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Football Terms Explained

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Approach

The steps a diver takes toward the end of the board at the start of their dive, which usually involves three or more steps.

Backfield

The area behind the offensive line where the quarterback and running back lineup.

Down

A period of action that starts when the ball is put into play and ends when the ball is ruled dead (meaning play has come to an end).

Drive

The series of plays when the offense has the ball. It usually ends with a score or the defense gaining possession of the ball via a turnover or punt.

End Zone

A 10-yard area at each end of the field. If a player enters the end zone with control of the ball they score a touchdown, and are awarded six points.

Extra Point

A kick, worth one point, that’s kicked after a touchdown is scored. The ball must go through the uprights and above the crossbar of the goal post to be considered good.

Fair Catch

When the player receiving a punt waves their hand above their head. The player indicating the fair catch is not allowed to run after catching the ball and the defenders are not allowed to touch them.

Field Goal

A kick, worth three points, that can be attempted from anywhere on the field, but teams usually try to be within 40 yards of the goal post. The ball must travel between the uprights and above the crossbar to be considered good.

Fumble

When the player with the ball loses possession while running or being tackled. Anyone can recover a fumble, and if the defense recovers the ball it’s called a turnover and their offense takes over.

Goal Line

The line separating the end zone from the rest of the field. The football only needs to break this line for it to be a touchdown.

Goalpost

Located on each end of the field, large poles standing vertical in the air that make up three sides of a rectangle. It consists of two uprights on both sides, and a crossbar on the bottom.

Gridiron

Another name for the playing field.

Handoff

When a player, usually the quarterback, gives the ball to one of their teammates.

Hash Marks

The lines that run down the middle of the field, each one signifying a distance of one yard to the next. The football is always spotted on, or between, the hash marks to start each play.

Huddle

When the 11 players on a given team come together to discuss strategy between plays.

Incompletion

A forward pass that falls to the ground because no receiver could catch it.

Interception

A pass that was caught by a player on the defense. This play results in a turnover.

Kickoff

A kick that the receiving team cannot try to block. This kick puts the ball into play to start the game, or start the second half, and also after a score.

Line of Scrimmage

An invisible line that extends from where the ball is placed on the field to both sidelines. Neither the offense or defense can cross that line until the ball is snapped and the play begins.

Pigskin

Another name for the ball being played with.

Punt

A kick made when a player drops a ball and kicks it while the ball is falling towards their foot. A punt is usually made on a fourth down when the offense must surrender possession of the ball to the defense because it couldn’t advance 10 yards.

Red Zone

The area from the 20-yard line to the opponent’s goal line.

Rushing

To advance the ball by running, not passing.

Sack

When a defensive player tackles the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of yardage.

Safety

A score worth two points that occurs when a defender tackles the player with the ball in their own end zone. The defending team also gains possession after this play via a punt.

Snap

The action of the ball being hiked (snapped between the legs) to a player on their team, which is usually the quarterback. The play officially begins when the ball is snapped.

Special Teams

The 22 players who are on the field during kicks and punts. These units have specific players that will return punts and kicks, as well as players who specialize in covering punts and kicks.

Touchdown

A score worth six points that occurs when a player in possession of the ball crosses the plan of the opponent’s goal line.

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