American Football Rules

Kickoff – At the start of each half, one team lines up and kicks the ball to the other team, who them has an opportunity to return it. 

1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th down – Once the ball has been kicked off and the offense and defence are on the field, the offense has 4 opportunities (called “downs”) to move the ball 10 yards.

Punt – If the offense reaches 4th down, they may choose to punt.  Punting is when the football is snapped about 15 yards back to a “punter” who then kicks the ball high and far down the field.  

Touchback – Touchbacks occur during punts and kickoffs when the ball is either kicked out the back of the end zone, or the receiving team catches the ball in the end zone and goes down to one knee.  The ball is then placed on the 20 yard line and the receiving team’s offense beings trying to score. #34 takes a knee in the end zone for a touchback above.


Yellow Flags – The referees throw a yellow flag when a penalty has occurred.  Some penalties include; holding, false start, off sides, illegal block in the back, grabbing of the facemask, pass interference. 

Touchdown – The offense’s goal is to move all the way down the field and go into the end zone with the football.  This is called a touchdown and is worth 6 points. 

Extra Point – Immediately following a touchdown, the scoring team has a choice of going for 1 or 2 ‘extra points’.  In most situations the team will go for 1 extra point, which is done by kicking the football through the uprights.  

Red Flags – When a head coach throws a red flag on the field that means he is challenging the call made by the referee.  Each team gets to throw the red flag (also called a challenge flag) on the field once per game if they choose.  

Line of Scrimmage – Where the ball is placed at the beginning of each play marks the line of scrimmage.  The offense and defence must stay on their respective sides of the line until the ball is snapped.  

Quarterback – To start each offensive play, the ball is snapped (handed or tossed) to the quarterback.  The quarterback can then either make a forward pass, run, or hand the ball off to another player (usually called a running back) who will then run with the football.

Under center – This refers to when a quarterback is directly behind the center (player snapping the ball) and the ball is handed directly to him through the center’s legs to start the play.  Number 5 in the picture above is under center.

Shotgun – This refers to when the quarterback stands a few yards behind the center and the ball is snapped back to him in the air to begin the play.  Here #12 is in the shotgun.

Running the football – This refers to when the offense runs a play where there is no forward pass attempted.  The running is usually done by a running back after a handoff.

See all these moves at the Croke Park Classic this August. Book your tickets now!