usually of fiberglass, at either end of the playing field, through which a football must go in order for a field goal to be scored.


  • An NFL game is played with 22 players on the field.
    • Each team will have 11 players. 11 players on offense compete against 11 players on defense
  • An offensive lineup must consist of 5 Linemen. There are many different formations that an offense can lineup with, but typically will have 5 lineman, 1 quarterback, 1 running back, 1 tight end, and 3 wide receivers.
  • A defensive lineup will also have different variations of formations which includes defensive lineman, linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties.


  • There are seven referees in an NFL game:
    • The Referee, The Umpire, The Down Judge, The Line Judge, The Field Judge. The Side Judge, and The Back Judge.


  • A touchdown (6 points) is scored when the football breaks the line of the endzone. After a touchdown is scored, a team has the option of trying for 1 point or 2 points.
  • An extra point (1 point) is scored when the ball is kicked through the field goal post after a touchdown is scored
  • A two point conversion (2 points) is scored when a team successfully gets into the endzone after a touchdown is scored.
  • A safety (2 points) is when the offense commits a penalty in their end zone, fumbles the ball out of their end zone, or is tackled in their end zone. 
  • The Most Points at the end of the game wins


  • Legal Forward Pass
    • The offensive team may make one forward pass from behind the line during each down. If the ball, whether in player possession or loose, crosses the line of scrimmage, a forward pass is not permissible, regardless of whether the ball returns behind the line of scrimmage before the pass is thrown.
  • Downs: 
  • Each team has four attempts to gain 10 yards. These attempts are called downs. If a team is able to gain ten yards, a new set of attempts are restored.
  • On fourth down the offense has the option to either try to make up the yards they are short or to kick the ball. If they decide to kick they have two options; to punt or to try for a field goal.


  • Clipping – 15 yards, plus an automatic first down if committed by the defense.
    • Clipping is the act of contacting a player who is not a runner from behind and below the waist. It most commonly occurs when an offensive player attempts to block a defensive player at the legs from behind.
  • Chop Block – 15 yards.
    • When an offensive player is engaged with a defender, a second offensive player may not contact that defender below the waist. This is not only illegal but seen as a cheap shot by many players.
  • Delay of Game – 5 yards.
    • The game is governed not only by the game clock but by a 40-second play clock that counts down the time the offense has before they must run the next play. If the play clock strikes zero and the play hasn’t started, the quarterback gets a delay of game penalty.
  • Encroachment – 5 yards.
    • Defensive offside, when a defensive player is in violation of the neutral zone at the snap. This term is usually used when the defensive player makes contact with an offensive player.
  • Facemask – 15 yards.
    • A player may not grab an opponent’s face mask or any area of his helmet.
  • Failure to Report – 5 yards.
    • Offensive linemen are not eligible to run downfield and receive passes, and the numbers they wear on their jerseys make this clear to officials. However, sometimes a lineman may line up in an eligible position, and if he plans to do so he or the coach must report this to the officials. Failure to do this results in a penalty.
  • False Start – 5 yards.
    • When an offensive player on the line moves before the snap, or when an offensive player in the backfield moves forward before the snap.
  • Holding – 10 yards
    •  if committed by offense; 5 yards plus automatic first down if committed by the defense. An offensive player can’t grab a defensive player while trying to block him. A defensive player may not grab or impede an offensive player, other than the ball carrier.
  • Horse-collar Tackle – 15 yards, plus an automatic first down.
    • A player may not tackle a ball carrier from behind by grabbing the back of his collar or the edge of his shoulder pads and pulling him to the turf.
  • Illegal Block in the Back – 10 yards.
    • Offensive players may not block defensive players from behind. The exception to this is if they maintain continuous legal contact with a defensive player as he turns around.
  • Illegal Formation – 5 yards.
    • The offense must line up with 7 men on the line of scrimmage. If they fail to do so it is an illegal formation.
  • Illegal Forward Pass – 5 yards from the spot of the foul, plus loss of down.
    • This is called when the quarterback throws a pass after running beyond the line of scrimmage, or when more than one forward pass is thrown on the same play.
  • Illegal Shift / Illegal Motion / Illegal Procedure – 5 yards.
    • Similar penalties involving the improper movement of offensive players. Offensive players may only move around before the snap by a very specific set of rules, and only one player may be moving laterally to the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped.
  • Illegal Substitution / Too Many Men on the Field – 5 yards.
    • Football is played with eleven men on a side at a time, and having more, of course, means a penalty. There are a lot of substitutions in football, so players are running on and off the field between plays all the time.
    • But offensive teams are also not allowed to break the huddle with more than 11 players, nor may they have more than 11 men in the huddle. This is illegal substitution. If a play is run with either team having 12 or more men on the field, the penalty is Illegal Participation.
  • Illegal Touching – 5 yards.
    • This is a blanket penalty for any contact with the ball by an ineligible player. This includes an interior lineman who touches a forward pass, a player who goes out of bounds then comes back in and is the first man to touch the football, or when the kicking team touches the ball before it goes ten yards after a kickoff.
  • Illegal Use of the Hands / Hands to the Face
    • 10 yards against the offense; 5 yards plus automatic first down against the defense. Players may not contact an opponent’s face or face mask.
  • Ineligible Man Downfield – 5 yards.
    • The five offensive linemen are not allowed to run downfield on passing plays. They are ineligible and will be penalized if they leave the line of scrimmage before the pass is thrown.
  • Intentional Grounding – 10 yards or spot of foul, plus loss of down.
    • When the quarterback is about to be sacked he can’t just fling the ball away. He has to be outside of where the tackles line up, there must be a receiver in the area, and/or he must throw the ball past the line of scrimmage. Otherwise, it’s intentional grounding.
  • Neutral Zone Infraction – 5 yards.
    • A defensive player may violate the neutral zone before the snap, as long as he gets back before the ball is snapped. However, if his action causes an offensive player to move, this penalty is called on the defensive player.
  • Offside – 5 yards.
    • A general term for when one team has moved across the line before the start of a play.
  • Pass Interference
    • Enforced at the spot of the foul if committed by the defense. 10-yard penalty if committed by the offense.
    • When a forward pass is thrown, both the offensive and defensive players have the right to catch the football. But once the ball is airborne a player may not interfere with another player to impede him from getting to the football. Sometimes players accidentally run into each other, which is called incidental contact and not a penalty.
  • Roughing the Passer / Kicker – 15 yards plus automatic first down.
    • Both the quarterback (passer) and the kicker/punter are protected by the rules when they are in the act of passing or kicking. A defensive player may legally hit them only if they have the ball, or, in the case of the quarterback, for a very short time afterward. Otherwise, it’s a 15-yard personal foul for roughing.
  • Running into the Kicker – 5 yards.
    • Less severe than roughing the kicker, this occurs when the offending player bumps the kicker or punter but doesn’t intentionally hit him hard. Still, a defender can’t touch the kicker, and so it’s a penalty.
  • Tripping – 10 yards, automatic first down.
    • No player may trip the ball carrier or any other player for that matter. Offensive linemen who find themselves out of position when trying to make a block sometimes employ a special type of tripping called a leg whip. Sometimes they get away with it, and sometimes they don’t.
  • Unnecessary Roughness – 15 yards, automatic first down if committed by the defense.
    • Football is a rough game, but any physical contact outside the boundaries of the rules is deemed unnecessary roughness, carries a 15-year personal foul penalty, and has the possibility of getting a player ejected. This includes late hits after the whistle blows, scuffling after a play, or tackling a player who has run out of bounds.
  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct – 15 yards, automatic first down if committed by the defense.
    • A broad term for an array of personal foul infractions a player might commit against the spirit of the game. This includes taunting another player, kicking the ball after the play is over, or abusive language to an official or other player.

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