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Football 101


The team without possession of the ball is on defense.  Its goal is to prevent the team with the ball (the offensive team) from gaining 10 yards within the span of four plays in order to gain a first down, and ultimately, to prevent the offensive team from scoring a touchdown (worth six points) or field goal (worth three points).

Defensive players try to stop the offensive player in possession of the ball from gaining the yardage necessary for a first down or breaking the plane of the goal line in order to score a touchdown by:

  • tackling the player so that one knee touches the ground;

  • knocking the ball out of the player's hands before his knee has touched the ground (causing a fumble);

  • preventing the offensive team from completing a forward pass (causing an incompletion); or

  • intercepting the ball in the field of play. 


The team with the most points at the end of regulation play wins the game. There are five different ways to score points in football:

  1. Touchdown (6 points): when a player (whether on offense or defense) either runs into the 10 yard end zone of the opposing team in possesion of the ball, catches the ball in the opposing team's end zone with at least one foot in bounds (both feet need to be in bounds in the NFL), or recovers a fumble and falls on the ball in the opposing team's end zone, his team is awarded 6 points.

  2. Field goal (3 points): The team on offense is awarded 3 points when its kicker (called a place kicker or field goal kicker) boots the ball placed on the ground after it is snapped by the center to the holder and the ball clears the crossbar of the goal post and between the two uprights. 

  3. Two point conversion (2 points): Immediately after scoring a touchdown, a team is given the option of running an additional play from scrimmage or kicking an extra point.  If it elects to try a two point conversion and is successful in running the ball into the end zone, or an eligible receiver catches the ball in the field of play and runs it into the end zone or catches the ball in the end zone, the team is awarded two points.

  4. Extra Point after touchdown (1 point): when an offensive player kicks the ball over the crossbar and between the goalpost's two uprights after a touchdown, the offense is awarded one point (P.A.T. or point after touchdown).

  5. Safety (2 points): If the defense tackles the offensive player with the ball in the end zone, the defense is awarded two points and possession of the ball after it is kicked by the offensive team (either by way of a punt or kick-off) from its own 20-yard line.