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Football Basics for Wives or Girlfriends

Learning the Rules of Football Could Improve Your Relationship

Once again, football season is upon us, making seasonal widows out of many wives nationwide. Instead of hiding out this fall, though, have you ever considered learning about the sport and joining your husband on the sofa every Sunday afternoon? It could be fun! You could learn something new and possibly improve your marriage in the process.

Timing of NFL

The first thing you should know about professional (NFL) football is the timing. There are sixty minutes of game time that are broken up into four fifteen-minute quarters. So why does your husband stay at the sports bar for three hours and say he’s just watching the game?

Well, because time-outs, a half-time break, penalties and game-delaying penalty reviews, commercial breaks, and other reasons that stop the clock cause the game to run about three clock hours. So, ice up a case of beer and stock up on finger foods.

american football basic
American football basic

Football Team

The second element of football basics is the team itself. Each team has eleven players on the field at a time, and each player has a different job to do. Each team consists of players that play on the offense or the defense. The team’s offense is on the field when the team has possession of the football and is trying to score.

The defense is the part of the team that tries to keep the other team from scoring. Special teams players are football players brought into the game for special plays, such as kicking the football to the other team in a change of possession or receiving the kicked football from the other team.

Special teams players are also responsible for kicking field goals and extra points after touchdowns and preventing the other team from scoring on these plays. Many of these players also play on offense or defense, but some are strictly special teams players.

Scoring Points

Teams have a few ways of scoring points. Touchdowns are the most common and avail the team of the most points – six. When a team’s offense gets the football, they have four “downs” chances to move the football ten yards.

When the announcer says it is “third down and eight yards,” you know that this is the third of their four chances, and they have only moved the football two yards in their first two chances.

After they move the football ten yards, they start over again with another four downs to move it another ten yards – sometimes referred to as receiving “a fresh set of downs.”

If they fail to move the football ten yards in four downs, they must return the football to the other team. The ultimate goal is to move all the way down the field and cross into the other team’s endzone for a touchdown.

After the touchdown, the team gets a chance to kick the ball through the goalposts at either end of the field for one extra point. Often, this one point can mean the difference between a win and a loss. You can do Two-point conversions in place of the extra point.

A team accomplishes this by completing a play that looks exactly like scoring a touchdown. It is harder than scoring the extra point, so most teams don’t attempt it unless time runs out and they are down by just a few points.

If they can’t quite get the touchdown but are within twenty or thirty yards, a team can kick a field goal for three points. In this play, the team’s kicker comes into the game and tries to kick the ball through the goalposts, similar to the extra point kick after a touchdown.

The last scoring opportunity — a safety — is worth two points. Scoring a safety is relatively rare in the game of football. A team scores a safety when an offensive player is tackled in his own end zone.


Here are some common football terms heard throughout the game and what they mean:

Fumble – if a player drops the football before his knee touches the ground, the football is still considered “alive” and playable. Another player from either team can pick up the football and obtain possession of it or even score.

Flag on the play – an official has seen an illegal action and literally throws his “flag” – a yellow cloth – onto the field, indicating that they will impose a penalty on one team or the other.

Interception – a player from the defense, has caught the football intended for an offensive player—hint: bad for the offense, good for the defense.

Red zone – the twenty yards on either end of the field just before reaching the end zone. When offensive players drive the football down to this point, they are said to be in the “red zone” or in “scoring position.”

Interference or pass interference – most commonly, a penalty is called against a defensive player who grabs an offensive receiver trying to catch the football. Occasionally, but rarely, the penalty can be called against an offensive player who tries to keep a defensive player from intercepting the football.

Football “snap” – the point when the offense’s center hands the football through his legs to the quarterback.

False start – members of the offensive line move before the football is snapped.

Offsides – members of the defensive line advance before the ball is snapped. If a member of the offensive line even flinches a little, it can be said that the defense was “drawn offsides,” and the offense will receive a “false start” penalty.

Blitz – defensive players attempt to break through the line to pressure the quarterback instead of covering their regular positions. This can work just by psyching out the quarterback.

Holding – one of the most common penalties in football is the holding call. Holding happens when one player grabs another and holds him back from advancing.

These are the basic rules and regulations of football. If you understand these rules, you at least have a starting point for watching the game and basic knowledge. It won’t take long to learn more, sitting on the sofa next to your husband, instead of in the background waiting for him to request his next beer.

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