NFL Rules For Dummies: The Basics Of How American Football Works & Overtime Explained Before The London Games

T

he NFL returns to London this month as Tottenham Hotspur Stadium hosts two regular-season games, following its successful 2019 debut.

In addition to the dedicated masses that follow the regular football season every Sunday, these London Games provide an opportunity for new fans and casual viewers to get involved. And if that’s you, then we’ve got you covered with our American football basics.

How long does the game last?

NFL games are 60 minutes long and are divided into four 15-minute quarters. If the scores are equal at the end of a match, a ten minute overtime will be played.

How does overtime work?

In overtime, both teams must have the chance to gain possession of the ball, unless the offense scores a touchdown on their first possession, in which case they win the game. Once both teams have had a chance to take possession, play becomes Sudden Death, which means a score of any kind ends the game.

In the regular season, if the scores are tied at the end of the first ten minute period, the game ends in a tie. The overtime rule differs in playoff games, where multiple periods of overtime are played until a winner is determined.

Patrick Mahomes warms up for the big game in Miami / Getty Images

Who are the players?

Although American football rosters can be over 50 players, each team is only allowed 11 on the field at a time.

Most of the game opposes the attack (the team with the ball, trying to score), against the defense (the team without). The exception is a few games such as field goals and kickoffs, where both teams will use specific “special team” units, depending on the scenario.

Players usually specialize in a specific position on offense or defense and are very rarely used elsewhere. Therefore, when possession changes hands, the whole team is usually replaced.

What does the terrain look like?

The main playing area is 100 meters long, with a 10-meter “end zone” at each end, in which teams score touchdowns. There is also a set of goal posts at each end, which serve as a target for kickers, similar to those used in rugby.

Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens before Super Bowl LIV / USA TODAY Sports

What is the goal ?

As in most team sports, the objective is to move the ball down the field towards your opponent’s goal line in order to score.

To do this, the team’s quarterback will usually throw the ball towards a receiver or hand the ball over to their ball carrier, who will attempt to carry the ball forward.

Teams are allowed four attempts – called “downs” – to move the ball at least 10 meters on the pitch. The first of these tests is “first try”, the next “second try” and so on. Once they have covered 10 meters (or more), the downs reset and it is again at the first down.

If a team has not covered ten yards after four tries, possession is returned to the opponent.

As a result, teams facing fourth base will usually choose to kick a field goal, if they are close enough to the posts, or alternatively to ‘kick’ the ball down the field, ensuring their opponents gain possession. closer to their own goal line.

The Patriots won the Super Bowl for the sixth time in 2019 / AFP via Getty Images

How does scoring work?

A touchdown is scored when the ball crosses the goal line in the end zone. This can be done either by carrying the ball into the end zone or by throwing the ball to the receiver who catches it in the end zone. The ball does not need to be on the ground and a touchdown is worth six points.

After a touchdown, teams can either throw a conversion through the posts for an extra point or attempt to score another touchdown from the two-yard line for two points.

Teams can also score by scoring field goals, worth three points, which usually happens when a team reaches the fourth goal in the opposing half of the field.

The other scoring game, known as safety, is worth two points and occurs when the ball carrier is tackled inside their own end zone or when the offense commits a foul on the ball. ‘inside his own end zone.

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