Thursday, April 18, 2019

“In football the object is for the quarterback, also known as the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches his troops into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack that punches holes in the forward wall of the enemy’s defensive line.”George Carlin in Baseball vs. Football

Funny yes, but what does it all mean?

By looking at a football game, it seems so easy. The technical objective is to score more points than your opponent but really, it’s just to beat the crap out of all the other players on the field, sometimes including those on your own team! (Hard to tell who is who when everyone jumped in a big pile and your helmet is in the way!)

The other day, for research purposes, I decided to watch a game and ignore any football knowledge I have accumulated over the last decade or two. And, wow, it’s actually a pretty complex sport with lots of terms and rules and stuff that gave me a headache!

This is Part 1: Very Basic Terms to Know before attempting to read on let alone watch a game! I know that there are a lot technicalities within each term but I don’t want to confuse anyone. Namely, myself.

First, the Pigskin: Yeah, that’s the football.

The Playing Field:

The Gridiron: the football field. My fascinating fact: comes from the word Griddle, like the frying pans! If you look at a griddle they have parallel lines to cook on and that’s what the gridiron means,: a surface with parallel lines. Mmm..pancakes sound so good right now. Oh right, football. Blah.

Yard: Equivelant to 3 feet or 36 inches. It is the unit of measurement of the field. Why? I have no idea. The field itself is 100 yards (120 with both end zones).

End Zone:  This is the spot that the teams are trying to get the ball to. There is one on each end of the field and it’s where the big goal posts live! Get the ball into the end zone and you score points! Yay!

Line of Scrimmage: I knew this one till I read the definition. It was so wordy it confused me. In football there are two lines, offensive and defensive.  This refers to the spot where the both lines, well, line up with the ball in the middle to get ready to start the next action-packed sequence.


There are two ways to score: Touchdowns and Field Goals

Touchdown: When a team scores by “touching down” the ball in the end zone, meaning carried in or caught. It is worth 6 points and then the scoring team gets to try and kick the ball for an extra point. Not really sure why it’s worth 6 whole points. Most sports you get 1. Basketball has a 3-point shot. Maybe thats why. Because they had to bring the ball so far down the field, it’s worth more? Hmm…. But in that case if someone runs the ball all the way from the other end zone, shouldn’t it be worth like 12 points?

Field Goal: You know those big goal posts at the end of the field? When a team kicks the football into the middle of them they score 3 points!

Field Kick: The kick that gets them those 3 points. Duh.

Extra points: After a touchdown, the scoring team gets to kick the ball into the goal posts to attempt to gain an extra point, bringing their score from 6 to 7 points. Or they can try to run it in again for 2 points.

Quarterback: The QB! He tends to be the team’s leading star. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong here but it doesn’t seem like a team can be successful without a great quarterback. He pretty much puts the football in play from throwing passes or handing off the ball.


The second objective of football, besides scoring points, is to achieve the 1st Down. :

Downs: Yeah…really, really don’t want to explain this because it’s just one of those weird football things that are so essential to the game, yet so WEIRD! I’m sure you have heard it: 1st down, 2nd down, 3rd down, 4th down…..

The offensive team gets 4 chances to move the ball ten yards down the field. Each chance is a “down.”  If they don’t advance 10 yards in 4 tries, the ball goes back to the other team. Kinda like baseball: you have three outs per side before you give the ball back to the other team.

Downs & Yards, i.e, First & Ten, Third and inches, Third and Goal.

This means it’s the First Down, or chance, and the offense needs still needs to move the ball 10 yards.

Third and inches means its the third chance and they only have a few inches to go to hit the 10 yard mark!

Third and Goal means that it’s the third chance and they are within 10 yards of the end zone, aka the goal.

**There are markers on the side of the field to help determine if the down was made. Sometimes it really does come within inches. Watching a televised game? They have a a digital line to show viewers at home where the first down is! Great technology!

the magic yellow first down line used for t.v.

the magic yellow first down line used for t.v.

About Passing:

Passing play: I read that this is “a play in which a forward pass is made.” Gee that’s helpful. That makes it sound like any time a guy hits on me in a bar.

Receiver: Player catching or receiving the pass.

Incomplete pass: A pass that goes awry. No one is able to catch the ball.

Interception: A pass that is sucessfully caught by the other team, aka intercepted.

Fumble: An, “oops, my bad.” When a player messes up with the ball and it fumbles around. Usually funny to watch.

Pass Interference: This is different than an interception because it’s an action that inhibits the pass receiver from catching the ball and it’s not allowed.

What is “Play Action” they are always talking about?

Play Action, or  Play Action Pass (PA for super short), is a fancy schmancy way of saying “fake out.” Basically the QB pretends to hand off the football so that the defense will then follow the guy with the pretend ball. This does two things.

  1. It gives the quarterback more time to then pass the ball because no on thinks he still has the ball (and it’s a big no no to rough the QB after a pass).
  2. Since the defense is following that guy with the pretend ball, it helps open up the field for a receiver to catch the pass.

Some other stuff:

football has a bend and snap too!

football has a bend and snap too!

Football’s version of “the bend and snap” Oh that’s right, I just compared football to Legally Blonde! Yay!  Elle teaches us that Guaranteed Guy Getter is the “bend and snap” (aka bend forward to show your booty and then snap back up with your chest thrust forward) and football has the same move! The players bend over with their tushies in the air until the ball is “snapped” and then they too, all snap back and run, chest forward into the person in front of them! 🙂



The Snap: When the Center (the player in the middle of the bending lineup) passes the ball between his legs to the QB or player behind him to start off each play with a snap!

The Play: The action-packed sequence that occurs after the snap until it is stopped (out of bounds, interception, tackle, fumble, score…till the next sequence begins)

False Start: Never really understood this one even though every game I’ve ever watched seems to have this happen. The best answer I could come up with was from wikipedia saying it’s “a sudden movement of the offense in an attempt to draw the defense offsides.” Freaking great. Still no idea what that means or why it’s bad. And no one seems to be able to explain it in logical words. Before the ball is snapped, some players on the offense try to fake out the defense to trick them into moving before the offense puts the ball into play. I think.

Kickoff: Used at the start of the game, halftime or after a score. One teams kicks the football off of a tee at their own 30-yard line as hard as they can. The other team catches it and tries to run it back as far as they can!

Punt: aka a drop-kick. Not kicked from a tee like the kick-off. Here, the kicker drops the ball to his own foot and kicks it as hard as he can down the field to make the players chase after it. (Next time you are “threatening” someone, instead of saying “I’m going to drop-kick your a$$,” try “I’m going to punt you.” See if it intimidates!)

look how funny he looks punting!

look how funny he looks punting!


Blitz: When the defense rushes against the snap. Yeah, see what I mean: the definitions are often as ambiguous as the term itself. As soon as the ball is snapped and not even in the QB’s hands, the defense rushes forward hoping to take down the QB. What the difference is between this and a regular play….no idea

Sack: When the QB is tackled before he passes the ball off to someone else, behind the line of scrimmage. Wherever he was taken down, that’s where the offense has to start their next play. What this means: the offensive team now has farther to go for their first down.

Tackle: When a defensive player hurls his body against the player from the other team carrying the ball and knock him to the ground to end the play.

Blocking: Unlike tackling, this is used against the defensive players to try to stop them from getting to the guy carrying the football

Holding: Is the bad way of blocking and tackling. Apparently, you are not allowed to hold other players even though they are trying to kill the guy carrying the football. Go figure. There is offensive and defensive holding which we will get into later. In short, it’s holding onto the oppenents jersey or hooking around a body part…I don’t know. Just plain weird.

a big ole pile of men in a tackle

a big ole pile of men in a tackle

Flag or yellow flag: A lot of times you see the officials throwing something yellow on the field and say the announcers say “a flag on the play.” Uh huh, sure. It’s just a fancy way of calling it a foul or saying one of the players did something wrong. Then the officials usually give an explanation like holding of false start or something else no one understands 🙂

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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29 Responses

  1. The Sports Scribe Said,

    Great post! I like what you’re doing and I think your logo is cool. I’ll make sure I am a regular reader.

    Posted on December 10th, 2008 at 7:49 am

  2. newfanatic Said,

    you are now my secret weapon for football parties lol keep it up [=

    Posted on August 16th, 2009 at 3:04 pm

  3. Stiletto Jen Said,

    thanks! there is a lot more coming for this years football season! And I got your email about soccer–I’m actually looking for writers to help cover it! So if you, or anyone you know are interested, I’d love to talk to you!

    Posted on August 19th, 2009 at 2:44 pm

  4. MsChris Said,

    Hi there…I really like this website. I just started a girls flag football team and this website was perfect way for me to explain football terms to my girls. Thank you for the great termology in ways that we understand….and the pictures where great, too!

    Anyhoo, I had a comment for the definition of false start. False start is exactly what it sounds like. What happens at the beginning of every play is that, the people on the line has to stay exactly still until the quarterback calls out to move. It would be unfair for either side to get a headstart. There are times when the offense would try to throw the defense off by pretending that he’s going to move; or vice-versa. The movement would result in a penalty of lost yards or gained yards, depending on which side was caught.

    Posted on October 7th, 2009 at 8:36 pm

  5. Stiletto Jen Said,

    Thank you so much for the kind words—and for the better explanation of false start!
    I’m so glad I could help. The EBook is still in the works, I’ll definitely let you know when it’s up and ready because it’s more in depth about a lot of things.

    Posted on November 8th, 2009 at 11:07 pm

  6. Buckrogers Said,

    This is a great post making Foodball easy for everyone. Very funny.


    Posted on February 21st, 2010 at 4:09 pm

  7. Stiletto Jen Said,

    thank you! That is my goal! Making football funny & easy to learn! Very hard to translate football speak into real people speak 🙂

    Posted on February 21st, 2010 at 7:49 pm

  8. MedicallyBlonde Said,

    Loving the “Bend and Snap” Part!!!

    Posted on August 13th, 2010 at 10:56 am

  9. Stiletto Jen Said,

    hahahahah I LOVE that you called yourself Medically Blonde! That may have just made my day

    Posted on August 13th, 2010 at 11:25 am

  10. Natalie Said,

    Thanks for posting these easy-to-understand and funny definitions of football terms! I grew up in a football family, so it all seems pretty easy to understand to me. However, I coach high school cheerleading and it is hard to explain to 18 teenage girls all the rules and terms of football! I told them all to come to your site and read this article. Thank you!

    Posted on September 9th, 2010 at 9:41 pm

  11. Stiletto Jen Said,

    Thank you so much for the feedback!
    It’s funny how much football knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years–it’s so hard to watch a game and try to take myself out of it and NOT understand it so I can then explain it to others. So I definitely understand how hard it is to explain to others—especially young ladies who kinda want to learn—but in a fun interesting, non-boring way!
    Thank you for spreading the word!
    And if you think of anything that I need to add, please let me know!

    Posted on September 9th, 2010 at 10:49 pm

  12. Claudine Said,

    Love it. My boyfriend (a former college tight end with a nice “end”) was getting tired of all the questions I was asking during games. Thanks for the explanations! 🙂

    Posted on September 19th, 2010 at 12:11 am

  13. Stiletto Jen Said,

    Anytime! Feel free to ask me anything! I’m lucky to have a great guy friend (erik) who is very patient and explains everything in full detail so I can understand it and never gets tired of it! He just wants us to enjoy it!

    Posted on September 19th, 2010 at 12:14 am

  14. mike Said,

    Very good explanation even my wife could understand!

    Posted on October 2nd, 2010 at 11:19 am

  15. Molly Anderson Said,

    Hey! Love your site 🙂
    Check out mine if you get a chance…I’m more for the “beginner beginners” and I love finding more and more of us every day! I’m gonna link to your site if you don’t mind!


    Posted on October 29th, 2010 at 6:17 pm

  16. Stiletto Jen Said,

    Hi Molly! Thanks for the love! I’d love to work together with you in the near future! I’m hoping to have some free time to really build up a network & community for female sports writers and lovers and would love for you to be a part of it.

    Posted on November 6th, 2010 at 12:43 pm

  17. Stiletto Jen Said,

    I’m glad I could help!

    Posted on November 6th, 2010 at 12:51 pm

  18. Molly Said,

    Thanks, Jen!!!
    I’m totally flattered. Count me in!!!
    .-= Molly´s last blog ..Michael Vick-Mr MVP!! =-.

    Posted on November 16th, 2010 at 2:21 pm

  19. Zenon Said,

    Hey Jen,

    Super cool that you have posted all of this. Even though I watch football every sunday, I never get to see all the terms laid out like this.

    I just wanted to let you know one more way to score. It’s a safety and it’s worth two points. Check out the wiki page here.

    See ya


    Posted on January 18th, 2011 at 2:42 pm

  20. Stiletto Jen Said,

    Thanks for the tip! I definitely know about the Safety but I’m sure I had some crazy reason for it not being in here! I know it’s in the e-book that should be out…. .sometime…… 🙂
    Glad it could help! I watch it every week too and every week I learn more and more terms that I had never heard of!

    Posted on January 19th, 2011 at 12:30 pm

  21. Terri Quinones Baca Said,

    Wow…. this is amazing… Just last night I posted “I no speaky the football – no understando what you sayo” to which my male bff replied with a series of football speak which I almost interpreted correctly…he said I got 25% of it. Poor sweetheart tried to explain it all to me and I being a visual learner was lost. So I googled and you were the first click. I have posted this on my FB page and am slowly lookingit over and see that this will help me so much!!! I only knew a bit a TINY bit!

    Thank you so much for your very informative girl explaination of football!!!! Am a single mom now and know that this information will impress a few guys – If i ever get a date 😀

    Love ya a whole bunch!!!!

    Posted on August 12th, 2011 at 2:23 pm

  22. Stiletto Jen Said,

    I am so glad I could help!! I am a visual learner myself….and an “entertaining learner” meaning, if its dry and boring, I’m so not going to understand it. I’ll just tune out.
    I had to find a way to make the language of Football sound a bit more…. human 🙂
    Feel free to ask me any question, any time on here or on Facebook and I’ll get back to you asap!
    Good luck with dating, if you find a good one and he has a brother (esp a brother that looks like Mark Sanchez or Sam Bradford) send him my way! Lol!

    Posted on September 11th, 2011 at 9:49 am

  23. Klara Said,

    i had been waiting for a post like this for so long! i never understood the terms in the TV while my man was watching his favorite game. now i can watch it with him together and luckily i dont need to feel stupid anymore:)

    Posted on October 17th, 2011 at 10:11 am

  24. Kim Said,

    I might be able to help with the false start rule…

    A false start occurs when, typically, any of the offensive linemen makes any kind of motion before the ball is snapped. It can be a pinky twitch or a head move or whatever. It is a very difficult violation to spot sometimes and, yes, confusing. You will see the center move or the tight ends move before the snap, but not once the snap count begins.

    I don’t know if this helps, maybe I made it more confusing?

    Posted on November 3rd, 2011 at 11:55 am

  25. Sheridan Said,

    The difference between a blitz and regular defensive play is that in a blitz, the defense has at least one additional player rushing the QB than the offense has blocking. So if the offense has 5 blockers, the defense would have 6 men rushing.

    In regular play, the defense has chosen to have fewer men rushing the QB so that they have more men covering the field and preventing receivers from being open, defending against a running play, etc.

    Hope that explanation clears things up for you. Great site!

    Posted on November 10th, 2011 at 4:56 pm

  26. shorthaircute Said,

    luv. i learned a lot!

    Posted on November 13th, 2011 at 2:23 pm

  27. caress Said,

    I love love this website and through your ads i now found a cute outfit that i can wear when we go watch games. i am a GB fan (though just recently introduced) now liking it.

    Posted on November 25th, 2011 at 11:41 am

  28. Jenna Said,

    I’m a newly introduced GB fan and this has been so helpful!! My bf made no sense to me at all when he tried to explain it. He was pretty shocked the next game we watched and I actually knew what I was talking about though lol =)

    Posted on January 12th, 2012 at 7:35 am

  29. Brownie Said,

    Awesome 😉 Thank you
    A boy

    Posted on January 19th, 2012 at 6:20 am

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