Football is a sport that has its own unique language. Whether you’re a seasoned fan or just starting out, it’s important to know the basic terms used in the game. To be sure that you don’t make a false statement about false starts, here are some football terms everyone should know in preparation for the start of the football season.
Backfield – The group of offensive skill players, namely the quarterback and running backs, that line up behind the line of scrimmage. It can also refer to the area of the field behind the line of scrimmage.
Blitz – A play by the defense in which one or more linebackers or defensive backs charge the opponent’s backfield. This can help put pressure on opposing quarterbacks and lead to sacks and rushed throws.
Bootleg – When a quarterback fakes a handoff to a running back and instead takes the ball outside to either complete a pass or run it himself.
Draw – When a quarterback looks as if he is intending to pass, but instead either hands off the ball for a rush or keeps it himself.
Encroachment – Term to describe when a defensive player illegally crosses the line of scrimmage prior to the ball being snapped and makes contact with an opposing player.
Fair Catch – When a punt returner decides to catch a punt without the intention of advancing after the catch. A fair catch is signaled when the punt returner waves his extended arm over his head. No defensive player can tackle the punt returner once a fair catch has been signaled.
Horse Collar – When a defensive player brings down a ball carrier by grabbing onto the back of the ball carrier’s collar and shoulder pads.
Lateral – When a player passes the ball parallel or behind him to another player. This can be done anywhere on the field at any time. It’s also known as a backward pass.
Pick-Six – When a defensive player returns an interception for a touchdown.
Play Action – A move by the offense in an attempt to fake out the defense. It appears to start as a running play, but the quarterback will fake handing off the ball and instead attempt a pass.
Pocket – The area on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage where the quarterback stands. This area is where linemen try to stop defensive players from reaching the QB on passing plays.
Red Zone – An unofficial area that spans from the 20-yard line to the goal line of the defensive team.
Sack – When a defensive player tackles a quarterback behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of yards.
Safety – A scoring play when the defense tackles a ball carrier in their own end zone. A safety results in two points for the defense.
Shotgun – An offensive formation in which a quarterback stands five to seven yards behind the center to take the snap.
Sticks – Term used to describe the sideline down markers. A first down is referred to as “moving the sticks.”
Three-and-Out – When an offense fails to get a first down using their first three downs and must punt on fourth down.
Touchback – When the ball is downed by the returner behind their own goal line or the ball is kicked through the end zone. The ball is then placed at the 20-yard line for play to resume.
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