The Playoffs Begin! Who Made It?

Hi Everyone!

Game Over!from Print Shop Professional 2.0.

Game Over!
from Print Shop Professional 2.0.


With the end of the regular season yesterday, December 30, the playoff teams are now determined.  And what an exciting season it has been, with the playoff berths coming down to the last quarter of the last game of the regular season, the Sunday night game on NBC, Washington Redskins v. Dallas Cowboys.

(For those of you who might have been, oh let’s say, busy traveling to Mars or something, the Redskins won that last game, leading to the first home playoff game for the Redskins since 1999.  That may not matter to all of you, but to our family, all of whom have learned to love the Redskins through the good offices of my Dad, it is exciting!)

Traveling to Mars, From by BroderbundCopyright Protected.

Traveling to Mars, From by Broderbund
Copyright Protected.

The Division Winners for the NFC are as follows:

NFC East – Washington Redskins

NFC North – Green Bay Packers

NFC South – Atlanta Falcons

NFC West – San Francisco 49’ers

In the NFC, the Atlanta Falcons have secured the home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Wild Card teams in the NFC are the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks.

For the AFC, the Division Winners are:

AFC East – New England Patriots

AFC North – Baltimore Ravens

AFC South – Houston Texans

AFC West – Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos have secured home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Wild Card Teams in the AFC are the Cincinnati Bengals and the Indianapolis Colts.

leaping rabbit

Way to go!
From by Broderbund. Copyright Protected.

The teams with the best records in the NFL for the regular season are of course the Atlanta Falcons and the Denver Broncos, both of which had 13-3 records.

There's always next year! from by Broderbund.  Copyright Protected.

There’s always next year!
from by Broderbund. Copyright Protected.

The teams with the worst record in the NFL this year, 2-14, are the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Kansas City Chiefs.  Jaguar fans and Kansas City Chiefs fans, hang in there!  There’s always next year.

Let the Playoffs Begin! From by Broderbund.  Copyright protected.

Let the Playoffs Begin!
From by Broderbund. Copyright protected.

Let the playoffs begin!

Time to Wrap It Up!

Time to Wrap It Up!

Until next time, may your games be exciting and your team win!





NFL Playoffs, Week 1 TV Schedule

Hi Everyone!

Just for your convenience, I am listing next week’s playoff games’ television schedule.  All times listed are in Eastern Time.  FN. 1.

Next week’s playoff games are:

Cincinnati Bengals at Houston Texans, Saturday, January 5 at 4:30 p.m. on NBC

Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers, Saturday, January 5 at 8:00 p.m. on NBC

Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens, Sunday, January 6 at 1:00 p.m. on CBS.

Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins, Sunday, January 6 at 4:30 on FOX.

Until next time, may your games be exciting and your team win!

Time to Wrap It Up!

Time to Wrap It Up!


FN. 1:  I don’t really know why or when we decided that Eastern Time would be the standard listing, and the rest of the nation (Central, Mountain, Pacific, Alaskan and Aleutian Standard Times) would have to subtract the necessary numbers to come up with the correct time, but c’est la vie!

It’s Here! Finally!

Hello Everyone!

Let’s Celebrate! (from ClickArt Online by Broderbund)
No copying permitted.

It is with a huge sigh of relief and a rush of gladness that I am able to announce that the official start of football season is upon us.  Most of the high school football teams in my area played their first game this past weekend, and college football had its first weekend of games as well.  The NFL Season opens on Wednesday, September 5 on NBC at 8:30 E.T., 7:30 C.T., with a game in Dallas between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys.

(from ClickArt Online by Broderbund)
No copying permitted.

New fans may be a little overwhelmed by the variety of football available to them, but understanding this part of football is actually pretty simple.  While there are football programs starting with PeeWee football, for the very young, up through the NFL, where most players start right after college and play an average of 3.3 years (FN1)(although recently due to better conditioning techniques and other changes, some players are able to play for much longer), the three most watched football levels are high school football, college football and NFL football.  (Unlike golf, no-one has yet come up with the idea of a “senior” NFL league – I think football hurts too much by the time one finishes one’s NFL career).


The Local Football Stadium – THE Place to be on a Friday Night!   (from ClickArt Online by Broderbund) No copying permitted.

High school football is rarely televised, but is well attended in person.  In small towns and cities, it is usually THE EVENT of the weekend.  It is, somewhat obviously, played by high school age players.  High school football games are normally played on Friday nights.  A few may be played on Thursdays or Saturdays in rare circumstances, such as where a city has four or five high schools which share one stadium.

Watching Your College Team on TV – A Fun Form of Mania!
(from ClickArt Online by Broderbund) No copying permitted.

College football is often televised, depending on the popularity of the conference a team belongs to along with the popularity of the teams involved.  Games are played most often on Saturday, from the late morning through the evening.  There also is at least one college football game televised on Thursday nights on ESPN.  I think college football is branching out a little bit, with some games in some conferences even being televised on Fridays, but the Saturday schedule is the most traditional.  College football games are almost never played on Sundays.

Then There’s The Big Time….
(from ClickArt Online by Broderbund) No copying permitted.

Sundays are primarily reserved for NFL football games.  If you ever hear a college football announcer make the comment that a certain player “will be playing on Sundays,” the announcer is basically telling you that the player is good enough to move on to professional football once his college career is over.  One set of NFL games begins around 1:00 E.T., 12:00 C.T., and a second set begins around 4:15 – 5:00 E.T. (3:15 – 4:00 p.m. C.T.).  There will also be one Sunday night game, on NBC, one Monday night game, on ESPN, and often Thursday night games on the NFL Network.  Just about every football game played during a weekend stretch will also be replayed the following week on the NFL network.

Cleats and Helmets – Basic Equipment at any level!
(from ClickArt Online by Broderbund) No copying permitted.

While the basics of football are essentially the same at each level, there are some rule differences.  However, new fans do not really need to worry about them for their first games.  As a new fan, your best tactic for your first two or three televised games which you watch is to pick the game you want to see and concentrate simply on following which team is trying to score, and which team is trying to defend.  That alone is enough to show how exciting football is!


Until next time, may all your games be interesting, and your team win!


FN1.  This statistic is from the NFL Player’s Association.

The Excitement Begins to Build….

It’s not here yet, but the stirrings have begun.  Pro players either just have reported or are about to report to training camp, and college and high school pre-season sessions are just around the corner too.  Even in the middle of the summer heat, I can sense the cool waft of October breezes and football cheers as the season approaches.

Gillette Stadium, full football stadium

The Stands Fill Up, photo by Bernard Gagnon

And what an interesting season this will be!  The sight of Peyton Manning in a uniform other than a Colts uniform is difficult to fathom, although I am sure he will do well in Denver.  Seeing how the pros do in the regular season without two-a-days during training camp will also be interesting – I think that was one of the terms of the new contract.  I am not sure whether it will help the pro football players avoid injuries, or if it will contribute to more injuries.  For the college season, I have the never-ending suspense of whether my team (Auburn) in the SEC will do well this year, along with the never-ending suspense of how our cross-state rival (Alabama) does.

So I rejoice in the sights and sounds (ie., Hard Knocks and programs on the NFL Network and ESPN) of the upcoming season as much as I eagerly await the first kickoff in Canton, Ohio at the Hall of Fame Game!

Until next time, may your games be exciting and your team win!


They Stand Firm in the Gap: The Offensive Line

As you will recall from our post discussing the basic parts of a football team (See, Three with Three:  The Parts and Subparts of a Team), the offensive line is the part of the team that lines up to face the defense.  It must work as a single unit to be effective. The line protects the quarterback and creates the windows of opportunity that allow great plays to be made.  Without a championship caliber offensive line, you simply will not have a championship team.

The Offensive Line

There are five members on the offensive line.  The center is in the middle.  Immediately on his right is the right guard, and the next man on his right is called the right tackle.  Similarly, the man immediately on his left is called the left guard and the next man is the left tackle.  If you were the quarterback standing behind the line, this how the offensive line would be placed in front of you:

The center is the leader of the offensive line.  It is his job first of all to transfer the ball from himself to the quarterback securely at the appropriate time.  Sometimes, the quarterback is immediately behind the center, and sometimes he is further back in what is called the “shotgun” position.  Either way, the center has to snap the ball to him securely all the while ignoring the fact that as soon as he lets the ball go, a member of the defensive line is going to come crashing into him.  In addition, the center directs the other linemen on adjustments that need to be made to the offense’s plan based on the defense’s formations.

The right and left guard need to be excellent blockers.  In order to block, they must be able to contact a defensive lineman and use their hands, arms and shoulders to move the defensive lineman out of the way, or in a specific direction to create a running lane.

A block against a Ravens player by Pittsburgh Steeler Cedric Wilson; 2006 photograph by Keith Allison; from WikiMedia Commons through Flickr

The right and left tackle typically are the biggest and most athletic linemen.  They have to stop the defensive pass rushers and linemen who attempt to come around the edge of the offensive line to tackle either the ball carrier in a running play or the quarterback in a passing play.  This responsibility can encompass a great deal of territory to protect!

Jordan Gross, an offensive tackle, working on a point after touchdown play. 2006 Photograph by Jim Greenhill from Wikimedia Commons.

One tackle is called the “blind side” tackle; that is, he protects the “blind side” of the quarterback.  If a quarterback is right-handed, his left side needs extra protection because when he gets ready to throw, his head will turn toward the right, making his left-side blind.  Similarly, if the quarterback is left-handed, his right side needs extra protection.  Because the quarterback is facing away from his blind side, he is much less likely to tell that a tackle is coming from that direction and take action to avoid it.  This is why the blind side tackle position is also an important position on the offensive line.

Time to Wrap It Up!

Basically, the offensive line consists of five players, the center, the right and left guard and the right and left tackle.  Their job is to protect the quarterback and create running opportunities on a running play.  They work as a unit, and the success of the offense literally rides on their shoulders.  Today is Thanksgiving, and there are three spectacular games scheduled –  the Green Bay Packers versus the Detroit Lions, the Dallas Cowboys versus the Miami Dolphins and the San Francisco 49’ers versus the Baltimore Ravens.  While you are watching one or all of these games, take a few plays to simply watch the offensive line.  Those observations will give you a new appreciation of what the offensive line does.

Until next time, may your games be exciting and your team win!


From Scrummage to Scrimmage: One Vowel Made All The Difference

Hi Everyone!

I have never seen a rugby game played, but apparently, its signature formation is something called the “scrum.”  The scrum occurs when the ball has been out of play or a foul has been committed.  It originally was called the “scrummage” but that term has fallen out of use.

Rugby Scrum, From Wikimedia Commons


As best I understand, in the scrum, certain designated players on each team bind together in three rows.  The front row of players on each team then “engages” with the front row on the other side, so that the heads interlock, forming a kind of tunnel.  The ball is placed in the center of the tunnel, and the rugby teams compete for the ball by trying to hook the ball backwards with their feet and kick it out to one of the other players waiting on the field.  It sounds kind of complicated to me.

Rugby Scrum circa 1904 in England; From Wikimedia Commons

The first set of rules set out for American college football in 1876, reflecting its rugby origins, retained the concept of the scrummage.  As Rule 11 stated:

A scrummage takes place when the holder of the ball, being in the field of play, puts it down on the ground in front of him, and all who have closed around on their respective sides endeavor to push their opponents back, and, by kicking the ball, to drive it in the direction of the opposite goal line.

David M. Nelson, legendary football coach and author

Between 1876 and 1880, the concept of the scrummage began to morph into that of the scrimmage.  As David Nelson states in his excellent book, The Anatomy of a Game, “The scrimmage had been evolving gradually through the genius of the collegians, who were always looking for some way to make the game more interesting.”  [pp. 25-26].  The 1880 rule change simply recognized the change.  While changing the name of the procedure from scrummage to scrimmage, the rule also recognized the concept of the “snap-back” and created the position of quarterback.

1880 Rule:  A scrimmage takes place when the holder of the ball, being in the field of play, puts it down on the ground in front of him and puts it in play while onside, first, by kicking the ball; second, by snapping it back with his foot.  The man who first receives the ball from the snap-back shall be called the quarterback, and shall not then rush forward with the ball under penalty of foul.

Walter Camp; From WikiMedia Commons; His Picture From When He Was Captain of the Yale Team in 1878-1879

Walter Camp, known as the father of American football – one day we will take the time to explore why – had proposed this rule the year before, but it had been rejected, probably because his own college, Yale, was not yet officially a member of the Intercollegiate Football Association, one of the predecessors to the NCAA.

In his own book on American football, called, logically enough, American Football, written in 1891, Walter Camp explained that, while the English scrummage makes it a matter of chance as to who gets the ball, the result of the American scrimmage is “cut-and-dried,” and “the element of chance being eliminated, opportunity is given for the display in the [American] game of far more skill in the development of brilliant plays and carefully planned maneuvers.”

Time to Wrap It Up!

So, with four years of play, and one stroke of the pen, one of the most distinctive features of football – the scrimmage – was born, and the whole universe of football plays came into existence.  I, for one, am glad it happened.  What about you?

Teams Line Up For the Snap: From WikiMedia Commons by krisandapril

Until next time, may your games be exciting and your teams win!


Toeing the line!

The “line of scrimmage” is an important concept in American football at all levels, including professional football.  Until I started researching this topic today, I thought there was only one “line of scrimmage” that occurred where the ball is placed to begin a play.  I guess there’s truth to the old adage that you learn something new every day!

Eureka! (from Print Shop Professional 2.0)

It turns out there are two lines of scrimmage:  one for the offense, and one for the defense.  The “line of scrimmage” is the line behind which the offense and the defense must line up to start the play. The  line of scrimmage for the offense is perpendicular to the point of the football closest to them, and the line of scrimmage for the defense is usually less than a yard away from the tip of the ball closest to them.  The space between the lines of scrimmage for the offense and the defense is called “the neutral zone.”  Only the center, the member of the offensive line responsible for getting the ball to the quarterback or kicker once play starts, can be in the neutral zone until the play begins.

A play begins as soon as the ball is “snapped” – that is, thrown backwards from the ground by the center to the quarterback (or, if the play is a punt, to the punter).  There are (at least) four kinds of penalties that can occur at or near the line of scrimmage:  encroachment, false start, neutral zone infraction and offside.  Each of these penalties are five yard penalties, which means that the ball moves five yards in the direction the team not making the penalty wants it to go.  So, for example, if a defensive player crosses the line, the ball is placed five yards closer to the goal for the offense and the down is replayed.  Similarly, if it is an offensive player that crosses, the ball is placed five yards farther from the goal and the down is replayed.  In addition, the five yards are added to (if the offense makes the penalty) or subtracted from (if the defense makes a penalty) the 10 yards the offense has to make to get a first down.

In the example below, the Miami Dolphins are on offense, and the New York Jets are on defense.  The ball is on the Jets 40 yard line.  It is third down, and the Miami Dolphins have already moved forward seven yards in the previous two downs, leaving them with three more yards to win their next first down.

Position of Both Teams Prior to Penalty on Third Down

If a member of the New York Jets is penalized for being offside, then the Jets have given away five yards.  This means two things:  1) Miami gets a first down, since it only had three more yards to go, and 2) the ball is moved to the Jets 35 yard line and play resumes.

Result of Penalty on the Jets

If a member of the Miami Dolphins is penalized for being offside, and is called for it, then the Dolphins have to add five yards to the distance they need to travel.  This means that 1) the Dolphins now have to move 8 yards instead of three to get their first down, and 2) the ball is moved to the Jets 45 yard line and third down is replayed.

Result of penalty on the Dolphins

A team can choose to decline a penalty and accept the result of a play instead.  This is a strategic call by a team.  The offense, if it recognizes that the defense has committed one of the four line penalties and the play is not stopped immediately, receives what amounts to a free play – if the offense makes something happen in spite of the defense’s penalty, ie., they run a play that gains them more than five yards, the team can choose to decline the penalty and take the yardage gained.  If they weren’t able to get more than five yards, they accept the penalty and re-do the down.

The defense’s decision as to whether to accept the penalty can be a more difficult decision.  For example, if it is third down, and a player on offense jumps offside, the defense may wish to decline the penalty to force the offense on to fourth down, or if the offense is within field goal range, or for other field position reasons, the defense may choose to accept the penalty and force the offense to travel the additional five yards

A Referee

The referee uses hand signals as well as his microphone to announce the penalty.  If he puts his hands on his hips, he is signaling that an encroachment, offside or neutral zone infraction has occurred.  If he is rolling his arms around in front of his body, than that indicates a false start (as well as one other penalty we are not talking about here.)

The four penalties differ in subtle ways.

  •  Encroachment

If a player on either side crosses the line of scrimmage before ball is snapped and makes contact with an opposing player, he has committed encroachment.

  • False Start

A false start occurs when an offensive lineman gets set for the play, then moves before the ball is snapped.

  • Neutral zone infraction

A neutral zone infraction occurs when a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage before the play is snapped and runs towards the quarterback or kicker even though he is not stopped by a blocker.  In addition, a neutral zone infraction occurs if the defensive player jumps into the neutral zone before the ball is snapped and in doing so causes an offensive player to react immediately to that motion before the ball is snapped.

  • Offside

A player is offside if any part of his body is beyond his line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped.


Time to Wrap It Up!

Before a play begins, the offensive and defensive players are required to line up at their respective lines of scrimmage.  The offense’s line of scrimmage runs from sideline to sideline from the tip of the ball closest to them, while the defense’s line of scrimmage runs from sideline to sideline about a yard away from the tip of the ball closest to them.  The space between the two lines of scrimmage is called “the neutral zone.”  Players are expected to remain at or behind their lines of scrimmage until the ball is snapped.  If they violate this rule, then their team is penalized five yards.  The names for the penalties involving line of scrimmage violations are encroachment, false start, neutral zone infraction and offside.

Until next time, may your games be exciting and your team win!









It’s Official!

Hi Everyone!

Sorry for the delay in posts lately; I had surgery last week but am doing quite well.  Now onto today’s topic…

Official Signals Touchdown; from

Most people   Some people    A few people I often refer to the men in charge of officiating a football game as “the referees.”  That terminology is incorrect, as there is only one referee in each NFL football game, along with a team of officials that support him in making calls.  Until I was researching this post, I didn’t realize how specific each person’s duties were, but the duties for each officiating position are quite detailed.

Generally speaking, an official’s job in the NFL is to see that the football rules are enforced.  Starting long ago with Walter Camp, known as the father of American football, and continuing through the present day, the rules for football basically have two goals:  1) to make the game competitive and interesting and 2) to keep the game as safe as it can be for the players.  (Don’t think that the furor the last two years over the changes in the way defensive players can hit are anything new; at least once in the 1930’s, football almost died as a sport because of the massive injuries and deaths to some college players during games.) The original method of selecting officials – that is, the team that was the home team provided the officials – didn’t last very long.    Without unbiased officials, there would be no way to ensure that the games would be played fairly by both sides.  They play a very important role in any football game.

There are seven officials on the field at each NFL game, along with one replay official who is somewhere in a booth above the stadium field.

A Referee

The head of the team is the referee.  He is the only official who wears a white hat, and he basically has the final say as to what call is made on the field. He is the person you see on television announcing what rule infraction (called a penalty) is being called, and on what team it is being called.  He also has the often unenviable job of explaining the penalty to the offending team.  He also pays special attention to the legality of hits on the quarterback.

Also present on the field are an umpire, a head linesman, a line judge, a back judge, a field judge, and a side judge.  The position of each official prior to the play is roughly as shown in this diagram:

The umpire (U) checks out the players’ equipment and makes sure it is legal, and he watches play along the line of scrimmage, and makes sure that the offensive team has no more than 11 players on the field for any play.

The head linesman (H)also watches the line of scrimmage to be sure that no-one jumps over the line before the ball is hiked.  He also decides whether players are out-of-bounds on his side of the field.

The line judge (L) is across from the head linesman and is required to watch for illegal motion and illegal shifts.  He also supervises the timing of the game; if the game clock is not working, he times the game manually from the field.  He lets the referee know when the quarters are over, and he signals the referee for the two-minute warning.  He also tells the home team’s head coach when five minutes are left in the half.  In addition, he generally helps out wherever he might be needed.

The back judge (B) is in charge of making sure that the defensive team has no more than 11 players on the field, and watches all of the eligible receivers on his side, including making calls about pass completion and pass interference.

The field judge (F) who lines up on the other side of the field from the back judge, also makes sure that the defensive team has no more than 11 players on the field, and watches the eligible receivers on his side.  In addition, the field judge also is responsible for the 40/25 second clock.  In the NFL, when a play ends, the team with the ball has 40 seconds to begin another play before it is called for delay of game.  In addition, if the clock stops due to a reason other than the end of the play (such as measurements or calling penalties), the team with the ball has 25 seconds to begin their next play when the clock restarts.

Side Judge


Finally, the side judge (S) is basically another back judge placed downfield.  He helps monitor the play downfield, and, along with the umpire, lines up under the goalpost and decides whether field goals and extra points are legal.

The replay official is the only official not on the field.  It is his job to notify the referee during the final two minutes of each half if there is a play that needs to be reviewed on instant replay, and (this is new this year) his job to review every scoring play and let the referee know if there is something in the scoring play the referee should review.  He also, I believe but am not certain, may assist the referee during the portions of each game during which the coaches can challenge certain rulings on the field.  What I am certain of is that the final call always comes from the referee on the field.


Time to Wrap It Up!

So there you have it – eight men charged with keeping 22 men, most of whom are bigger and stronger than they are, within the rules throughout the entire football game.  The lead official is the referee, while the umpire, line judge, head linesmen, field judge, back judge, side judge and replay official support him in their own specific areas of responsibilities.   They put a lot of hard work into every game, so even when you don’t agree with the referees’… oops, I mean officials’ calls, (and every fan should have the right to respectfully disagree; that’s half the fun of watching!) you should at least respect them for the hard job they do.

Till next time, may your games be exciting and your teams win!



Why is it called a touchdown?

Referee Signals Touchdown; from

One of the most exciting words a fan can hear for their team is the word “Touchdown!”  At that moment, you know your team has added six points more to the score, and has a chance to add one or two more points immediately after.  Still, sometimes, you may wonder, why the word “touchdown?”  Why not “score” or “home run” or “goal” or “point!”  (To be honest, I kind of understand not shouting the word “point” – I have this image of a stadium full of dogs all pointing at the goal line when the word is shouted.)

From Print Shop Professional 2.0

The answer, as you might suspect, lies in rugby, football’s ancestor.  In rugby originally, and in the earliest forms of American football as played in the 1870’s, a team could only score by kicking a goal.  However, there were only certain ways that a team could get the chance to kick a goal.  The most prevalent of these was for an offensive player to get the chance to touch the ball down on the defensive side.  The kick was made at the point where a line perpendicular to the goal line passed through the place where the football had been touched down.  When the first formal 61 rules for American football were decided upon in 1876 between Harvard, Columbia, Princeton and Yale, the rules officially labeled the touching down of the ball as a “touchdown,” and the term has stuck ever since.  In a strange twist of fate, in rugby, the proper term for touching the ball down so a team can try for a goal is referred to as “grounding the ball.”  “Grounding the ball” has an altogether different meaning in American football, a discussion reserved for another day.

Time to Wrap It Up!

So there you have it, folks.  Until next time, may your games be exciting and your team win!



Three With Three: The Parts and Subparts of A Team

I hope you had a chance to enjoy some of the great football that was on this past weekend.  I know I did!


Full Moon Over Cleveland Brown Stadium

Today’s post provides a broad overview of the make-up of a football team.  Basically, every team has three parts:  an offense, a defense, and special teams.  The offense is responsible for scoring, the defense is responsible for preventing the other team from scoring and special teams are involved in the various facets of the kicking game.

11 men on the field per side

A team is only allowed 11 men on the field, regardless of which part of the team is on the field at a given time.  Originally, a team of 11 men “played both sides of the ball,” ie., the same men played both offense and defense.  Over time, that practice changed so that, instead, different people, for the most part, play on the offense and defense.  By contrast, offensive and defensive players often play on special teams; the only position reserved exclusively for special team formations is that of the kicker. 

  • Offense

There are three basic parts to an offense (and this is greatly over-simplifying things, but everyone has to start somewhere!) 

The Offensive Line

First there is the “offensive line.”  The offensive line are the five men that you always see on TV lined up in front of the quarterback.  Their job is to protect the quarterback and the ball, and to move people on the other side around where necessary (by tackling them or blocking their way) in order to allow the offense to move the ball forward.  Where there is a championship team, you will find a (usually unheralded)  championship caliber offensive line. 

Receivers (Circled)

Second, there is the receiver’s corp.  The receiver’s corp is simply the people who are wide receivers.  The wide receivers’ main job is to catch the ball when it is thrown to them, but they also need to be able to block people, run the routes the quarterback expects them to run, and exhibit a certain amount of showmanship to convince the defense that the ball will be thrown to that receiver on each play. 

Backfield - quarterback and running back

Third, there is the backfield.  The backfield is where the quarterback always is.  Most of the time, there are at least one or two running backs in the backfield too.  (Hence the term “backfield.”)  The quarterback is the leader of the offense, while the running backs perform at least two functions:  running the ball forward when called upon to, and blocking for other people when needed. 

  • Defense

The defense also consists of three parts. 

Defensive Linemen

The first and second lines of defense are the defensive line.  The defensive line is basically a two tiered formation.  Depending on the preferences of the head coach, there either will be 4 defensive players (called linemen) directly on the line and 3 defensive players (called linebackers) filling in the gap behind them, or 3 defensive players (still called linemen) directly on the line and 4 defensive players (still called linebackers) filling in the gap behind.  Those seven players make up the defensive line.  Their job is to make sure that the ball does not go past them.  Whether they accomplish that by blocking, by rushing (ie., running very fast at and hopefully tackling) the quarterback or the running back or the wide receiver depends upon the particular play they are facing at any given time. 

Defensive Lineman and Linebackers

Besides the seven players that make up the defensive line, there are four more players that comprise the “secondary.”  The secondary basically is the last line of defense against scoring if the line is not able to stop things.  Members of the secondary include the cornerbacks and the safeties.  Cornerbacks generally are matched to wide receivers; their job is to disrupt the play if the quarterback attempts to pass the ball to the wide receiver they are covering.  The safeties provide extra help where needed.  The free safety is usually the true last-ditch defense against the “Hail Mary” type long touchdown pass while the strong safety provides extra support close to the line. 

The secondary

  • Special Teams

The term “special teams” refers to all of the different formations used in kicking situations.  To try to keep our “three” theme, we will think of special teams as being used in three situations:  kicking for scoring, kick-offs after scoring, and punts.

Field Goal

The field goal unit is the special teams unit that is used when a team is trying to score a field goal or an extra point.  The person responsible for kicking the field goal is called, logically enough, the field goal kicker.  He kicks the ball after it is hiked to the quarterback, and held upright on the ground by the quarterback.  The offensive line in this situation is built to keep the defensive players away from the kicker. 

Place Kicker Kicking Off

The placekicker is the person who kicks the ball off to the other team after either a touch down or a field goal.  He is called a placekicker because he kicks the ball from a tee where it is placed.  There is no need for a holder.  This time, the line surrounding the placekicker is spread out across the field horizontally and a little behind the kicker.  Their job is to prevent the other side from running the ball back towards the goal line after the kick is recovered. 

Punt Formation

The punter is the person who kicks when a team reaches its fourth down and knows it is extremely unlikely that it will 1) make its ten yards, 2) make a touchdown or 3) kick a field goal.  In this situation, the ball is hiked directly to the punter, who catches the ball then drops it and kicks it almost simultaneously.  The punter’s job is to kick the ball as far in the other direction as he can.  The line’s job in a punting situation is two-fold.  First, the line must keep the other team away from the punter so that the punt is not blocked, and second, if the punt is successful (as they usually are),  the line also must  keep the other side from running the ball back any significant distance.  (After a team scores a safety, the other team must do a “free-kick” back to the safety team – a free-kick is basically a punt, only done after a safety from a specified yardage.) 

Time to Wrap It Up!

So, to wrap up, a team is made up of an offense, a defense and special teams.  The offense consists of the offensive line, the wide receivers and the backfield, while the defense has defensive linemen, defensive linebackers and the secondary.  Finally, special teams are used in kicking situations, which arise out of attempts to score, kick-offs after scoring, and punts. 

Until next-time, enjoy your games!