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Sport Speak: Football A-Z

Football Whether you’re going to high school or college football games, watching the NFL or playing on the gridiron yourself (see below), here’s the lingo that you need to know.

Blitz – When defensive secondary players rush through the offensive line into the backfield to try to “sack” the quarterback.

Blocking – Offensive players use their bodies and arms as a means to impede defenders from making tackles, moving them away from the path of the ball carrier.

Bomb – A very long forward pass.

Buttonhook – Pass pattern in which the receiver runs straight ahead several yards, then quickly turns around to catch the pass.

Dead Ball – Declared by an official at the end of each down after a player has been tackled and the ball is no longer in play.

Member of the defensive backfield whose chief responsibility is to defend against the offense’s pass.

Down – The offensive sequence of plays starting from the line of scrimmage that begins with the center’s snap and ends when the ball is dead; One of a series of plays in which the offensive team must advance at least 10 yards or lose possession.

Drive – Describes a series of downs in the offensive team’s advance toward the goal.

Extra Point – After a touchdown, one point is scored for a “place kick” through the goal posts. Some leagues give two points for running or passing the ball over the goal line.

Fair Catch – On a punted ball, the punt receiver signals (by waving his hand in the air) that he will not advance the ball. This prevents the player from being tackled.

Field Goal – A place kick from the line of scrimmage that goes over the crossbar between the uprights of the opponent’s goal post. Field goals are used on fourth down (when the offensive team is close to the end zone) or on any other down when time is running out. It is worth three points.

First Down – 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 can affect this.

Forward Pass – A throw made from behind the line of scrimmage. If the ball is not caught, it is an incomplete pass. Once the ball has crossed the line of scrimmage a forward pass is not permitted.

Fumble – When a ball carrier drops the ball on the field. The team first to recover the ball gains possession. If the defense recovers the fumble it is a “turnover.”

Gridiron  – Gridiron football, or North American football, is football primarily played in the United States and Canada (as opposed to soccer, which is called football in all parts of the world). It also refers to the sports playing field.

Grounding – The quarterback throws the ball down on the field to avoid a sack.

Hand Off – The handing of the ball to a teammate on offensive plays.

Huddle – Players gather in a circle before each down to hear instructions for the next play from the quarterback.

Interception – When a forward pass is caught by a defender. It results in a turnover.

Kicker – The player who place kicks the ball on kickoffs, field goals, and extra points.

Kickoff – A place kick in which one team kicks the ball to the other. It occurs at the start of each half and after each score.

Lateral – When a player with the ball is ahead of the line of scrimmage and tosses the ball to a teammate beside or behind him, but not in front of him.

Line of Scrimmage – The line along which both teams set up across on each down. The offensive team must have at least seven players on or within a foot of this line.

Neutral Zone – The one-yard area encompassing the line of scrimmage which separates the offense from the defense.

Onside Kick – On a kickoff, a team may attempt to regain possession of the ball by kicking it only a short distance forward, allowing its players a chance to recover the ball. The ball must travel at least ten yards before the kicking team can recover it.

Pass Rush – When the defensive team rushes the quarterback in an attempt to tackle him before he passes.

PAT – Acronym meaning Point After Touchdown.

Place Kick – The ball is placed on the ground and held by either a teammate or a kicking tee for the kicker. It is used at the start of each half, after every score, on field goals, and on extra point attempts.

Punt – A kick taken from behind the line of scrimmage in which the ball is dropped from the kickers hands and punted before it touches the ground. Punting often occurs on fourth down after the first three downs have failed to result in a first down.

Rushing – The use of running plays to move the ball downfield on offense.

Sack – When defensive players tackle the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage, resulting in a loss of yards for the offense.

Safety – Two points awarded to the defensive team when a ball carrier is tackled within, or runs out of the backside of his own team’s end zone.

Screen Pass – A short forward pass, lofted over the heads of rushing defensemen.

Shotgun – On some pass plays the quarterback will stand several yards behind the center to catch the snap, so as to have more time to throw the ball.

Snap – The toss of the ball through the legs of the center to the quarterback, punter, or place kick holder.

Spot – Where the ball is placed after each play to establish the line of scrimmage.

Sweep – A rushing play in which the ballcarrier runs around one end, rather than through the middle of the offensive line.

Tackle – When a ball carrier is taken down or stopped by an opposing player.

Touchback – On a kickoff when either the ball is caught in the end zone and the receiving team does not run it out, or it goes through the end zone. To signal a touchback, the receiving player kneels on one knee in the end zone. The next offensive play begins from the twenty-yard line.

Touchdown – When a player carries the ball across the opposing goal line, or catches the ball or recovers a fumble in the end zone. A touchdown is worth six points.

Turnover – A fumble or an interception which results in the defense gaining possession of the ball.

Related Posts:

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Pennsylvania Girl Banned From Playing Football


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