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How does American Football work?

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How does American Football work? American Football is one of the biggest North American sports. Whilst the game is played worldwide, the professional leagues in North America (such as the NFL) easily attract the best players in the world making its leagues the most competitive. The pinnacle of the sport comes in the form of the Super Bowl played out every year to millions of people around the world.

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Standard features of a professional football field

How long is an American football field? Let’s find out!

How does american football work?

  • Sideline – The sideline is the 6-foot-wide (1.8-meter-wide) boundary line that runs the length of each side of the football field.
  • End line – The end line is a 6-foot-wide boundary line that connects the two parallel sidelines. The end line and sideline compose the rectangular shape of the field. Two pylons flank the end of the end line.
  • End zone – The end zones are two 10-yard-wide (9-meter-wide) areas at each end of the field inside the end line. The end zone behind a team is that team’s end zone, and the end zone ahead of a team is its opponent’s end zone.
  • Goal line – The goal line is an 8-inch-wide (20-cm-wide) line that runs across the front of the end zone. Two pylons flank the end of the goal line.
  • Yard lines and hash marks – In the 100 yards (91 meters) between goal lines, hash marks on either side of the field mark each yard. At every fifth yard, a solid white line runs from sideline to sideline, and at every 10 yards those lines are numbered (i.e., 10, 20, 30, 40, etc.). This crosshatch of lines gives the field its “gridiron” nickname.
  • Goalposts – Centered at the back of the end zone is a pole that extends 10 feet (3 meters) high and connects with a horizontal cross bar. On each end of the 18-foot, 6-inch (5.5-meter) cross bar is an upright post that rises to a height of 30 feet (9 meters) above the ground. A 4-inch by 42-inch (10-cm x 107-cm) ribbon is tied to the top of each upright.

How does American Football work?

How does American Football work?

Games last for four 15-minute quarters. A 2-minute break between the 1st & 2nd and 3rd & 4th quarters is had along with a 15-minute rest between the 2nd and 3rd quarters (half time). Each team has 4 downs to gain 10 or more yards. They can either throw or run the ball to make the yards. Here are some rules of the game!

  • Games last for four 15-minute quarters. A 2-minute break between the 1st & 2nd and 3rd & 4th quarters is had along with a 15-minute rest between the 2nd and 3rd quarters (half time).
  • Each team has 4 downs to gain 10 or more yards. They can either throw or run the ball to make the yards. As soon as the team gains the required yards then the downs reset and the yardage resets. Failure to make the yardage after 4 downs will result in a turnover.
  • There are hundreds of different plays that players can run on any down. Plays are made up by the teams and often have players running all over the place (routes) in what is essentially organized chaos. The head coach or quarterback calls the on-field plays for the attacking team whilst the defensive captain calls the plays for the defensive team.
  • At the start of every game is the coin toss to decide which team receives the ball first and which side of the pitch they want to start from.
  • The game begins with a kick-off where one team punts the ball downfield for the other team to then run back with the ball as far as possible.
  • On fourth down the offense has the option to either try to make up the yards they are short or to kick the ball. If they decide to kick they have two options; to punt or to try for a field goal. Depending on their position on the pitch will usually dictate their play. Anything within 40 yards or so of the opposition’s goalposts will result in a field goal attempt. The further back will likely mean they take the punt option.

Players & Equipment

Whilst there are only 11 players from each team on the field at any team, an American football team is actually made up of 45 players. The teams are generally split into three groups of attacking (generally smaller, stronger, faster type of players, including a quarterback who is said to run the attacking plays and throw the ball to their teammates), defense (larger, more powerful players designed to stop players from running) and special team players (responsible for the kicking and punting side of the game with a mixture of larger and faster players).

An American football field is generally around 100 yards long and 60 yards wide. Lines are drawn on the field at 10-yard intervals to indicate how far each team has to go before reaching the end zone. The end zones are added at each end of the pitch and are roughly 20 yards in length each. Posts can also be found at each end of which the kicker kicks the ball over.

­The most essential piece of equipment in a football game is the ball. Official NFL footballs are handmade by Wilson Sporting Goods Co. The football is an oblong sphere and is 11 to 11.5 inches (27.9 – 29.2 cm) long. It has a lengthwise circumference of about 28.5 inches (72.4 cm) and a width-wise circumference of about 21.5 inches (54.6 cm) in the middle of the ball. It weighs between 14 and 15 ounces (397 – 425 grams). The ball consists of an inflated, polyurethane bladder placed in cowhide covering and laced with gridcord material.

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