Hi guys

In this blog I’m going to try and tell you about the game itself. I will tell you about the rules and the players.

First I’ll tell you about the field

The field is 100 yards long between the end zones with each yard individually marked out. End zones are 10 yards long.  The goalposts are on the outside edge of end zones.

The object of the game is to get the ball into the oppositions end zone, either by running with the ball or throwing it to a team mate downfield.

The game is played over four fifteen minute quarters with each team having eleven players on the field at any time.

Each team is broken up into three separate units. The offence, the defence and special teams. The players on one of these three units will not usually play with another e.g. an offence player will not play defence.

The offence plays against the someone else’s defence and the defence plays against someone else’s offence. The special teams come into play when you need to kick the ball which I will explain later.

The game starts with one special teams unit (kicking team) kicking to the opposing special teams unit (receiving team). A receiving team player will catch the ball and run back until tackled and brought to ground. Wherever this runner is brought to the ground is where the offence takes over.

The offence needs to move the ball forward in chunks of at least 10 yards, which is why the pitch has yardage markings.

They have four chances called downs to gain those 10 yards.

If for example the offence starts at the 20 yard line, the play will be 1st down and 10 from the 20 yard line. Meaning Ist down and 10 yards to go to get to target. If say their offence only advances the ball 4 yards in their first down, it will then be 2nd down and 6 from the 24.

When the ball has advanced to the 30 yard line another first down is earned, with four more chances to go a further 10 yards. Note whether the ball gets to the 30 in one down or in four doesn’t matter, when you get there, you get to 1st and 10 once again.

Again using the above example if it’s 2nd down and 6 from the 24 yard line and you advance the ball say 8 yards you will now be at the 32 yard line. This means you’ve gotten past your 30 yard line target and now you will be 1st down and 10 again this time starting from the 32. Your target for a new first down will now be 42

If the offensive team fails to move 10 yards within four downs, possession is surrendered, although the ball is usually kicked(punted) to the defending team.

Scoring

The scoring is broken down as follows

Touchdown (6 points)

A touchdown is scored when a team crosses the opposition’s goal line with the ball, or catches or collects the ball in the end zone.

Field goal (3 points)

These are usually attempted on fourth down if the kicker is close enough to the end zone to kick the ball through the posts, or uprights.

Extra point (1 or 2 points)

A point is earned by kicking the ball through the uprights after a touchdown (similar to a rugby conversion). Two points are earned by taking the ball into the end zone again.

Safety (2 points)

Awarded to the defensive team when a member of the offensive team is tackled with the ball in his own end zone.

Positions

Finally I’m going to tell you about the players and positions.

Offence

8 – Quarterback – by far the most important position.  On every play the ball is either handed or thrown to the quarterback which is called the snap. This is done by the Centre. The quarterback can decide whether he wants to run with the ball, hand it to his running back or throw it downfield to his receivers. His decision is usually made by the coach who signals it to the quarterback.

Most quarterbacks are very tall, most are 6’3 or over which helps see the field better and have strong arms for throwing downfield.

Offensive linemen (fatties)

4 –  Centre – snaps the ball to quarterback and then has to block defensive players either to make space for the running back or to give the quarterback more time to throw it.

3 & 5 –  Guard – these guys are blockers similar to the centre.

2 & 6 –  Tackle – again these guys are blockers but these have a more important job than the guards because they protect the quarterback from defensive players rushing from the outside which the quarterback can’t see. The left tackle is one of the best paid positions in the league because he protects the quarterbacks blind side. A good left tackle is vital.

Offensive linemen especially tackles are huge men. Usually 6’3 to 6’7 and usually weighing over 23 stone. Some are up to 26 stone. These guys have to be incredibly strong and usually lift huge weights from a young age to be better players. Also despite their enormous size the have to have quick feet and have good technique to excel at their positions. They are surprisingly good athletes for their size.

1 & 11 –  Wide receivers – receivers are usually very quick. They get downfield and try to catch balls thrown by the quarterback. They train by running exact routes on the field down to inches and have to have their timing in sync with the quarterback. Some receivers are not so quick. They are big tall strong guys who use their size to go up and make catches in the air and who can also make extra yardage after the catch by using their big bodies to break through tackles.

7 – Tight end – a tight end is like a receiver but they are generally bigger guys because their job involves more blocking and more physical contact than the receiver because they play in the middle of the field where most of the defensive traffic is.

Tight ends are generally tall and strong (over 18 stone and 6’4 and taller)

10 – Running back –  Running backs are the players who are behind the quarterback and who the quarterback will hand the ball off to if the play is a running play. Running backs need to be able to run fast, but they also must be big and strong enough to break tackles. Running backs also catch passes sometimes so they need to be able to catch the ball as well. And they will sometimes stay in the backfield when the play is a pass play and block to help protect the quarterback.

Running backs are rarely small. Most will weigh over 15 stone and you will see ones up to 19 stone which is remarkable for guys that need to be fast.

9 – Fullback – fullback is the main blocker for the running back. He tries to move people to clear a path for the running back to run through.

These guys are usually very powerful.

Defence

2 & 8 – Safety – the safety job is varied. The safety can make his own mind up on any play on whether he thinks he needs to go and stop a runner from running or stop a receiver catching a ball.

Safeties need to be quick enough to keep up with receivers and strong enough to tackle running backs.

4,5,6 & 7 – Linebackers – Linebackers job is to tackle the running back if he gets past the Defensive Linemen or if there is a short pass play he will try to break up the pass or tackle whoever has caught the ball.

1 & 3 – Corner Backs – Corner Backs cover the wide receiver and try to keep the wide receivers from catching the pass from the quarterback and keep them from gaining a lot of yards.

They are often the fastest guys on the field. Some are fast enough to be professional sprinters

9 & 11 – Defensive Ends – The Defensive End will try to get past the Offensive Linemen to tackle or “sack” the Quarterback on a pass play or tackle the running back. These guys are usually also very large people, but since they need to be quick and fast they are not as big as Offensive linemen, as a general rule.

In my opinion these are one of the most impressive athletes. Most are 20 stone but have incredible bursts of quickness.

10 – Nose Guard – The Nose Guard lines up right in front of the center and his job is to block up the middle and help the tackles stop the run. Also if there was not a nose guard the Quarterback could just hand the ball back to the center and the center could run with it. The nose guard keeps this from happening.

Special teams

Special teams play a small but vital role. They come onto the field to execute field goal or extra point attempts, and when the team wants to punt the ball downfield on fourth down.

They are also responsible for trying to block the opposition’s kicks and punts, as well as attempting to return them as far as possible in the other direction.

All this information might be a bit much to take at once so I’ve posted a video below which may be a little easier to follow.

If you’re interested though, my advice would be to watch the games that are televised and it should became clearer as the games are played out.

My twitter feed is displayed alongside my blog which will tell you what games are televised in the UK and Ireland each week.