American Football Rules (How to Play Guide)

In this article, I give you theAmerican Football rules and show you how to play guide. American football is one of the most dynamic sports today. Each action brings new excitement, and the only quiet period is between the two actions when the teams decide what to do next.

Some players are big and strong while others are smaller and faster. Brutal strength is often necessary in this game, but also intelligence, speed and skill. Although this is a game of great complexity, especially on a professional level, the basic rules are easy to understand.

BASICS of American Football

Each team has 54 players at its disposal, of which 45 can register for one game, and on the field each team has 11 players.

Players wear protective equipment to avoid injury. Head, torso and legs are covered with protection.

American Football Helmet Protection

The team that owns the ball is an attacking team (offense) and their goal is to run or pass the ball over the opponent’s goal line, or bring it into the opponent’s end zone.

If the attacking team fails to cross 10 yards from four attempts, it loses possession of the ball. The other, that is, the defense team, tries to stop the attacking team and forces them to hand over the ball. When the attacking team scores a goal or loses the ball, the roles change.

LAND (Field) Rules of American Football

The dimensions of the fields on which American football is played are similar to the dimensions of European football fields. The length of the terrain is 100 yards (91.44m) and the width 53 yards (48.46m).

American Football Field

Small white markers on the edges of the field (yard markers) help the referees, players and of course the audience to follow the game.

Probably the most important part of the terrain is the end zone. The end zone represents a field of an additional 10 yards on each side of the field and it is the space where points are scored.

When the attacking team enters the ball in the end zone, they score the main goal in the game (touch down). The surface on which the game is played can be earthen with real grass or artificial.

TIME Rules of American Football

The match is divided into four periods of 12 minutes each. The break between the first and second as well as between the third and fourth quarters is 2 minutes, while the break between the second and third quarters (half-time) is 12 minutes.

Actions between the first and second as well as between the third and fourth quarters are not interrupted, ie. the teams continue where they left off before the break. This is not the case when it comes to the halftime or break between the second and third quarters.

The third quarter begins with a kick-off as well as at the beginning of the game.

The attacking team has 25 seconds to prepare each action (the period from the moment the referee gives the signal to the moment the new action starts).

Time stops when a player goes off the field, in case of incomplete passing and when the referee awards a foul.

If the match ends in a draw in the regular season, an overtime of 15 minutes is played. In overtime, both teams legally have one action each, starting with 25 yards from the opponent’s end zone.

The team that scores more points is the winner. In case of a tie, a new overtime is played and so on until the winner is decided. The possession of the ball is determined at the beginning of the extra time by throwing coins as well as at the beginning of the game.

PLAYERS Rules of American Football

Each team has three mutually independent lineups: offensive (defensive), defensive (defense) and special team. Wrong lineup is in play when the team is in possession of the ball, defensive when the opponent is in possession of the ball, and the special tasks team enters the game in situations where kicks are performed, such as shooting (punt), three-point shot goal) and kickoff

OFFENSE SETTING (OFFENSE) Rules of American Football

When a team is in possession of the ball on the field, there is an offensive lineup. Of the eleven players on the field, only five of them have the right to be in contact with the ball, and they are: quarterback, wide receivers, tight ends and runnig backs.

The quarterback is the brain of the team and all actions come from him. Other players form the so-called offensive line, whose task is to block the defensive players of the opposing team and thus protect their attackers, and above all the quarterbacks. So, one attacking lineup consists of the following players:

  • center (center) – passes the ball to the quarterback (snap);
  • quarterback – organizes the attack, passes the ball to the catchers (wide receivers, tight ends) or hands it to the runners (running backs), and can run with it himself;
  • 2 defenders and two tackles – they block the defense and thus protect their attackers, especially quarterbacks;
  • 2 to 4 wide receivers – catch passes and further conquer space by running;
  • 1 or 2 runners (running backs) – take the ball from the quarterback and conquer the space by running;
  • 1 or 2 tight ends – block defensive players and can catch passes.

DEFENSE SETTING (DEFENSE) Rules of American Football

The task of the defensive lineup is clear. Stop conquering the attacking team’s space and take possession of the ball as soon as possible. The defensive line-up consists of the following players:

  • linebackers – they try to thwart passes, stop runners or quarterbacks from conquering space with the ball;
  • defensive line – they try to break through the offensive line of the opposing team that protects the quarterback;
  • cornerbacks – prevent the addition of quarterbacks to wing catchers, and also help stop running;
  • safety – prevents the addition of quarterbacks to the wing catchers, and also helps to stop running.

KICKOFF Rules of American Football

The match starts with the kick-off. The ball is placed on a special podium (kicking tee) on the line that marks 35 yards of the defensive team’s half, and a certain player from the defensive team (placekicker) shoots it as deep as possible into the opponent’s half.

A certain player from the special detachment of the attacking team (kick return man) tries to catch the ball and run as many yards as possible by running. The place where this player is stopped is the place from which the attacking team starts its drive, ie a series of offensive actions.

If the shot ball is caught in the end zone of the attacking team, the player who caught the ball can stop the game by touching the ground in the end zone with one knee and thus marking the so-called touchback. In that case, the attacking team starts the drive from the line that marks 20 yards of their half of the field.

FIRST DOWN Rules of American Football

Progress in American football is measured in yards (yard, 1yard = 91.44cm). The goal of the attacking team is to win as many yards as possible and thus get as close as possible to the opponent’s end zone.

At the beginning of the drive, the attacking team has four attempts to win 10 yards and thus win a new first down, ie a new series of four attempts to win a new 10 yards. If the attacking team fails from four attempts to win 10 yards, they lose possession of the ball.

In most cases, the attacking team uses only the first three attempts to win a new 10 yards, while the fourth attempt is used for shooting (punt), in order to move the start of the opponent’s attack as far away from their own end zone as possible.

BALL MOVEMENT (running and passing) Rules of American Football

American Football Ball

Each action begins with a so-called snap. On the line of scrimmage, which represents the place on the field where the previous action ended and the next one begins, the quarterback loudly encrypts the variant of the next action and the player in front of him, the center, passes the ball through his legs, and this one can further throw it away, hand it over or run alone with it.

RUNNING (RUN) Rules of American Football

The first way to conquer space is to run. The quarterback hands the ball to the runner (running back, half back) who tries to win as many yards as possible by running with the ball in his hands. A quarterback can also conquer space by running.

ADD (PASS) Rules of American Football

Another way to conquer space is to pass. In most cases, the pass is made by a quarterback, although the pass can be made by another player, usually in order to confuse the opponent’s defense.

In fact, the pass can be made by any player of the attacking team as long as the place from which the pass is made is behind the scrimmage line.

The pass is complete when one of the players of the attacking team, usually a wide receiver, catches the ball before it touches the ground. If the ball touches the ground before anyone catches it, it is called an incomplete pass.

The player who catches the pass has the right to continue to conquer the space by running until he is stopped by the opponent’s defense.

Adding is much riskier than running because interception can easily occur,but successful passing makes it easier to win more yards than running.

TACKLE Rules of American Football

Takcle is one way to stop an opponent’s attack and it involves catching and knocking down an opponent’s player carrying the ball.

The player is knocked down when he touches the ground with at least one knee and the action is then interrupted. The action is also interrupted in the event that the player carrying the ball goes off the field.

TOUCHDOWN Rules of American Football

In American football, you can score in four different ways, with each way bringing a different number of points. Touchdown is the main way of scoring that brings the most points. Its value is 6 points.

Touchdown can be achieved in several ways: by entering the ball into the opponent’s end zone, by catching a pass in the opponent’s end zone, by catching nobody’s ball (fumble) in the opponent’s end zone or by catching the initial blow in the opponent’s end zone if the ball has not touched the ground before or was not touched by opposing players.

Achieved touchdown allows the attacking team an additional attempt to win extra points (extra point) whose value is 1 point.

EXTRA POINT and TWO-POINT CONVERSION Rules of American Football

Immediately after the touchdown is reached, the ball is placed on the line that marks 3 yards from the opponent’s end zone. The attacking team in that case has two options.

In most cases, an extra point is scored, whereby the shooter of the attacking team should kick the ball through the goal and then the attacking team gets 1 point. This stroke is also called PAT, which is an abbreviation of Point After Touchdown.

The second variant is a two-point conversion, where the attacking team should bring the ball into the end zone of the opposing team in the same way as when a touchdown is achieved, and if it succeeds, it gets 2 points.

FIELD GOAL Rules of American Football

American Football Field Goal

If the attacking team cannot score a touchdown, they can try to score with a field goal that brings 3 points. A shot from the field can be taken from anywhere on the field (usually within 45 yards of the opponent’s half) and at any time during the game. In order for a shot from the field to bring 3 points, the shooter (field goal kicker or placekicker) must hit the goal from the place where he takes the shot.

SAFETY Rules of American Football

Another way of scoring is the so-called safety. If a player of the attacking team is caught with the ball (tackle) in his end zone, the opposing team gets 2 points.

LOST BALLS (TURNOVERS) Rules of American Football

In the excessive desire to reach the opponent’s end zone as soon as possible, the players of the attacking team can make a couple of fatal mistakes and thus leave the ball to the opposing team.

The ball can be lost in two ways: fumble and interception. In both cases, the team that wins possession of the ball can gain space until the moment of stopping by the opponent’s defense.

NO ONE’S BALL (FUMBLE) Rules of American Football

If a player of the attacking team drops the ball or it is knocked out of his hands before he touches the ground with at least one knee, the ball becomes fumble and then the possession of the ball is given to the team that reaches it first. Any player on the field from both teams can catch no one’s ball.

INTERCEPTION Rules of American Football

With an aggressive defense, defensive players can reach the ball by cutting off the opponent’s pass. In this case, the same rule applies as in the case of complete addition, ie. the ball must be caught before it touches the ground.

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