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- An artificial surface used instead of grass on many
- Verbal commands shouted by the quarterback to
his teammates at the line of scrimmage
to change a play on short notice.
- The area behind the line of scrimmage.
- The running backs; the halfback and the fullback.
- Ball carrier:
- Any player who has possession of the
- When a player gets past an opponent trying to block or tackle him.
- When a regional network TV affiliate is forbidden
from showing a local game because it is not
- A play where the defensive team sends players rushing towards the line of scrimmage
as soon as the ball is snapped to try to sack the quarterback.
- The act of preventing a defensive player from getting
to the ball carrier;
blockers use their
arms and bodies but may not hold an opponent.
- A long pass thrown to
a receiver sprinting
down the field.
- Bowl game:
- A college football game played in late-December
or early-January, after the regular season, between
two successful teams.
- A technique used by pass defenders,
where they hit a receiver once within
10 yards of the line of
scrimmage to slow him down, and then follow
him to prevent him from catching a pass.
- Call a play:
- Instruct players to execute a pre-planned play.
- Blocking an opponent
below the waist from behind; this illegal block is
a personal foul,
punishable by a 15-yard penalty.
- Complete pass:
- A forward pass
to a teammate who catches it in the air.
- Groups into which teams are divided in professional
and college football; the NFL
is divided into National and American Conferences.
- Controlling the game
- The use of tactics by an offensive team to either
save or use up time on the game clock, which often
dictates its choice of plays.
- Cover or coverage:
- Preventing a player from gaining yards; in pass
coverage, a defender follows a receiver to prevent
him from catching a pass; in kick coverage, members
of the kicking team try to prevent a long kick return.
- Cut back:
- A sudden change in direction taken by a to make
it more difficult for defenders to follow and tackle him.
- Dead ball:
- A ball becomes dead when a play is over and becomes
live as soon as
it is snapped for the next
- In the NFL,
sub-groups within conferences, such as the Eastern,
Central and Western Divisions; also, a grouping of
teams in college football, where Division I contains
the most competitive teams and Division III the least.
- Double coverage:
- When 2 defensive players cover one
- One of 4 chances a team on offense has to gain 10
yards; also, the state of a player who has just been
tackled; also, a
ball that a player touches to the ground in the end zone to get a
- Down the field:
- In the direction of the opponent's goal line.
- Draft choice:
- A player chosen by a professional sports team from
a pool of college players in an annual draft.
- The series of plays a team puts together in an attempt
- Drop back:
- When a quarterback, after
taking the snap, takes a few steps
backward into an area called the pocket to get ready
- Drop kick:
- A type of free kick where
a player drops the ball and kicks it right after it
hits the ground; rarely used today.
- Eligible receiver:
- A player allowed by the rules to catch a forward pass;
all offensive players are eligible except linemen and the quarterback, who
must notify the referee if they wish to become eligible
and stand at least one yard behind the line of scrimmage
before the snap.
- If a player (besides the center) is in the neutral zone
and contact occurs prior to the snap; a foul punishable
by a 5-yard penalty.
- End line:
- The boundary line that runs the width of the field
along each end.
- End zone:
- The area between the end line and goal line bounded
by the sidelines, which
a team on offense tries to enter to score a touchdown.
- Extra point(s):
- Additional point(s) scored by a team after it has
scored a touchdown,
either by a point-after-touchdown
(1 point) or a 2-point conversion
- Fair catch:
- When a kick returner decides only to catch a punt or kickoff and not advance
it, protecting himself from being hit by an opponent;
he signals for a fair catch by raising one hand in
the air and waving it.
- Field goal:
- A place kick that
passes above the crossbar and between the uprights
of the goalpost, earning
the team that kicked it 3 points.
- Field position:
- The location of a team on the field relative to
the two goal lines; good
field position for a team is near its opponent's goal
line, while bad field position is close to its own
- First down:
- The first chance out of 4 that a team on offense
has to advance 10 yards down the field;
as soon as it gains those yards, it earns a new first
- Forward pass:
- A pass thrown by a team closer to the opponent's
a team is allowed to throw only one forward pass per
play, and it must be thrown from behind the team's
line of scrimmage.
- Forward progress:
- The location to which a ball carrier
has advanced the ball, even if he was pushed backwards
after getting there.
- A violation of football's rules by a team or player,
punishable by a penalty.
- A team; the legal arrangement that establishes ownership
of a team.
- Free agent:
- A player whose contract with his most recent team
has expired, allowing him to sign a new contract with
any team that makes him an offer.
- Free kick:
- A type of kick taken to start or restart play after
a team has scored, with no defenders nearer than 10
yards away; includes a kickoff and a kick
after a safety.
- When a ball carrier
loses possession by dropping
the ball or having it knocked away before a play ends;
the first player to regain possession of the loose ball is said
to make the recovery, and his
team becomes the offense.
- Goal line:
- A line drawn across the width of the field, 10 yards
inside each end line, which a
team must cross with the ball to score a touchdown.
- A tall metallic structure that stands at the back
of each end zone; consists
of a crossbar and two uprights that extend upward
from it, supported directly above the end line by
a base; teams try to kick the ball above the crossbar
and between the uprights to score a field goal or extra point.
- Going for it:
- When a team facing a fourth down decides to try
for a new first down instead
of punting; if it fails,
it loses possession of the
- A running play where the quarterback hands
the ball to a back.
- Hang time:
- The length of time a punt is in the air.
- Heisman Trophy:
- An award presented annually by the Downtown Athletic
Club of New York to the best college football player
in the country.
- Afoul where a player impedes
the movement of an opponent by grasping or hooking
any part of his body or uniform; punishable by a penalty
- 10 yards if against the offense, 5 yards + first down if against
- Home field advantage:
- The benefit a team gets by playing games in the
area where it is based, due to fan support, familiarity
with its surroundings and the lack of required travel.
- Home game:
- A game played in a team's own stadium.
- In bounds:
- The region of the field inside the sidelines and end lines.
- Incomplete pass:
- Aforward pass
that touches the ground before being caught.
- Intentional grounding:
- Afoul called against a
purposely throws an incomplete forward
pass solely to avoid a sack; cannot be called
if the pass lands at or beyond the line of scrimmage.
- A pass caught in the air (picked off) by a defender
whose team immediately gains possession of the
ball and becomes the offense.
- When a player kicks a ball from a tee at his own
30-yard line (35 in college) to the opposing team,
whose player tries to advance it the other way; used
to start the game, the second half and overtime, and
to restart play after each score.
- A pass thrown to a teammate backwards from the team's
line of scrimmage
or parallel to it; unlike a forward pass
(which can be thrown only once per play), players
may lateral the ball as often as they want.
- Line of scrimmage:
- An imaginary line which no player may cross before
the snap; each team has its
own line of scrimmage, separated by the neutral zone.
- A player who starts each play within 1 yard of his
line of scrimmage.
- Live ball:
- A ball becomes live as soon as it is snapped or free kicked (as
in a kickoff); opposite
of a dead ball.
- Loose ball:
- A ball that is not in possession of either
team, such as after a fumble or a kickoff; it can be
recovered by either team.
- A single player on the offense who is permitted
to move prior to the snap; he may only run
parallel to the line of scrimmage
or away from it.
- The 50-yard line, which divides the length of the
field in half.
- Necessary line:
- The imaginary line the offense must cross to achieve
a new first down.
- Neutral zone:
- The region that contains the ball as it sits on
the ground before each play; the area between the
two lines of scrimmage.
- NFL (National Football
- The major professional football league in the U.S.
with 28 teams; its headquarters are in New York.
- NFL Championship:
- The game held from 1933 through 1965 to decide the
champion of professional football; renamed the Super Bowl in 1966.
- Nickel defense:
- When a defense brings in a 5th defensive
back to replace a linebacker on the field, increasing
its pass coverage.
- Offending team:
- The team that committed a foul.
- When any part of a player's body is beyond his line of scrimmage
when the ball is snapped; a foul punishable by a
- On downs:
- The term used to describe a team's loss of possession if it
fails to reach the necessary line
on a fourth down play.
- Open receiver:
- A player who has no defender closely covering
- Out of bounds:
- The region of the field touching or outside the
sidelines and end lines; as soon
as a ball carrier
or the ball itself touches out of bounds, the play
- Pass defender:
- A defensive player who covers an
- Pass patterns or pass
- Pre-determined paths receivers follow
to help the passer quickly locate them so he can more
easily get them the ball.
- Pass protection:
- Blocking by offensive
players to keep defenders away from the quarterback on
- Pass rush:
- A surge by defenders to get past blockers and sack the quarterback.
- Personal foul:
- A foul that might cause
injury; punishable by a 15-yard penalty.
- Picked off:
- Alateral tossed from
a quarterback to
a running back.
- Place kick:
- A kick towards the goalpost for a field goal or extra point;
held between the ground and another player's finger.
- A spurt of action that begins with a snap and ends with a
- Play clock:
- A clock displayed above each end zone that limits
the time teams may take between plays to 40 seconds
(30 in college); the ball must be snapped before the clock
runs down to 0.
- Play-action pass:
- A passing play after the quarterback has
faked a hand-off.
- The post-season tournament that determines the NFL
- The area behind the offensive line, where the quarterback is
protected by his blockers.
- Aplace kick taken
from the opponent's 2-yard line; awarded to a team
that has scored a touchdown,
it is worth 1 point if it goes through the goalpost.
- To be holding or in control of the football.
- Previous spot:
- Where the ball was snapped to begin the
- When a player 10 yards behind the center catches
a snap, drops it and kicks
it before it hits the ground; an opponent tries to
catch and advance it the other way.
- A short orange marker at each of the end zone's 4 corners.
- The leader of a team's offense, he takes the snap from the center
and either hands the ball to a running back to run
with, passes it to
a receiver or runs
with it himself; he also communicates each play to
- Reading the defense:
- Recognition by the quarterback of
the defensive formation; he may then call an audible to adjust
- An offensive player who catches or attempts to catch
a forward pass.
- To gain or regain possession of a
- An attempt by a player who has just caught an interception,
punt, or kickoff to advance
the ball the other way.
- Roll out:
- when a quarterback runs
parallel to the line, looking for a receiver.
- A first-year player in the NFL.
- A running play; also, a pass rush.
- Atackle of the quarterback behind
his line of scrimmage.
- When a ball carrier
is tackled in his own
end zone after bringing
the ball there under his own power; the defense earns
2 points and receives a free kick from
the offense's own 20-yard line.
- Evasive movements by a quarterback to
avoid being sacked.
- The group of 4 downs a team has to advance
- The boundary line that runs the length of the field
along each side; a ball carrier
or ball that touches or crosses the sideline is out of bounds.
- A tournament where a team is eliminated after one
- When the center while facing forward quickly hands
the ball between his legs to a player standing behind
him (usually the quarterback) to
start each play.
- Special teams:
- The group of players who participate in kicking
- When a player throws the ball at the ground to celebrate
- A ball passed or kicked with a spin which propels
it further with more accuracy; the ball points the
same direction throughout its flight.
- A location on the field, determined by an official,
to mark forward progress
or the place of a foul.
- Stiff arm (or straight
- A push by a ball carrier
to ward off a tackler.
- Succeeding spot:
- Where the next play would start if no penalty was
- Super Bowl:
- The championship game of the NFL,
played between the champions of the AFC and NFC at
a neutral site each January; it is the culmination
of the NFL playoffs.
- A player position on both the offensive and defensive
lines; there is usually a left and right offensive
tackle, and a left and right defensive tackle; See
- Contacting a ball carrier
to cause him to touch the ground with any part of
his body except his hands, thereby ending the play.
- The half of the field a team protects against its
- When the offense faces a third down and is more
than a short running play away from a first down; usually
third-and-5 or greater.
- When a player who gains possession of a
ball in his own end zone kneels to
the ground and automatically starts the next play
at his own 20-yard line; also awarded if his opponent
kicks the ball across the end line.
- Touchdown (TD):
- When a team crosses the opponent's goal line with the
ball, catches a pass in the opponent's end zone, or recovers
a loose ball in the
opponent's end zone; earns a team 6 points.
- The involuntarily loss of possession of the
ball during a play, either by a fumble or by throwing
- 2-point conversion:
- When a team that just scored a touchdown starts
a play at the opponent's 2-yard line and crosses the
goal line to earn
2 points; newly-introduced to the NFL
- Wild Card:
- A team that makes the NFL playoffs by having
one of the 3 best records among non-division winners
in its conference.
- Winning percentage:
- The percentage of its games a team has won during
a period of time, given by the following formula:
Winning Percentage = (#wins + #ties/2)/(#games