A type of Nickel formation with 2 linemen (2 DEs or 1 DE & 1 DT), 4 linebackers (2 ILBs & 2OLBs), and 5 defensive backs (3 CBs, 1 FS & 1 SS). More common among teams with 3-4 base defenses than the 3-3-5, because all four starting linebackers remain on-field while the defensive linemen -- the slowest players on the defense -- come out. This maximizes versatility for the defense against 3- or even 4-WR offensive sets. a safety will often cover the fourth receiver, and a linebacker will cover the tight end or halfback, leaving three to patrol the middle of the field. The 2-4-5 is most often used against the 2-minute offense, when substituting players may be difficult.
A variation of the Nickel formation with 3 linemen (2 DE & 1 DT), 3 linebackers (2 OLB & 1 MLB), and 5 defensive backs (3 CB, 1 SS & 1 FS). Often called a 3-3 stack. Also called the "Rule Breaker" due to the fact that it often changes blocking schemes for the offensive line.
A defensive formation with 3 linemen and 4 linebackers. A professional derivative in the 1970s of the earlier Oklahoma or 50 defense, which had 5 linemen and 2 linebackers. The 3-4 outside linebackers resemble "stand-up ends" in the older defense. It is sometimes pronounced thirty-four defense. The 3-4 also was spun off from the Miami Dolphins "53 defense named for the jersey number worn by linebacker Bob Matheson, who was often used by the Dolphins as a fourth linebacker in passing situations.
Illegal participation (name so derived from the fact that 4+4+4=12 men on the field; each team is limited to 11). Coined by coach and color commentator John Madden. (However, this formation is legal in Canadian football, as there are 12 players on the Field)
Usually pronounced forty-six defense, a formation of the 4-3 defense (four linemen and three linebackers) featuring several dramatic shifts of personnel. The line is heavily shifted toward the offense's weak side; both outside linebackers tend to play on the strong side outside of the defensive linemen; and three defensive backs (the two cornerbacks and the strong safety) crowd the line of scrimmage. The remaining safety, which is the free safety, stays in the backfield. It was invented by Buddy Ryan while with the Chicago Bears and popularized by the Super Bowl XX ChampionChicago Bears.
50 defense or 5-2 Defense
A once popular college defense with 5 defensive linemen and 2 linebackers. Also known as the "Oklahoma Defense," it is structurally very similar to the 3-4. In the 50-defense, the team uses a nose tackle (NT), 2 defensive tackles (DTs) lined up over or slightly inside the offensive tackles (OTs), and 2 defensive ends (DEs) lineup over or outside the tight end (TE). It maximizes size along the line of scrimmage and is mostly used only in high school against teams that run the ball a lot.
The most players a National Football League (NFL) team can carry on its active roster at the start of the regular season. To reach the deadline, teams can cut players, add players to their practice squad, or, if injured, move players to the Physically Unable to Perform list.
7-Box or 7-2-2 Defense
A defensive formation with 7 linemen, 2 linebackers, and 2 defensive backs. Akin to an offensive 2 tight end set. Used by Mike Donahue.
A way of expressing the number of times a team, who is late in the game and trails their opponent, must secure possession of the ball and score without allowing their opponent to do the same in order to tie and/or overtake the opponent. Eight points (a touchdown and a two-point conversion) are the most points possible on any given possession; therefore, the number of possessions (n) necessary is equal to the point margin, divided by eight, rounded up to the nearest integer. For instance, a team down by 17 points would be in a three-possession game.
An offensive philosophy designed to appear as if all 11 players are eligible receivers. The offense exploits a loophole in the American football rulebook to technically make the formation a scrimmage kick, and the offensive line is spread across the field, all wearing numbers of eligible receivers, in an effort to confuse and deceive the defense. It was banned in 2009.
An offensive philosophy derived from the West Coast Offense but adapted to the shotgun formation. In this offense the running game is heavily de-emphasized while the quick pass, medium pass, and screen game are highly developed.
The yards gained by a pass through the air. It is the distance gained by a pass forward of the line of scrimmage to the spot of the reception. Alternatively, it is the total passing yards minus the yards run after catch (YAC).
The sum of all yards gained by a player who is in possession of the ball during a play. This includes rushing and receiving yards gained on offense, yards gained on returns of interceptions and fumbles, and yards gained on kickoff punt and missed field goal returns.
A play called by the quarterback at the line of scrimmage to make a change from the play that was called in the huddle.
automatic first down
For several of the most severe fouls against the defensive team, a first down is awarded to the offensive team even if the result of the penalty does not advance the ball beyond the line to gain. In the NFL and NCAA, the fouls include pass interference and all personal fouls. Under NFHS (High School) rules only roughing the snapper, holder, kicker, or passer are penalized with an automatic first down.
Any position not typically aligned on the line of scrimmage (exception: defensive linemen are off the line in Canadian rules, but are not backs). Offensively: Runningback, Tailback, Quarterback, Halfback, Flankerback, Fullback and Wingback. Defensively: Linebacker, Cornerback, Rover, Defensive Halfback and Safety.
The area of an American football field behind the line of scrimmage. The backfield or offensive backfield can also refer to members of offense who begin plays behind the line, typically including any backs on the field, such as the quarterback, running back and/or fullback.
A second string player who does not start the game, but comes in later in relief of a starter.
A pass thrown backward. Also called "onside pass" in Canadian football. There is no limit to the number of backward passes or where they may be thrown from. Sometimes referred to as a "lateral," which specifically refers to a pass thrown with no motion toward either end zone (the best known of which is the Music City Miracle).
The player currently in possession of the football. If the ball is "loose", meaning nobody has possession, there is no ball carrier.
A strategy that is based on low-risk plays in an effort to avoid losing possession of the ball; examples of when a ball-control strategy would be used include when a team is in the red zone and when a team is protecting a lead late in a game.
A low and uncommon score in a game. As the predominant forms of scoring are field goals and touchdowns, most scores can be expressed as the sum of multiples of 7 and 3. If a safety (see below) is scored, this is no longer valid, and the score will look unfamiliar, more likely to be encountered in a game of baseball than football, especially if the score is already low (examples: 5-3, 7-2).
The day following the final Sunday of the National Football League season (Week 17) in which coaches and administration are fired or resign their position. The term is also attributed to the day following the annual NFL Draft where players contracts may be terminated once new players are added to a roster.
A defensive maneuver in which one or more linebackers or defensive backs, who normally remain behind the line of scrimmage, instead charge into the opponents' backfield. However, in the 3-4 defense, one linebacker typically rushes the passer with the three down linemen. This is not considered a blitz. If an additional linebacker is sent, bringing the total number of rushers to five, it is a blitz.
The act of one player obstructing another player with his body, either to push him back or to prevent him from moving beyond the blocker. Some types of blocks include: a run block, where the blocker pushes a defensive player back and away from the ball carrier; a pass block, where a blocker protects a player by moving laterally and backwards to slow or halt an incoming pass rusher; a cut block; a zone block, which is any block executed in a zone blocking scheme; a trap block; a pull block; a screen block, which is a kind of pass block; and a double-team block, where two blockers simultaneously block one player.
The act of executing a block; the collective play of those players performing blocks; the performance of a blocker or blockers during a game.
Used to describe a running back who is assigned to block. It describes either an assignment for a single play or the back's primary function throughout his career, such as when describing a fullback who is particularly skilled at blocking. Also an early term for quarterback.
A heavy piece of practice equipment, usually a padded angular frame on metal skids, used for developing strength and blocking techniques.
A game in which one team dominates another in scoring.
Also Long Bomb; a long, distinctly arcing pass.
An offensive play predicated upon misdirection in which the quarterback pretends to hand the ball to another player, and then carries the ball in the opposite direction of the supposed ballcarrier with the intent of either passing or running (sometimes the quarterback has the option of doing either). A naked bootleg is a risky variation of this play when the quarterback has no blockers pulling out with him. Contrast with scramble, sneak, and draw.
An area on the defensive side of the ball, directly opposite the offensive linemen and about 5 yards deep; having 8 players in the box means bringing in a defensive back, normally the strong safety, to help stop the offensive team's running game
A type of screen pass where the quarterback takes the snap and immediately throws to a wide receiver lined up to the far right or left of the center. The receiver catches the ball, and then turns to run downfield.
A play which, due to unforeseen circumstances, deteriorates to the point that it no longer conforms with coach's playbook and leads to confusion or chaos on the field.
buttonhook (hook, dig)
The buttonhook route is when a receiver runs straight upfield a certain distance and then plants hard and runs straight back towards the quarterback. Often simply called a hook route or a dig route. In some cases, a dig route is considered a very long buttonhook, such as 15+ yards downfield. Hence the receiver must dig his cleats in hard to stop and come back at the quarterback after running so far and fast.
Players who are signed onto a team's training camp roster but stand no chance of making the team's regular season roster or practice squad. Backup placekickers and punters are particularly prone to being relegated to camp fodder.
A statistic referring to the number of times a rushing player attempts to advance the ball. A ballcarrier can be any player that attempts to advance the ball during an offensive play, regardless of position.
A player position on offense. The center usually snaps the ball. The middle lineman is not always the snapper.
A trick play where the entire offensive line is to one side of the center at the snap, so that the center is an extra lineman on the end, and therefore an eligible receiver. A center-eligible play was featured in the film M*A*S*H.
The 10-yard long chain that is used by the chain crew (aka "chain gang") to measure for a new series of downs.
A very short field goal, usually of 25 yards or less, that is almost certain to be successful. (This also applies to almost all extra point kicks as well.) Named after the golf term of the same name (see wedge (golf)), for the ball's high and short trajectory.
Similar to a cut block in which one offensive player blocks a defensive player below the knees and another blocks him above the waist. It is illegal to block low if a team mate is already engaged with the defensive player blocking high to prevent knee and ankle injuries.
chuck and duck
A degrading way to refer to the Run And Shoot offensive strategy.
The checkdown pass is when the quarterback has to complete a short pass to a running back or tight end as a last resort to avoid a sack. Handling a checkdown situation is for a running back to catch this short pass, then use his speed, agility and power to run for extra yardage.
An illegal block in which the victim is blocked from the back and at or below the waist; the penalty is 15 yards. Originally, clipping was defined as any block from the back, but is now restricted to blocks at or below the waist. Other blocks from the back are now punished with 10-yard penalties.
The corner of the field of play between the end zone and the 10-yard line. A punter, if he is close enough, will often attempt to kick the ball out of bounds close to the receiving team's goal line and pin them back near their own end zone.
A receiver or tight end route where the player runs straight upfield a specified number of yards (could be a short or medium route), plants hard, and turns and runs back towards the sideline at a 45 degree angle. Often confusingly named, a wide receiver doesn't come back towards the quarterback, instead he tries to catch the ball and guarantee getting out of bounds.
The percentage of passes completed from passes attempted.
A defensive assignment. On outside runs such as the sweep, one defensive player (usually a cornerback or outside linebacker) is assigned to keep the rusher from getting to the edge of the play and turning upfield. If executed properly, the rusher will have to turn upfield before the design of the play calls for it, giving the linebackers a better chance of stopping the play for little or no gain.
A defensive back who lines up near the line of scrimmage across from a wide receiver. Their primary job is to disrupt passing routes and to defend against short and medium passes in the passing game, and to contain the rusher on rushing plays.
To cover is attempt to prevent a receiver from catching a pass. There are two general schemes for defending against the pass:
1. Man-to-man - each eligible receiver is covered by a defensive back or a linebacker.
2. Zone - certain players (usually defensive backs and/or linebackers, though occasionally linemen as well) are assigned an area on the field (Flat, Hook, Curl and Deep) that they are to cover.
Common types of coverage:
1. Cover Zero - Strict man-to-man coverage with no help from safeties (usually a blitz play with at least five men crossing the line of scrimmage)
2. Cover One - Man-to-man coverage with at least one safety not assigned a player to cover who can help out on deep pass routes.
3. Cover Two - Zone coverage with the safeties playing deep and covering half the field each. Can be Cover 2 man, where every receiver is covered by a defensive player, or Cover 2 Zone (also known as Tampa 2), where CB covers Flat zone, OLB Hook Zone and MLB Curl Zone.
4. Cover Three - Zone coverage as above, but with extra help from Strong Safety/Cornerback, so that each player covers one-third of a deep zone.
5. Cover Four - As above, with the corners and safeties dropping into deep coverage, with each taking one-fourth of the width of the field. Also referred to as Quarters.
A running play in which the running back will take a step in the apparent direction of the play (i.e., the direction the line is moving), only to get the handoff in the other direction. Weak side linemen will sometimes pull and lead the back downfield (sometimes called a counter trap), but not necessarily. The play is designed to get the defense to flow away from the action for a few steps as they follow the linemen, allowing more room for the running back.
An illegal block delivered below the opponent's waist by an offensive player who had left the area of close line play and then returned to it, or was not within it at the snap. The term is also used to describe a legal block (delivered from the front, or from the side with the offensive player's helmet in front of the blocked player) by a wide receiver on a player who lined up inside of him.
A sharp change of direction by a running player. Also called a cutback.
A blocking technique in which offensive linemen, and sometimes other blockers, block legally below the waist (i.e., from the front of the defensive player) in an attempt to bring the defenders to ground, making them unable to pursue a running back for the short time needed for the back to find a gap in the defense.
The San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s and early 90's were noted for their cut-blocking (and leg-whipping, which is illegal), a tactic that was later adopted in mid-90's by the NFL's Denver Broncos. The Broncos gained a degree of notoriety for their cut-blocking techniques (often called "dirty" play by their opponents) which produced the NFL's best rushing attack for a decade, but also resulted in several players on their opponent's defense being injured by cut blocks. In a Monday Night Football game in 2004, defensive lineman Anthony Williams of the Cincinnati Bengals was lost to the season on a block (by the Broncos tackle George Foster), and in 2005, Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Paul Spicer was badly injured on block by Broncos tackle Matt Lepsis. Responding to the criticism, in 2004 Broncos coach Mike Shanahan showed local reporters some NFL game film (only seen and used by coaches) that demonstrated how nearly every team in the NFL uses cut-blocking.
A penalty committed by either team before or after the play. If it is after, the result of the play stands and the penalty is assessed from the current position of the ball. Pre-snap penalties on the defense do not require the play to be blown dead unless a defensive player has a clear path to the quarterback. On the offense, some penalties do stop the play before it begins and some do not. A dead ball foul that does not stop play cannot be declined. A frequent dead ball foul is delay of game.
A cornerback or safety position on the defensive team; commonly defends against wide receivers on passing plays. Generally there are 4 defensive backs playing at a time; but see nickel back and dime back.
A player position on defense on the inside of the defensive line and which principal function is to contain the run. When a defensive tackle lines up directly across from the center, he is known as a nose tackle, often the heaviest player on the defense. When a defensive tackle lines up between offensive guard OG and Offensive tackle OT, he is known as a 3-gap technique tackle.
A foul which occurs when the offensive team does not put the ball in play before the play clock runs out. There are also less common occurrences which result in a delay of game foul, such as a defensive player holding an offensive player on the ground to prevent him from lining up during a two-minute drill. Penalty: 5 yards.
The second extra, or sixth total, defensive back. Named because a dime has the same value as two nickels. See nickel back.
A play in which the ball is passed directly to the presumed ball carrier by the center. Contrast with an indirect snap play in which the ball is first handed to the quarterback, who will then pass or hand it to the eventual ball carrier. Also used to refer to formations that use a direct snap, such as the single wing.
A play in which the ball is handed off to the running back, who attacks the middle of the offensive formation (between the OG). This play is part of the Triple option strategy.
A play in which the ball reverses direction twice behind the line of scrimmage; this is usually accomplished by means of two or three hand-offs, each hand-off going in an opposite direction as the previous one. Such a play is extremely infrequent in football. Some people confuse the double reverse with a reverse, which is a play with two hand-offs instead of three.
A formation with 2 tight ends & 2 wingbacks in which the snap is tossed by the center between his legs to the quarterback or halfback moderately deep in the backfield.
A formation with 2 tight ends & 2 wingbacks in which the center hands the ball to the quarterback, who holds his hands between the legs of the center.
A unit of the game that starts with a legal snap or legal free kick after the ball is ready for play and ends when the ball next becomes dead. First down is the first of the plays; fourth is the last down in American (third in Canadian) football. A first down occurs after a change of possession of the ball, after advancing the ball 10 yards following a previous first down or after certain penalties.
The post used with the chain gang to mark the line of scrimmage and designate the current down.
down by contact
When the player carrying the ball touches the ground with any part of his body other than his feet, hands, or arms as a direct result of contact with a player of the opposing team. In professional football a player must be down by contact in order for play to stop; if he trips and falls without being touched by an opposing player he is free to get up and continue advancing the ball. Exceptions to this rule that result in play stopping include when the player carrying the ball is on the ground but not downed by contact (e.g., after tripping and falling) and is touched by a member of the opposing team while still on the ground; or when the player with the ball intentionally kneels down or throws himself on the ground and stops advancing, e.g., a quarterback kneel or touchback. This rule does not apply in collegiate and high school football, i.e., a player need not be downed by contact at these levels in order for play to stop.
A player stationed in front of his line of scrimmage and who has either one (three-point stance) or two (four-point stance) hands on the ground.
A kick in which the ball is dropped and kicked once it hits the ground and before it hits it again; a half-volley kick. A drop kick is one of the types of kick which can score a field goal. Drop kicks are extremely rare due to the pointed nature of the ball.
A quarterback who is skilled at both passing and rushing the ball. These quarterbacks may be difficult to defend against since the defensive team cannot focus on one threat to the exclusion of the other.
Players who may legally touch a forward pass. On the passer's team, these are: the ends, the backs, and (except in the NFL) one player in position to take a hand-to-hand snap, i.e. a T quarterback; provided the player's shirt displays a number in the ranges allowed for eligible receivers. All players of the opposing team are eligible receivers, and once the ball is touched by a player of the opposing team (anywhere in American, or beyond the lines of scrimmage in Canadian football), all players become eligible.
An illegal action by a defensive player: to cross the line of scrimmage and make contact with an opponent before the ball is snapped.
A play, often confused with a reverse, where the quarterback hands the ball off to a wide receiver. The receiver motions/moves into the backfield as the ball is snapped to take the handoff and runs around the opposite end from where he lined up.
The protective grill that forms part of the football helmet.
face mask, grasping
A foul in which a player grabs the face mask or helmet opening of another player's helmet, usually in the process of making a tackle. It results in a 15-yard penalty. A 5-yard penalty was once enforced for a so-called incidental facemask, but was eliminated in the 2008 NFL's Owners Meeting.
An unhindered catch of an opponent's kick. The player wanting to make one must signal for a fair catch by waving an arm overhead while the ball is in the air. After that signal, if he gains possession of the ball it is dead immediately and opponents will receive a fifteen-yard penalty for hitting him.
A free kickoff that takes point at the spot of a fair catch, if the catching team so chooses to execute it. It is very rare (in fact, college football does not even allow it), and most teams pass on the opportunity and take possession of the ball instead.
A game in which the participants (called "owners") each draft on their own or with the aid of software a team of real-life NFL players and then score points based on those players' statistical performance on the field.
The official traditionally in charge of timekeeping
field of play
The area between both the goal lines and the sidelines, and in some contexts the space vertically above it.
A score of 3 points made by place- or drop-kicking the ball through the opponent's goal other than via a kickoff or free kick following a safety; formerly, "goal from the field". A missed field goal can be returned as a punt, if recovered in-bounds by the defending team. In some leagues, four-point field goals can be scored under special circumstances.
A relative measure of how many yards a team must travel in order to score: "good field position" would mean the offense has less distance to cover.
The first of a set of four downs. Usually, a team which has a first down needs to advance the ball 10 yards to receive another first down, but penalties or field position (i.e. less than 10 yards from the opposing end zone) can affect this.
A weighted yellow cloth thrown by a field official to indicate that a foul has been committed Also the weighted red flag that an NFL head coach throws onto the field to alert officials that he is challenging a call on the field.
A player position on offense. A wide receiver who lines up in the backfield outside of another receiver. The term is used infrequently in American Football, having been long since replaced by the "Z" wide receiver.
An area on the field between the line of scrimmage and 10 yards into the defensive backfield, and within 15 yards of the sideline. Running backs often run pass routes to the flat when they are the safety valve receiver.
An arrangement of the offensive skill players. A formation usually is described in terms of how the running backs line up (e.g. "I" formation, which refers to the situation where the half back is lined up about 7 yards deep, and the fullback is lined up about 5 yards deep, both directly behind the quarterback) or how the wide receivers line up (e.g. "Trips left", in which three wide receivers line up to the left of the linemen). Frequently, the formation will allude to both, such as with Strong I Slot Right, in which the halfback is lined up 7 yards deep behind the quarterback, the fullback is 5 yards deep behind the guard or tackle on the strong side, and both wide receivers are lined up on the right side of the offensive line. There are rules limiting what is legal in a formation. All five offensive linemen must be on the line of scrimmage (a small amount of leeway is given to tackles when lined up for pass protection). Also, there must be one receiver (usually one tight end and one wide receiver) lined up on the line on either side of the offensive linemen (it doesn't matter how close they are to the tackles, as long as they are on the line), with a total of no fewer than seven players on the line, 5 of which must be numbered between 50-79. A numbering exception exists if the offense is in a scrimmage kick formation which allows a player whose number is 1-49 or 80-99 to take the place of a lineman numbered 50-79. A receiver who is on the line may not go in motion.
A pass that touches a person, object, or the ground closer to the opponent's end line than where it was released from, or is accidentally lost during a forward throwing motion.
The location to which a ball carrier's forward momentum carries him before he is tackled. At the end of a play, the football is spotted at the point where the ball carriers forward progress is stopped, even if he is pushed backward by the defenders.
The final of a set of four downs. Unless a first down is achieved or a penalty forces a replay of the down, the team will lose control of the ball after this play. If a team does not think they can get a first down, they often punt on fourth down or kick a field goal if they are close enough to do so.
fourth down conversion
The act of using a fourth down play to make a first down (also known as going for it [on fourth down]). These are comparatively uncommon. If a team is close enough to the goal posts, they will generally attempt a field goal on fourth down. Otherwise, they will usually punt. However, the coach may elect to try to get a new first down. This is more likely if the amount of yardage needed for the conversion is small (typically a yard or less), if the team is trailing by a significant amount (likelihood of such a try increasing as it gets later in the game), or if a team is in a position on the field where a punt would likely result in a touchback but a field goal attempt is unlikely to succeed (usually between the opponent's 35- and 45-yard lines at the NFL level).
down lineman's stance with four points on the ground, in other words, his two feet and his two hands; often a technique used in short yardage or goal line situations.
A kick made to put the ball in play as a kickoff or following a safety (the score; "safety touch" in Canadian football) or fair catch.
free safety (FS)
A player position on defense. Free safeties typically play deep, or "center field", and often have the pass defense responsibility of assisting other defensive backs in deep coverage (compared to strong safeties, who usually have an assigned receiver and run support responsibilities).
A player position on offense. Originally, lined up deep behind the quarterback in the T formation. In modern formations this position may be varied, and this player has more blocking responsibilities in comparison to the halfback or tailback.
A trick play where the quarterback deliberately places the ball on the ground, technically fumbling so that another player (usually a lineman) can pick up the ball and advance it. This type of play is now banned by most football sanctioning groups.
A surface in space marked by a structure of two upright posts 18 feet 6 inches apart extending above a horizontal crossbar whose top edge is 10 feet off the ground. The goal is the surface above the bar and between the lines of the inner edges of the posts, extending infinitely upward, centered above each end line in American, and each goal line in Canadian football.
Alternate term for end zone, used primarily in Canadian football.
The word derives from the same root as griddle, meaning a "lattice." The original field was marked in a grid of crisscrossed lines; the ball would be snapped in the grid in which it was downed on the previous play. In modern usage, a gridiron—whether in cooking or football—is considered a surface with parallel lines. American and related codes of football have lines spaced out every 5 yards (as compared to 10-12 metres in rugby), giving the field a unique look among football codes.
Term for a quarterback who plays with an aggressive and decisive manner by throwing deep, risky passes. These quarterbacks usually possess the strong arm needed to throw deep effectively. NFL Network named Brett Favre as the best gunslinger of all time.
A long pass play, thrown towards a group of receivers near the end zone in hope of a touchdown. Used by a team as a last resort as time is running out in either of two halves (usually by a team trailing in the second half). Refers to the Catholic prayer. The term originated from Roger Staubach's comeback victory in which he threw such a pass to Drew Pearson to defeat the Minnesota Vikings in a divisional round playoff game in 1975.
A trick play in which the halfback has the option to either throw a pass or run with the ball.
From 1983 until the end of the 2002 season, in the NCAA (college football) the halo rule was a foul for interference with the opportunity to catch a kick. The so called halo rule stated that no player of the kicking team may be within two yards of a receiving team player positioned to catch a punt or kickoff (before that person has touched the ball). The rule was abolished beginning in the 2003 season.
A move in which a player transfers the ball to another player, and the receiving player takes possession of the ball before it leaves the hands of the giver (thus the ball is never in flight). A handoff can occur in any direction. Sometimes called a "switch" in touch football. (Note different usage of term from its rugby meaning.) Alternately spelled without the hyphen; i.e., handoff.
A group of players, mostly wide receivers, that are responsible for recovering an onside kick. They line up as close as possible to the ten-yard neutral zone and their goal is to recover the ball immediately after, but only if, the ball crosses out of the neutral zone.
A strategy commonly used by offenses to convert on fourth down and less than five yards to go. An offense will take the full time on the play clock with the quarterback utilizing an irregular, accented (thus, the term "hard") cadence for the snap count in the hope that the defense will jump offside, giving the offense the five yards needed to convert the first down. However, if the defense does not go offside, the offense will take a five-yard penalty for delay of game and punt the ball away.
Lines between which the ball begins each play. The lines are parallel to and a distance in from the side lines and marked as broken lines. If a play is blown dead while the ball is between the hash marks, the ball is spotted where it is blown dead for the following play. If the play ends outside the hash marks, the ball is spotted at the nearer hash mark.
Yards based on the difference in starting field position between the teams and penalty yardage. These yards do not show up in the statistics as yards gained by an offense, hence the hidden part. This sometimes explains how a team with a significant advantage in yards gained loses the game since starting possessions deeper in a team's own territory on a regular basis means more yards need to be gained in order to score points and that teams that tend to commit many penalties will force the offense to gain more yards to score points or give the opposing offense free yards allowing them to score points with fewer yards needed.
A player who holds the ball upright for a place kick. Often backup quarterbacks are used for their superior ball-handling ability and in the event of a bad snap requiring a pass play, or punters for their ability to catch long snaps.
There are two kinds of holding:
Offensive holding, illegally blocking a player from the opposing team by grabbing and holding his uniform or body
Defensive holding, called against defensive players who hold offensive players, but who are not actively making an attempt to catch the ball (if the defensive player were to impede an offensive player in the act of catching the ball, that would be the more severe foul of pass interference)
home and away
A method of scheduling opponents, such that the two teams play one game at each team's home stadium. In college football, conferences such as the Big12, where a team does not play all the other teams each year, use a "home and away" schedule to play an opponent two years in a row and then rotate to another opponent. Teams also use this method to schedule non-conference opponents of roughly equal skill so that ticket revenue is split evenly. When scheduling teams of a lower calibre, the higher-rated team usually plays at home and provides a cash payout to the other team.
A trick play in which a receiver (usually a wide receiver) runs a hook pattern (i.e., moving toward the line of scrimmage to make a catch), and then laterals the ball to a second player (generally another receiver or a running back) going in a different direction. One of the most famous uses of this play was by Boise State in its epic 2007 Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma.
A horse-collar is a type of tackle made by grabbing the back-inside of an opponent's shoulder pads or jersey. This type of tackle was banned in the NFL in 2005 and in college football in 2008.
When a quarterback sees a blitz coming and quickly passes to a receiver running a short route. This involves the quarterback adjusting his target and the "hot receiver" adjusting his route (for instance, breaking off a deeper route in favor of a slant or hitch). If a quarterback at the line of scrimmage reads the defense and identifies a blitz coming, he may call an audible to designate a receiver as a hot read or hot receiver.
An on-field meeting of team members to communicate instructions for the upcoming play
An offensive strategy designed to gain as much yardage as possible while running as little time off the clock as possible. Often involves making plays without a huddle. This technique can also be used to keep the defensive team off-balance.
A formation that includes a fullback and tailback lined up directly behind the quarterback while the quarterback is under center. By definition, the fullback lines up in front of the tailback. Several variations on this backfield formation exist, including the "Offset I" (in which the fullback lines up out of line to the left or right of the quarterback and halfback; also known as the strong or weak I depending on which direction the fullback is positioned), the "Maryland I" and "Power I" (in which an additional fullback is added to the backfield, either next to in the Power I's case or in front of in the Maryland I's case, the fullback).
icing the kicker
When a team calls time out just before the kicker has the ball snapped. A team is limited to calling one time-out on any given play (thus a team cannot repeatedly call all of its time-outs to prevent the game from continuing, or else a delay of game penalty or, more rarely, a palpably unfair act penalty is imposed). It is thought that kickers tend to miss after being iced due to nervousness, so icing the kicker usually happens at the end of the game before a walk-off field goal. Some kickers like Adam Vinatieri are famous for remaining accurate even after having been iced. There is evidence that this tactic doesn't work. (An older way of referring to this situation was "making the kicker think about it".)
On offense, there must be exactly seven players lined up on the line of scrimmage for at least one count before the ball is snapped. If not, then it is an illegal formation.
On offense, a player may be in motion but cannot be going forward at the time of the snap (except in Arena football where one player is allowed to do so), and a lineman must be set for one second before the snap. Otherwise it is an illegal motion.
On offense, only one person is allowed to be in pre-snap motion after the formation is set. A second person may go in motion after the first has come to a set position for one second. If these conditions are not met when sending people into motion, an illegal shift has occurred.
A forward pass of the ball which no player legally caught.
The hash marks.
A play in which the ball is handed to the quarterback rather than thrown directly to the ballcarrier by the center as in a direct snap play. So named because the quarterback acts as an intermediary in relaying the ball to the ballcarrier. Also used to refer to formations that use such a snap, as most modern formations do. Indirect snap formations exploded in popularity after World War II.
Certain players on the offense are not allowed to catch passes. For example, in most situations offensive interior linemen cannot be receivers and they may cause their team to be penalized if they catch the ball. An exception is if the ball has already been tipped by a different player. In six-man football all players are eligible receivers.
inside of a player's path
Relatively close (in reference to the sides of the field) to where the ball was snapped from. Thus, a ballcarrier's path in crossing the neutral zone may be said to be "inside" of an opponent, or an "inside run" in general, and a rushing defensive player may be said to put on an "inside move" or "inside rush".
inside of the movement of the ball between players
Directed toward a player who cuts between a player in the backfield who throws or hands the ball and the place from which it was snapped. Thus, an "inside pass" or "inside handoff". An "inside reverse" (sometimes called a scissors play) is a reverse play via an inside handoff.
A type of illegal forward pass; thrown without an intended receiver and no chance of completion to any offensive player, for the sole purpose of conserving time or avoiding loss of yardage. This foul costs the offense a loss of down and 10 yards. If it occurs 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage, then the 10 yards is taken from the spot of the foul. If the foul is committed in the end zone the penalty is a safety. Intentional grounding is not called in the case of a spike after a hand to hand snap or if under NFL or NCAA rules, the quarterback was outside the tackle box, (the imaginary area between each tackle) at the time of the pass, provided that the ball travels at least to the line of scrimmage. The Tackle Box is also known as the Pocket. nfl rules
The legal catching of a forward pass thrown by an opposing player.
An older term not to be confused with pass interference; to lead block for a player with the ball, usually in the open field. Often preceded by "run" such as "Go run interference for me," but not necessarily.
An offensive package which includes two tight ends, a full back and a half back. Similar to heavy jumbo, in which either the half back or the fullback is replaced by another tight end. In a goal line formation, Miami package, often one or more of the "tight ends" is actually a linebacker (the New England Patriots used Mike Vrabel this way - he has 11 career regular season TDs) or offensive lineman. In the NFL, such a player must report in as an eligible receiver because a lineman or linebacker would not generally wear an eligible number.
A low risk play in which the player in possession of the ball kneels down after receiving the snap, ending the play while keeping the clock running. This is done to end the game sooner without needing to run a riskier play. The player kneeling is said to "take a knee", and thus is "taking a knee" or "taking the knee". The quarterback of the team in the lead will often take a knee on the first snap following the two-minute warning. Though long frowned upon - because it was not in accordance with the game's doctrine of "toughness" - taking a knee became an accepted way to run out the clock after the events of the Miracle at the Meadowlands. To this end, players will sometimes forgo scoring a touchdown and instead choose to run out the clock by kneeling short of reaching the end zone. This is usually done when the team with possession of the ball is in the lead, but not always. For example, in week 10 of the 2009 NFL regular season, the Jacksonville Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drewtook a knee in this fashion when his team was trailing the New York Jets by 1 point with less than 2 minutes remaining in the game. The Jaguars were then able to run the clock down before calling a time-out with 3 seconds remaining - just enough time to successfully kick a game-winning 3-point field goal. By taking the knee and allowing the clock to run instead of scoring the touchdown, Jones-Drew and the Jaguars kept the ball in their possession until the clock was at zero, thus eliminating the possibility of the Jets scoring any further points and guaranteeing victory with a successful field goal.
One of two vertical planes parallel to the goal line when the ball is to be put in play by scrimmage. For each team in American football, the line of scrimmage is through the point of the ball closest to their end line. The two lines of scrimmage are called offensive line of scrimmage and defensive line of scrimmage. Often shortened to "line". In Canadian football, the line of scrimmage of the defensive team is one yard their side of the ball.
line to gain
A line parallel to the goal lines, such that having the ball dead beyond it entitles the offense to a new series of downs, i.e. a new "first down". The line is 10 yards in advance of where the ball was to be snapped for the previous first down (or is the goal line, if it is not farther than 10 yards away).
A player position on defense. The linebackers typically play 1 to 6 yards behind the defensive linemen and are the most versatile players on the field because they can defend both run and pass defense or called to blitz. There are two types of LB: Middle Linebacker (MLB) and Outside Linebackers (OLB). In 3-4 formation Outside Linebacker (OLB) may be designated as a "rush linebacker", rushing the passer on almost every play.
On offense, the player snapping the ball is the center. The players on either side of him are the guards, and the players to the outside of him are the tackles. The players on the end of the line are the ends. This may be varied in an unbalanced line.
On defense, the outside linemen are ends, and those inside are tackles. If there are 5 or 6 linemen, the inner most linemen are known as guards. This is rare in professional football except for goal-line defense, but is sometimes seen in high school or college.
Any ball that is in play, whether it is a player's possession or not. The ball is live during plays from scrimmage and free kicks, including kickoffs.
live ball foul
A foul given for various infractions such as changing numbers during a game
A center who specializes in the long, accurate snaps required for punts and field goal attempts. Most teams employ a specialist long snapper instead of requiring the normal center to perform this duty.
Any ball that is in play and not in a player's possession. This includes a ball in flight during a backward or forward pass.
A player on offense who is moving backwards or parallel to the line of scrimmage at the snap. In American football, only one offensive player can be in motion at a time, cannot be moving toward the line of scrimmage at the snap, and may not be a player who is on the line of scrimmage. In Canadian football, more than one back can be in motion, and may move in any direction as long as they are behind the line of scrimmage at the snap.
A defense in which all players in pass coverage, typically linebackers and defensive backs, cover a specific player. Pure man coverage is very rare; defenses typically mix man and zone coverage.
margin of victory
The total difference in points in a game, expressed as possessed by the winning team.
A conservative gameplan which involves an offense based around the use of running backs with use of the passing game only to advance the running game, and a great emphasis on defense. Popularized term for Marty Schottenheimer's approach to coaching.
An I formation with three running backs aligned behind the quarterback in a straight line.
A modification used on pass plays (usually combined with a shotgun formation) which keeps the tight end and both backs in behind the line of scrimmage to pass protect rather than run a pass route. This is used in obvious blitzing situations to give the quarterback "maximum protection" in the pocket. Although good for holding off a blitz, it leaves the quarterback with only two receivers to throw to (and therefore only two players for the secondary to defend). Some of the logic behind this play might stem from a player's supposed lack of defensibility: when a receiver (such as Randy Moss) or quarterback-receiver duo (such as the historic Joe Montana-and-Jerry Rice) is of the caliber that a completion is likely even when the receiver is closely guarded by defenders. Redskins Head Coach Joe Gibbs is known for having used a two tight end formation to protect his QB from the nearly unstoppable blitzer Lawrence Taylor.
The middle linebacker in 4-3 formation. In the 3-4 formation Mike is the Interior Linebacker (ILB) that plays on the strong side of the formation. Mike has the responsibility to defend the interior gaps and the Curl Zone. Mike is the leader of the defense and has to be as bright as a Quarterback because often he calls the audibles on defense.
Also known as Jack. The interior linebacker, 3-4 formation, that plays on the weak side of the formation.
Monster Man (MM)
Sometimes monster man, a player position on the defensive team. The monster is a strong safety in a four-deep secondary with the ability to cover deep zones, defend against runs and, on occasion, play on the line of scrimmage.See strong safety.
The ordered movement of eligible receivers prior to the snap. Motion can be used to gain mismatches, i.e. physical advantages against specific defensive personnel, e.g. a fast wide receiver defended by a slower linebacker. Another use for motion is to enhance the pre-snap read of the defensive coverage, e.g. motioning a receiver from one side of the formation to the other may help in identifying zone versus man coverage. Generally, if the coverage is man the receiver's defender will follow him across the formation and if it is zone coverage the defenders will exchange responsibilities by shifting or bumping over.
A loose ball that is dropped or mishandled while the player is attempting to gain possession.
Principal governing body of U.S. high school football and other high school sports. The NFHS football rules are used throughout the country, except in Texas and Massachusetts, where the base rules are those of the NCAA.
The NFL's former 6-team European spring league, which folded after its 2007 season. It was originally intended to introduce Europe to the NFL culture, but it ended up being a secondary league for failed NFL players. Only a select few have successfully transitioned from Europa to NFL, most notably Kurt Warner (Amsterdam Admirals).
A tactic wherein the offense quickly forms near the line of scrimmage without huddling before the next play.
A regular season record when a team wins a number of games equal to or less than it loses. A non-winning record corresponds to a winning percentage equal to or less than .500. See also: losing record, winning record, and winning percentage.
A tackle in a 3-man defensive line who lines up "opposite the center's nose". Contrary to a regular defensive tackle, a nose tackle is often much larger and considered the 'anchor' of the line, effective at disrupting blocking schemes and stopping runs.
An infraction of the rule that requires both teams to be on their own side of their restraining line as or before the ball is put in play. Offside is normally called on the defensive team during a scrimmage down and on the kicking team during free kick downs.
In Canadian football, at the time a ball is kicked by a teammate, being ahead of the ball, or being the person who held the ball for the place kick
one back formation
A formation where the offensive team has one running back in the backfield with the quarterback. Other eligible receivers are near the line of scrimmage.
Usually, a type of play in which the quarterback has the option of handing off, keeping, or laterally passing to one or more backs. Often described by a type of formation or play action, such as triple option, veer option, or counter option. Teams running option plays often specialize in them.
Less often, a play in which a back may either pass or run.
The group of players on the field for a given play. For example, the Nickel Package substitutes a cornerback for either a linebacker or a defensive lineman (the latter is referred to as a 3-3-5 Nickel), or the Jumbo package substitutes a wide receiver with a tight end.
Catching a punt
Pancake block;sometimes shortened to cake; slang for a particularly effective block where the player being blocked is pushed onto the ground by a blocker, metaphorically "flattening" the opposing defender into a pancake. This is usually performed by an offensive lineman, tight end, or fullback, and is considered an ideal block, designed to completely eliminate the defender from the play for several seconds, or for as much time as it takes said defender to get back to his feet. While not an official statistic, offensive linemen often keep track of the number of pancakes they have made, and successfully performing this block is termed pancaking or caking an opponent. It is considered an official statistic on Madden games.
Throw; an action performed by a player, using their arm to transfer the ball to another player by throwing the ball through the air between them. Every pass is classified as either a forward pass or a lateral pass, depending on the direction the ball travels.
An attempt by any player to pass the ball. If successful, this results in a completion for the passer and is counted as a reception for the player who caught the ball.
Also passing interference or P.I.; when a player illegally hinders an eligible receiver's opportunity to catch a forward pass.
The use of pass blocking by the offensive line, tight ends and various backs to protect the quarterback from being sacked, and to allow him time and space to throw the ball. Sometimes shortened and pronounced "pass pro".
A numeric value used to measure of the performance of quarterbacks. It was formulated in 1973 and it uses the player's completion percentage, passing yards, touchdowns and interceptions.
A pass play; a play in which a forward pass is made.
Also pass yards, passing yardage, and yards passing; the distance in total yards from scrimmage that a passer has thrown the football plus the distance any receivers have run after catching the ball. Passing yards do not include incomplete throws, nor does it measure the actual distance the ball travels through the air, as it is measured in flat yards along one direction of the field, always starting from the line of scrimmage and ending at the point that the receiver is ruled down. If the receiver reaches the end zone and scores a touchdown, then the yardage measurement ends at the opposing team's goal line (which is technically the zero-yard line). For example, if a passer completes a pass when the line of scrimmage is at the 50-yard line and the receiver is tackled and ruled down at the 20-yard line, then this would be counted as 30 passing yards for the passer, no matter how far the ball was thrown or how far the receiver ran after catching the ball. If the receiver reached the end zone, the same pass would count as 50 passing yards.
An action where an offensive player blocks a defender who is moving back toward the direction of his own end zone; they are illegal below the waist and from either the back or the side.
1. In a play, the use of any offensive player to underhandedly block a defender simply by impeding their course of movement. This is usually designed into the play, but can occur accidentally.
2. An interception of a pass, e.g. a pass by the offense can be "picked off" by the defense.
An interception ("pick") that is returned to the passing team's end zone for a touchdown ("six").
A timer used to increase the pace of the game between plays. The offensive team must snap the ball before the time expires, or receive a 5 yard delay of game foul. Currently, the NFL uses 40 seconds (25 seconds after a time out or other administrative stoppage).
The predominant youth-level (13 years old and younger) football league in the United States. The name "Pop Warner" (or its generic equivalent, "Pee Wee") can occasionally be used to refer to any youth league, whether or not it is affiliated with the national organization.
A passing route in which the receiver sprints 8 to 10 yards, fakes a look back at the Quarterback, then sprints deep at an angle toward the middle of the field; the opposite pattern is the flag route. It is called a post pattern because the middle of the field is where the goal posts are found.
In the NFL, games (in or around August) that do not count toward the final team standings. These games are used to pick final team rosters. Star players often have limited playing time during preseason.
A defensive strategy that utilizes deep zone coverage in order to prevent a big pass play from happening downfield, usually at the expense of giving up yards at shorter distances. Often used against Hail Mary plays, or at the end of the game when the defending team is protecting a lead. Disparaged by many fans. John Madden, legendary player, coach, and commentator, has been quoted as saying, "The only thing a prevent defense prevents is a win."
Offensive formation using two backs, lined up side-by-side 2-3 yards behind the quarterback, with one on either side of the quarterback
Pulling blocker; an offensive lineman who, instead of blocking the player in front of him, steps back from the line (pulls away from the line) and runs to block a defender, usually in a trap or sweep play.
When the quarterback fakes a pass and keeps the ball in his hand in an attempt to fool the defensive team.
A kick in which the ball is dropped and kicked before it reaches the ground. Used to give up the ball to the opposition after offensive downs have been used, as far down the field as possible.
When a punt is fielded by the receiving team and advanced for better field position. The punt returner generally attempts to move the ball as far up the field as possible. Alternatively, they can signal for a fair catch or allow the ball to go into the end zone for a touchback. A receiver can also immediately punt the ball back, though this strategy is not used in modern football.
One of four periods of play in a standard American football game. A quarter lasts for fifteen game clock minutes in most adaptations of American football but may take longer in elapsed time, since the clock does not run continuously. A tie at the end of four quarters may result in overtime.
Slang for a particularly effective shedding of a block, where the player-to-be-blocked not only sheds his block, but knocks the blocker off of his feet (with limbs flailing like a rag doll). The rag doll of a blocker is the polar opposite of a pancake.
When a player catches (receives) the ball past the line of scrimmage. If a reception is made behind the line of scrimmage, it is a lateral.
A weighted red marker thrown onto the field by a coach to tell the officials that he wants a certain play reviewed. Sometimes referred to as "challenge flag."
A college player who is foregoing a season to retain a year of eligibility. Student athletes have five years to play four after he/she enrolls. A sixth year is occasionally granted to a player to play his/her four years under extenuating circumstances.
The area between the 20-yard line and the goal of the defensive team. The area is not literally colored red and the term is used mainly for statistical purposes; a team that has a high "red zone percentage" (number of touchdowns scored from within the red zone divided by number of drives in which the team enters the red zone) is capable of finishing drives with touchdowns on a regular basis.
The official who directs the other officials on the field: one of seven officials.
In college football, it is the portion of the season that is scheduled ahead-of-time by the schools. It excludes any bowl game, conference championship, or playoff games. In NFL football, the regular season is defined as weeks 1-17 (as of the 2010 season; the league is attempting to expand this an additional two weeks).
1. A team's respective line of scrimmage
2. At a free kick, the line the ball is to be kicked from (for the kicking team), or a line 10 yards (5 yards in the NFL, beginning 2011) in advance of that (for the receiving team)
The act of progressing the ball down the field after a change of possession, such as a kick or interception. (E.g. "He returned the interception for a touchdown".)
An offensive play in which a running back carries the ball toward one side of the field but hands or tosses the ball to a teammate (almost exclusively a wide receiver) who is running in the opposite direction. This is slightly different from an end around, in which the ball is handed off directly to a wide receiver (usually the man in motion), so the direction of the play never reverses.
A game played in the opponent's home stadium. Games at neutral sites are generally not considered road games although they are "away from home". However, games at nominally neutral sites (typically in college football) are often called "effective road games" for one of the teams if the venue is much closer to the opponent's fan base, or if the designated home team at a neutral site has a small fan base compared to the opponent's. An example of this phenomenon was the 2011 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, in which Boise State played (and defeated) Georgia at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, little more than an hour's drive from the Georgia campus and located in a city home to a large number of Georgia alumni and fans. Bills Toronto Series games, despite being nominally home games for the Buffalo Bills, have been criticized as “effective road games” because of the lack of enthusiasm for the Bills from Toronto's fans.
A hybrid safety that has duel responsibilities as a defensive back and a linebacker. This is more commonly seen in college football more so than NFL, CFL, or AFL football. A perfect example this in use is in West Virginia's or Air Forces's 3-3-5 schemes.
An offensive philosophy designed to force the defense to show its hand prior to the snap of the ball by splitting up receivers and sending them in motion. Receivers run patterns based on the play of the defenders, rather than a predetermined plan. Also known as 'Run & Gun'.
A game strategy that involves repeatedly executing simple plays that allow the game clock to continue running in an effort to bring the game to a quicker end. This strategy is almost always employed by the leading team at the end of the game, and may involve one or more kneels.
A play where the offense attempts to advance the ball without a forward pass.
A generally discouraged practice in which a team, despite leading by several touchdowns (to the point that it is obvious that the team is going to win), continues to score as many points as possible in an effort to create as wide of a margin of victory as possible.
run out of the gun
Running the ball out of the shotgun formation, which is primarily a pass formation.
Tackling a ball carrier who intends to throw a forward pass. A sack is also awarded if a player forces a fumble of the ball, or the ball carrier goes out of bounds, behind the line of scrimmage on an apparent intended forward pass play. The term gained currency circa 1970.
In Madden NFL series, a sack also means, for an offensive lineman, being flattened by the defensive lineman, therefore unable to hold off his defensive tackle or defensive end, the worst that could happen is contributing to conceding an interception or a quarterback sack.
2. A method of scoring (worth two points) by downing an opposing ballcarrier in his own end zone, forcing the opposing ballcarrier out of his own end zone and out of bounds, or forcing the offensive team to fumble the ball so that it exits the end zone. A safety is also awarded if the offensive team commits a foul within its own end zone. After a safety, the team that was scored upon must kick the ball to the scoring team from its own 20-yard line. A safety scored during a try scores 2 points and is followed by a kickoff as for any other try.
A receiver whose job it is to get open for a short pass in case all other receivers are covered.
The strong side outside linebacker
A running back that is generally very fast, and good at juking and making defenders miss as opposed to running them over on purpose like a 'power' back.
On a called passing play, when the quarterback runs from the pocket in an attempt to avoid being sacked, giving the receivers more time to get open or attempting to gain positive yards by running himself.
A short forward pass to a receiver who has blockers in front of him. The receiver in this play is usually a running back, although wide receiver and tight end screens are also used. Although they are both called screen passes, the wide receiver screen and the running back screen are used for very different reasons. In the case of a running back screen, the play is designed to allow the pass rushers by the offensive linemen, leaving the defender out of position to make a play. The play is usually employed to defuse the pass rush in the case of a running back screen. The Wide Receiver screen is a much faster developing play, designed to catch the defense off guard.
scoop and score
A fumble recovered by the defense that results in a touchdown.
1. An informal practice matchup, either between two teams or between different units of the same team. Usually score is not kept; often, each team will get 10 plays from the same yard line. Sometimes played "7 on 7," with a full backfield and an abbreviated offensive line.
A diverse set of formations, now out of fashion but highly popular between 1906 and World War II, that typically used an unbalanced line, direct snap, and one wingback.
A formation with 1 wingback & an adjoining tight end in which the center hands the ball to the quarterback, who holds his hands between the legs of the center.
A receiver route. In the slant route, a receiver runs straight upfield a few yards, plants his outside foot hard while in full stride, and turns 45 degrees towards the quarterback. A staple of the West Coast Offense (WCO) and the player may go as little as 2 yards or as many as 6 yards before moving inside for the pass. Variations include the quick slant in which the player plants and turns at the snap instead of running ahead first and the Slow or Zone route, in which the receiver runs 10 to 15 yards downfield to get behind the linebackers before turning.
A particularly gruesome tackle or hit.
The area between a split end and the rest of the offensive line. A pass receiver lined up in the slot at the snap of the ball may be called a slotback or slot receiver.
An offensive play in which the quarterback, immediately on receiving the snap dives forward with the ball. The play is used when a team needs a very short gain to reach either the goal line or the line to gain.
A game in which the only scoring is achieved by kicking field goals (i.e., no touchdowns are scored). Usually a sign of a defensive struggle and/or consistent offensive ineptitude on the part of both teams.
The units that handle kickoffs, punts, free kicks and field goal attempts. Often manned by second and third team players.
A play in which the quarterback throws the ball at the ground immediately after the snap. Technically an incomplete pass, it stops the clock. Note that a spike is not considered intentional grounding if it is done with the quarterback under center and immediately after the snap; the only "penalty" is that one down is sacrificed. Running a spike play presumes there will be at least one play by the same team immediately afterward, so it would not be done on 4th down or if it would run the clock out (the clock is probably running while the teams are lining up for the play). If for either reason, a spike cannot be run, a quarterback whose first choice was to spike the ball would have to run a regular play instead. There is at least one case of a quarterback in the NFL doing just that, although that quarterback's regular play failed. (In the January 1998 Rose Bowl, Ryan Leaf spiked the ball and inadvertently ran the clock out on that play.)
T formation in which the gaps between offensive guards & tackles are nearly twice as large as the gaps between the center & the guards.
The distance between the feet of adjacent offensive linemen. Said to be wide, if there is a large gap between players, or narrow, if the gap is small.
A player position on offense. A receiver who lines up on the line of scrimmage, several yards outside the interior offensive linemen. The term is now rarely used in American Football, having been long since replaced by the wide receiver or wideout, with no distinction between whether the receiver is on the line or not.
The location determined by the official where the ball was downed or blown dead
A form of football in which all players must be below the weight of the average college student; the game is played at a select few colleges. Weight limits are also present in most youth football leagues.
A type of kickoff in which the ball is intentionally kicked low to the ground, typically bouncing on the ground a few times before being picked up. This is done in the hopes of preventing a long return, as the ball is often picked up by one of the upmen as opposed to the designated kickoff returner.
A player who is the first to play his position within a given game or season. Depending on the position and the game situation, this player may be replaced or share time with one or more players later in the game. As an example, a quarterback may start the game but be replaced by a backup quarterback if the game becomes one-sided. A running-back may start the game but share time with another running back in specific situations or to provide the opportunity for rest during the game.
In case of players, they are the opposite of a bust. They are either:
Players that are drafted later (or later than expected) in the draft or not drafted at all, but ended up being great players. Perhaps the modern-day archetypal example would be sixth-round draft pick Tom Brady. The Buffalo Bills are known for their ability to find quality late-round and undrafted talent, such as Brian Moorman, Jason Peters, Stevie Johnson, and Fred Jackson, although difficulties in drafting in the earlier rounds have hampered the team's abilities on the field.
Unexpected players drafted into the first round, most notably punter Ray Guy, when normally, even a great punter or kicker would never be drafted earlier than mid- to late-round two.
The pole attached to the end of the 10-yard chain that is used by the chain crew to measure for a new series of downs — i.e. the line to gain a new "first down".
stiff-arm or straight-arm
A ballcarrier warding off a would-be tackler by pushing them away with a straight arm.
To remove a football from the player carrying it
A formation wherein the tailback is lined up deep directly behind the quarterback, and the fullback is lined up offset to the strong side of the formation.
strong safety (SS)
A kind of safety on defense, as opposed to a free safety. This is a central defensive back; originally, the term indicated that he lined up on the strong side of the field and covered the tight end. However, the modern usage of the term now indicates a central defensive back with responsibility for run and pass support, slightly favoring run support.
The side of the field (left or right) that has the most players, but it depends on the formations of the teams. When a team uses one tight end, the strong side is the side of the field where the tight end lines up. If the offensive package uses no tight end, or more than one tight end, the strong side is the side of the field with the most offensive players on or just behind the line of scrimmage.
A tackle of a ball carrier on a running play, behind the line of scrimmage. Compare to sack.
A tactic used by defensive linemen in which they switch roles in an attempt to get past the blockers. Both defenders will start with power rushes, with the stunting defender getting more of a push. The other lineman will then go around him, ideally using him as a pick to get free from his blocker.
The kickoff and punting teams. Named because the players on both sides have plenty of space to get to running at full speed, making player collisions more dangerous and injurious. The term has been deprecated in favor of "special teams," but it still appears in sports writing.
A running play in which several blockers lead a running back on a designed play to the outside. Depending on the number of blockers and the design of the play this is sometimes referred to as a "power sweep" or "student-body-right" (or left).
A classic offensive formation with the quarterback directly behind the center and three running backs behind the quarterback, forming a 'T'. Numerous variations have been developed including the split-T, wing-T, and wishbone-T.
The players in white (#7, #11) are tackling the ball carrier (#10)
When an offensive team fails to gain a first down on the first three plays of a drive, and thus is forced to punt on fourth down.
A novelty developed in the new millennium, used in leagues such as the XFL and the Stars Football League, that is nearly identical to the two-point conversion. A play that advances the ball into the end zone from the 10-yard line (as opposed to the 2- or 3-yard line in a two-point conversion) earns 3 points.
A down lineman's stance with three points on the ground, in other words, his two feet and one of his hands.
A pass intentionally thrown out of bounds by the quarterback while he is outside the pocket with no chance of the pass being caught by any eligible receiver or defender. This is done when the quarterback is about to get tackled by a defender and has no open receivers so that the team avoids a loss of yardage that would have happened if the quarterback was sacked.
A player position on offense, often known as Y receiver, lines up on the line of scrimmage, next to the offensive tackle. Tight ends are used as blockers during running plays, and either run a route or stay in to block during passing plays.
time of possession (TOP)
The amount of time one team has the ball in its possession relative to the other team. Since there are 60 minutes in a non-overtime game, and one team or another always has possession of the ball, the two teams divide up the time with which they have the ball out of the 60 minutes. If one team has it 40 minutes the other will have it 20 and so forth. A time of possession advantage is seen as a positive thing and is highly correlative with a win or loss as it usually means the opponent's defense becomes fatigued and easier to gain yardage on late in games. Teams that dominate time of possession usually have good defenses (that can keep the opposing team's offense from mounting many long drives) and solid offenses (usually with good running games as running plays keep the clock running more often than passing plays). Teams that have a big disadvantage in the time of possession usually give up several third down conversions and/or frequently go three-and-out on offense.
The act of downing the ball behind one's own goal line on a kickoff or punt after the ball had been propelled over the goal by the opposing team. This can be accomplished by one of several ways: the receiving team player catching the ball in the endzone and dropping down to one knee; by the ball touching any part of the endzone; the ball carrying out of the endzone in any way without being possessed by either team. After a touchback, the team that downed it gets the ball at their own 20-yard line.
A play worth six points, accomplished by gaining legal possession of the ball in the opponent's end zone or by the ball crossing the plane of the opponent's goal line with legal possession by a player. It also allows the team a chance for one extra point by kicking the ball or a two-point conversion; see try.
A basic blocking pattern in which a defensive lineman is allowed past the line of scrimmage, only to be blocked at an angle by a "pulling" lineman. Designed to gain a preferred blocking angle and larger hole in the line.
Also gadget play; any of a variety of plays that use deception to catch the other team off-guard. Famous trick plays include the fake punt or kick, the "Statue of Liberty", the flea-flicker, center-eligible, surprise on-side kick and running back pass plays. These plays are often very risky, as most decent teams have too much skill and experience to be fooled for long.
A formation in which 3 wide receivers are lined up on the same side of the field, with one on the LOS and usually the others flanking the WR one yard off the LOS (as in Slot or Wing, though only one yard off the WR, each way.
A player who is one year out of high school. This contrasts with a redshirt freshman who has practiced with the team for one year but who has not played yet in any games.
A try is a scrimmage down which is neither timed nor numbered, awarded to a team who has just scored a 6 point touchdown, from close to their opponent's goal line (2-yard line in the NFL, 3-yard line NCAA & NFHS). The try allows the offense (and in some codes, the defense) to score an additional 1 or 2 points. Also called "try-for-point", "conversion", "convert" (Canadian), "extra point(s)", "point(s) after (touchdown)" or PAT. Derived from the rugby term of the same name, although in rugby, the term "try" refers to the actual event corresponding to the American touchdown, not the event that comes afterward as in the American game.
Usually refers to an offensive formation which does not have an equal number of linemen on each side of the ball. Done to gain a blocking advantage on one side of the formation; typically one tackle or guard lines up on the other side of the ball. For example a common alignment would be E-G-C-G-T-T-E.
Refers to the quarterback lining up directly behind the center to take the snap. The person under center is conisdered ineligible in the NFL, but an eligible receiver in the NCAA and high school, though this distinction rarely manifests itself since the person under center usually is the passer. Contrast with shotgun formation.
A player who enters the NFL Draft but is not selected by any team in the draft's seven rounds. Undrafted players are free agents and can sign with whatever team they so choose if that team is willing to take them.
A player, in a scrimmage kick (punts and field goals) or kneel formations, who lines up behind the offensive line. An upback's primary duty is to block oncoming defensive players in a kick formation and to recover any fumbles in a kneel formation. They can receive direct snaps, and upbacks are eligible receivers.
During a kickoff, every player on the return team is called an "upman" with the exception of the one or two designated kickoff returners, who stand furthest away from the starting point of the kicking team.
An offense with very few plays and/or formations. Used primarily in exhibition games to prevent opposing coaches from gleaning any information from the team's playbook. So named because "vanilla" flavoring is considered plain.
See kneel. Based on the most common game situation for a kneel, in which the team with the lead near the end of the game has the ball and wishes to run out the clock.
An offensive philosophy that uses short, high-percentage passes as the core of a ball-control offense. Was invented in Cincinnati under coach Paul Brown in the mid-1970s. Is now widely used in the NFL but originally made popular by San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh. The original west coast offense may have been a term used by Don Coryell, as a Sports Illustrated article accidentally confused Coryell's title with the offense being used by Walsh, thus possibly coining the term. (Coryell's offense was known instead as "Air Coryell" through the 1980s.) The basis of Walsh's offense is to use short routes for receivers, delivering the ball on time and accurately and using short passes to replace runs. It relies heavily on yardage from running after the catch, using many eligible receivers on plays to maximize quarterback options, and spreading the ball to many targets to keep the defense confused.
A pass route in which the receiver, often a running back, travels parallel along the line of scrimmage and then takes off up the field.
Adjective meaning towards the sidelines. Example: A kick that is "wide right" has missed to the right side of the field from the perspective of the offense.
A player position on offense. He is split wide (usually about 10 yards) from the formation and plays on the line of scrimmage as a split end (X) or one yard off as a flanker (Z). The offensive-formation rules regarding the number of backs and linemen are still used.
An offensive philosophy that dictates that either a quarterback or a running back can receive a direct snap from the snapper; it is often compared to the single wing. The Wildcat creation is attributed to Gus Malzahn (currently the head coach at Auburn University, formerly at Tulsa and Arkansas where he made the formation famous with star backs Felix Jones and Darren McFadden. Coincidentally running back Ronnie Brown of the Miami Dolphins is leading the nation with the Wildcat in 2009 and happens to be a former player at Auburn University).
The weak side linebacker.
The ratio of wins to losses (and if necessary, ties), expressed as a pair or trio of numbers. For example, 6–1 means 6 wins and 1 loss and 5–3–1 means 5 wins, 3 losses and 1 tie.
wing back or wingback (WB)
A player position in some offensive formations (Flexbone). Lines up just outside the tight end and one yard off the line of scrimmage. A versatile position that can be used as a receiver, blocker, and/or runner of reverses.
A statistic used in league standings to compare and/or rank teams based on their win-loss (or win-loss-tie) records. Winning percentage is calculated by dividing the number of games won by the number of games played. A tie counts as one-half of a win and one-half of a loss. The winning percentage is not increased nor decreased by tied games. These values are expressed as a decimal (e.g.: .600 not 60.0%). See also: points percentage.
Mathematically: Pw where Pw is winning percentage, is number of wins, is number of ties, and is number of games played.
Used in offensive play calling, usually referring to the split end, the wide receiver who lines up on the line of scrimmage. For example, "Split Right Jet 529 X Post" tells the X-receiver to run a post route.
1. Yards After Catch; the amount of yardage gained after initial catch. A quarterback's length of pass is the distance from where the line of scrimmage is, to where the receiver caught the ball. YAC is the distance the ball carrier ran after the initial catch. Screen pass plays boosts YAC effectively due to the short passes, and the receiver has to run to increase yardage.
2. Yards After Contact.
1. A designation used in play calling for the offense's third receiver in a play. This is usually either the slot receiver or a tight end, depending on the play. For example, "Buffalo Right 534 Boot Y Corner" tells the Y-receiver to run a corner route.
One yard of linear distance in the direction of one of the two goals. A field is 100 yards (120 when both end zones are included). Typically, a team is required to advance at least 10 yards in order to get a new set of downs. Identical in length to the standard unit of measurement (3 feet or 36 inches).
A marking on the field that indicates the distance (in yards) to the nearest goal line.
The amount of yards gained or lost during a play, game, season, or career.
Used in offensive play calling, usually referring to the flanker, the wide receiver who lines up off the line of scrimmage. For example, "Panther Gun 85 Slant Z Go" tells the Z-receiver to run a go (also called a fly or streak) route.
A colloquial term for an official, referring to their black-and-white striped uniform.
A defense in which players who are in pass coverage cover zones of the field, instead of individual players. Pure zone packages are seldom used; most defenses employ some combination of zone and man coverage.
A defensive package combining a blitz with zone pass coverage. Allows the defense to choose the blitzer after the offense shows formation and pass coverage requirements, and features unpredictable blitzes from different linebackers and defensive backs. Invented by coach Dick LeBeau.
A type of option offense where the quarterback and tail back line up approximately side by side. After the quarterback receives the snap, the two players cross paths and go through the motions of a hand-off. Based upon reading the defensive reaction, the quarterback either completes the handoff or pulls the ball out and runs with it himself.