Best drinks for Superbowl XLVII

A bluffer’s guide to American football

400px-American_Football_Positions.svgThe teams: the basic NFL team is made up of two 11-man squads, one “offensive” the other “defensive”.

The quarterback, generally considered the star of the team, is the key player in the offensive line-up.

One side’s offense will face the other’s defense at each “down” as shown in the picture (above).

There are additional specialist players who come on to make kicks and run the ball to where the first line of scrimmage will take place.12395-2

The pitch: the pitch is 100 yards long and divided into 10-yard segments. Each end has an additional 10-yard “end zone”, (see picture, right) with goal posts.

Timings: The game is divided into four quarters of 15 minutes each. There are short breaks between the change-over of each play, each quarter and a slightly longer one at half time so while the game in theory lasts an hour it does in fact last much longer.

Gameplay: After the coin toss, a designated team will kick the ball down the field to the receiving side.

They then run the ball up the field until tackled. The spot they are tackled is where the first line of scrimmage will take place.

the line of scrimmage, NY Giants left, New England Patriots right

the line of scrimmage, NY Giants left, New England Patriots right

The receiving team’s offensive side then come out and face-off against the other side’s defense.

Pinging the ball back from the centre player to the quarterback is known as a “snap”.

Football is based on plays, set-piece actions that are constantly rehearsed. When the quarterback is heard yelling something like “23,38,42!” he is telling his side the play they are about to go through with.

This includes informing his receivers which of them is to get the ball and which is to make a dummy run etc.

Alternatively he may decide to hand the ball to one of his running backs rather than throw (pass) it upfield.

The aim of each play is to advance 10 yards. The offensive team has four attempts in which to accomplish this before it must hand the ball over to the other team’s offense.

american football quarterback

Washington Redskins quarterback, Robert Griffin III (left) handing the ball to a half back

The defensive team is obviously trying to stop them and do so by tackling the ball carrier or breaking through to reach the quarterback and either tackling him, forcing him to throw a rushed pass which his receiver cannot catch or making him throw the ball out of play.

When the offense makes 10 yards they get another four throws to repeat the process and so advance up the pitch to the end-zone.

At the fourth down, if the team is struggling to make 10 yards the offense will usually bring on a placekicker to punt the ball downfield and ensure that the opposition’s offense have further to advance.

The first down is referred to as the “first and 10”. If the team only goes four yards then the next down will be the “second and six”, and so on until 10 yards are made or not.

The offense and defense are cycled through as often as necessary throughout the game.

Turnovers: The ball can be turned over if the quarterback throws an interception, that is to say his pass is caught by a member of the opposition.

He will then run the ball until tackled and his offensive team will come out for a new down.

If a player drops the ball (called a fumble) it can be picked up by the opposition with similar consequences.



Scoring: A touchdown (the equivalent of a try in rugby) is accomplished when a ball carrier crosses into the end zone or catches a pass from the quarterback in the end zone.

If a ball carrier is being tackled while attempting a touchdown, as long as one foot is connected to the ground he only has to pass the ball over the end zone area to get the touchdown.

A touchdown is worth six points and a conversion a further one point. A field goal is worth three points

As in all sports, the team with the most points at the final whistle has won and, in this case, is crowned Superbowl champion.


Eli Manning, quarterback for the 2012 champions the New York Giants

Eli Manning, quarterback for the 2012 champions the New York Giants


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