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History and the basics

History of Football

Fans' knowledge of football varies greatly. For the advanced fan, stick to NFL.com stats and standings. If you are new to the sport and would like to learn more, here are a few basics.

• Football evolved from the sports of soccer and rugby. The first football game between McGill University and Harvard took the appearance of a rugby game.
• The National Football League was born in 1920 when the official League documents were signed in a Hupmobile showroom in Canton, Ohio.
• In 1960, the American Football League (AFL) was born.
• In 1966, the AFL and NFL signed an agreement for the two leagues to merge and begin play as one league for the 1970 season.
• In 1967, the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game was played in Los Angeles. In 1969, the game commonly was referred to as the Super Bowl.

Essentials

• Football is a game of territory and strategy.
• 22 players are on the field at one time — 11 per team.
• An NFL game is made up of four 15-minute quarters, plus a 15-minute sudden-death overtime if the score is tied after regulation time.
• A 12-minute halftime falls between the second and third quarters.
• Each team is entitled to three time outs per half.

The Three "Teams" Within a Football Team

• Offense — controls the movement of the ball and attempts to score touchdowns (worth 6 points) by passing or running.
• Defense — attempts to stop the offense from scoring by tackling runners, deflecting passes, intercepting passes, or causing fumbles.
• Special Teams — a group of specialists who take the field during kicking situations: punts, field goals, extra points and kickoffs.

The Offense

• The offense attempts to score by passing or running the ball.

Positions:

• Quarterback — leader of the team, high profile, executes most plays.
• Center — lines up over the football, in the center of the offensive line; snaps the ball to the quarterback to begin each play.
• Guards — each offensive team has two guards who line up on either side of the center.
• Tackles — each offensive team has two tackles who line up outside the guards.
• Tight end — lines up just outside the tackle (close or tight).
• Wide Receivers — line up 10-15 yards wide of the offensive line; receive passes thrown by the quarterback.
• Running Backs — line up behind the quarterback in the backfield; run with the ball, block, and receive passes from the quarterback.

The Defense

• The defense attempts to prevent scoring opportunities by tackling offensive players short of a first down or causing the offense to lose control of the ball (called turnovers).

Positions:

• Defensive Tackle — lines up on the defensive line; responsible for stopping the offensive charge; either one or two defensive tackles play depending on defensive formation.
• Defensive Ends — line up on the defensive line; responsible for containing the outside running game and for rushing the quarterback; a successful rush of the quarterback results in a sack; two defensive ends play at all times (see definitions).
• Linebackers — line up 2-3 yards in back of the tackles and ends; responsible for stopping the run and also for covering receivers on passing plays; occasionally rush the quarterback (referred to as a blitz).
• Cornerbacks — line up opposite wide receivers; responsible for covering receivers and providing support in stopping the running game; typically two cornerbacks play depending on the defensive and offensive formations.
• Safeties — line up 8-10 yards from the line of scrimmage; responsible for providing support in pass coverage (essentially the safety net against a long gain of yardage by the offense); typically two safeties play depending on the defensive and offensive formations.

The Special Teams

• Special Teams are responsible for kicking a ball or returning a kicked ball from the other team, and are frequently labeled kicking teams, or receiving.
• Kickoffs — start the game; start the second half; start play after team scores.
• Field-Goal Attempt — an effort by the offensive special team to score 3 points by kicking the ball between the uprights.
• Punt — an exchange of possession in which the offensive team tries to pin the ball in the defensive team's end of the field.
• Kick Returns — after the kicking team attempts to catch it and advance as far as possible toward the opposite end zone

Downs and Scoring

DOWNS

Fans' knowledge of football varies greatly. For the advanced fan, stick to NFL.com stats and standings. If you are new to the sport and would like to learn more, here are a few basics.

• Downs are a series of offensive plays.
• The offense has four downs to move the ball 10 yards.
• Upon moving the ball 10 yards, the offensive team receives another set of downs.
• First Down — first try (first and 10 yards to go).
• Second Down — second try.
• Third Down — third try.
• Fourth Down — last and final try; with options (see below).
• Go For It — try to get the yardage necessary to attain a first down or a touchdown.
• Kick a Field Goal — attempt to score three points by kicking the ball between the uprights.
• Punt — kick the ball to the other team in hopes of keeping it as far away from your goal line as possible.

SCORING

Touchdown: six points
• Running the ball or completing a pass to a player who carries the ball into the opponent's end zone.

Extra Point: one or two points
• An effort to score points after a touchdown by either:
A. Kicking the ball through the uprights (one point).
B. Running or completing a pass to a player who carries the ball into the end zone from two yards away (two points due to difficulty).
• In either case, the offensive team gets only one opportunity to execute a point after a touchdown.

Field Goal: three points
• Field goals usually are attempted in 4th-down situations (last attempt or try in a series of downs).
• Special teams will attempt a field goal if it feels the kicker is close enough to the end zone to kick the ball through the uprights.
• A field-goal attempt must clear the crossbar and go between the uprights.

Safety: two points
• Safeties are the rarest of all the scoring opportunities. The defensive team is credited with two points if it tackles an offensive player in his own end zone.
• Don't confuse the term "safety" with the defensive position.

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