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The Basics Of American Football

Fundamentally, an American football team is composed of two entirely different elements, the defensive team and the offense, which strives to score touchdowns by entering the opposing team’s “end zone”. This is worth 6 points that can be increased by after-scoring kick, which adds one point. An alternative way to score by kicking is by choosing to relinquish trying for a touch down and opting to kick a field goad, worth 3 points. The defensive team attempts to block scoring. The game begins with an arbitrary coin toss, whereupon the winning team decides whether to go first or let his opponent have the first try at scoring. Why do this? Many teams like to get a look at the opposition’s offense first.

The team is then given a set of 4 “downs” or attempts to traverse 10 yards. Having successfully done this, they receive another set of downs and in this way they make it toward the opposing end zone. If the team falls to make the 10 yards it must turnover the ball to the opposing team, who will then start its journey from the exact position on the field. However, to put the opposing team at a disadvantage, the offensive team will usually choose to punt on the 3rd down to ensure that their opponents will start near to their own end zone. This technique is not without risk.

A player specialized in kicking enters the game and a designated player holds the ball. Equally specialized defensive players try to block it. A blocked kick is a free for all that can result in the opposing team getting both ball possession and an advantageous plying opposition. The opposition’s kick receivers pose another danger since they are very fast sprinters who may be able to run the entire length of the field. How des the offensive team use its downs to score? Offensive teams have a “game plan” prearranged by several coaches. The quarterback, the leader onfield may change this plan as he sees opportunities or weaknesses in the defense. Before play the offensive team “huddle” to formulate the next play. They then line up with the offensive line, knuckles down on the “line of scrimmage”, nose to nose with a similarly lined up defense. They form a veritable wall to keep the quarterback safe. Behind this wall are 2 halfbacks and the safety who hands the ball to the quarterback behind him.

This handout is known as the “snap” and sets play and both teams in motion. Upon receiving the ball from the “snap” the quarterback must either hand off the ball to a running back or tight end, who run through the defenders. There are also ends, who run or catch passes or the QB may drop back and pass the ball to an end or a wide receiver, who flanks the line and is quick enough to run downfield and get in the open. Each game proceeds with this alternation of ball possession for four 15 minute “quarters”, which are extended indefinitely by team substitutions, time outs, incomplete passes, play reviews and other things which all stop the clock.


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