Monday, March 25, 2019

Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.

~Erma Bombeck

Before we begin to tackle (pun intended) football basics, make sure you take the time to read over  Football Terms To Know which goes over a lot of key words that will be used throughout the rest of the Football 101 pieces!

Football Basics is going to cover all the, well, basics! The structure of the team, the game itself and the football season. The rest of the football guide covers


The Teams

There are two teams in each game: Home & Visitor.

-Each team is allowed 11 players on the field at a given time. If there are more than 11, the team gets a penalty (Be forewarned, there are a LOT of potential penalties in football….)

-Each team is actually comprised of 53 players (I think. I got 5 different answers: 45, 46, 53, under 65, 80 in the off season…. If you average them it would be 57.8 players…. But my editor said it’s 53 in the NFL regular season so we are going with that as our final answer!)

-Teams are allowed to substitute players pretty much whenever they want—and as many as they want! They can change their whole field as long as they do it in the time allowed.

-The players are divided into

  • Offense: The guys running down the field with the football trying to score points.
  • Defense: The guys trying to kill stop the offense from scoring.
  • Special Teams: All the other guys doing stuff. More about these guys a little bit later!

-Each team alternates between Offense and Defense. This changes when

  • A goal is scored (touchdown or field goal)
  • There is a fumble (player looses control of the ball) and the other team takes possession of the football
  • The half ends
  • There is a pass interception (wrong team caught the ball!)
  • The team failed to do what it needed to do in it’s allowed four tries and they have to give the ball back to the other team. (We’ll go over this in detail in just a bit!)

Game Play

  • -The game is broken down into four 15 minute quarters. (It’s not your imagination that the games seem to drag on forever. In football math: 4 x 15 minutes = 3 hours.)
  • There is a 2 minute pause in between the quarters.
  • After the first half, there is a halftime intermission, usually 12 minutes long.

-If the game is tied at the end of 3 hours 4 quarters, the game goes into Sudden Death (known in other sports–including college football– as Overtime).

-During the NFL regular season, if no one gets killed scores in Sudden Death, the game is declared “a tie”

-In NFL playoffs, however, they play till someone wins.

-The first team to score in Sudden Death, wins. Unlike college football where both teams gets an equal opportunity to score, no matter how long it takes. **Rumor has it that this year the NFL playoffs will follow the college system.

Time-Outs: Each team gets three time outs per half. Time outs are a minute and ten seconds long, unless the game is televised and it’s a “TV Timeout” for commercial slots. Then it’s a minute and 50 seconds.

The Two Minute Warning: This occurs at the end of each half, signaling that the half is winding down. The warning is actually a time-out for both teams, without charging either team for the pause of game.

Game Clock vs. Play Clock: The game clock ticks down the 15 minutes of each quarter. The play clock, on the other hand, ticks off the time that the offense has to put the ball in play. They have 40 seconds from the time the previous play was completed to start their new play. It is also called the “delay of game timer” because if they fail to get the ball in motion, they will be penalized with a delay of game call.

F.A.Q. Why are players so eager to run out of bounds, especially at the end of games? Are the players sore and scared of being tackled?

Perhaps. I know if I had spent three hours being tackled by 300 pound monsters, I’d be eager to get away from them too. But they are actually running out of bounds to stop the clock. If they don’t make it out, the clock continues to tick and precious seconds are lost.

The Football Season

-Pre-season kicks off (ha!) in August. The regular season for college and NFL goes from the end of August or early September and runs until December. Then the NFL playoffs and college bowl games run through January.

  • The NFL plays on Sundays and on Monday nights. On occasion there are Thursday games
  • The high profile College games are on Saturdays and sometimes Thursdays. Sure, other games are played during the week but they are usually not the matchups everyone wants to watch.
  • High School football is usually on Friday Night (hence, Friday Night Lights) or Saturday mornings!

-The NFL season runs for 17 weeks

  • Each team has a “bye week” meaning they have a week off.
  • This started in 1990 because the NFL decided they wanted the season to drag out an extra week. No, I’m not kidding.

Object & Scoring

-See football terms to know for more information about this.


More in A Girl’s Guide to Football:

*graphic from Paula Duffy’s book: A Women’s Guide to Football.

About the author: Jennifer Taglione is the owner of this fabulous website Stiletto Sports. Despite writing well over 500 posts, she still maintains that she is not a sports writer! She is however a huge fan of Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald, Mark Sanchez, the Celtics, and totally kicks butt on March Madness brackets! Connect with her by following her on Twitter @StilettoSportsJ and subscribing to her weekly newsletter. For more info check out the About the Editor page!

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7 Responses

  1. Jan Said,

    Thats a brilliant little starter tutorial thanks!

    I’ll finally be able to understand whats going on when its on tv a little bit more
    .-= Jan´s last blog ..The Columnist Who Moved From London To The Village =-.

    Posted on February 24th, 2010 at 12:04 pm

  2. Stiletto Jen Said,

    aw thanks for the love!
    I was finally able to educate my best friend—she’s very anti-sports–last night. she was asking me all about tight ends and I pulled up my Football Players and Positions post and said, here, read this. She was amazed!

    Posted on February 24th, 2010 at 1:01 pm

  3. Tina Said,

    I have always believed that every woman should learn and understand the game of Football. I have tried for years, but couldn’t find a manly soul to cottle me through the game. I guess, trying to learn in the middle of the game is not particularly the best approach:). So, my goal for 2011 season is to shout, scream and dance with the best of them…however, this year I’m going to know for what. LOL!! I just purchased the Stiletto book, so I’m going in.

    Thanks for this GREAT site.

    Go Packers!!! (I’m an original CheezeHead…born and raised).

    Posted on February 6th, 2011 at 7:41 pm

  4. Stiletto Jen Said,

    Thank you so much for the support! Hopefully we will have a 2011 season. Stay tuned, i’ll be doing a post about the impending NFL Lockout soon….it’s not looking good 🙁
    But if we do, I’ll do everything in my power to get you screaming, shouting and dancing to football every Sunday!
    Let me know if there are any other questions you want answered!
    and congrats on the Super Bowl victory!!

    Posted on February 7th, 2011 at 1:06 am

  5. Lori G Said,

    Love this ! I’ll be able to watch football with my bf now that i understand it 🙂

    Posted on September 8th, 2011 at 9:44 am

  6. Stiletto Jen Said,

    I’m so glad I could help! If you ever have any questions feel free to email me or leave me a comment on the Facebook page!

    Posted on September 11th, 2011 at 9:32 am

  7. Kimberly Said,

    THANK U!! this was so helpful, well written, & easy to read/understand <3

    Posted on January 22nd, 2012 at 4:53 pm

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