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American (US) Football

The Game, Rules and History

American (US) football is a different game than what the rest of the world refers to as football which is called "soccer" in the US and parts of Canada. American football closely resembles rugby.

The object football is to score points by advancing the ball to the opposing team's end zone by throwing or handing it from one teammate to the other.

Points can be scored by carrying the ball over the goal line, throwing the ball to another player past the goal line or kicking it through the goal posts on the opposing side.

Football is a timed game and the winner is the team with the most points at the end of the time. The game is divided into 4 - 15 minute sessions called a quarters. As each quarter get frequent time outs, a game that seems like it should only be 1 hour can last longer than 3 hours. There is a break after the second quarter called half-time. Tied games result in an overtime (OT) round until the tie is broken and is called sudden death.

The game is played on a rectangular field 120 yards long by 53 1/3 yards wide. The longer boundary lines are sidelines, while the shorter boundary lines are end lines.

Close to the end of each side of the field is a goal line which measure 100 yards apart from one side to the other. The goal line and area beyond it is 10 yards. Games start off in the center as both teams try to advance the ball in the direction their team faces which is directly behind the other team.

Each team is trying to capture the ball in order to get it to their own goal post to score the point. In order to defeat the opposing team from scoring, they can try to tackle the player carrying the ball, block the ball when thrown, or in any of the legal ways keep the ball and/or player from going forward.

Each team has 11 players on the field at a time and will vary according to what is going on at the time where a team can have several extras players on the field to perform special duties. The NFL teams have 53 players in total to rotate during a game. Each player plays a particular unit during the game. The units include the offense, the defense, and support positions which include the gunner, holder, kick returner, placekicker, punter, and punt returner.

The offense include the quarterback (receives the ball from the center at the start of each play before either handing it to the running back, throwing it to a receiver, or running with it himself), the halfback (lines up in the backfield and responsible for carrying the ball on run plays), the fullback (lines up in the offensive backfield and generally is responsible for run-blocking for the halfback and pass-blocking for the quarterback), the wide receiver (lines up on or near the line of scrimmage to catch passes from the quarterback), the tight end (serves as a receiver and also a blocker), the offensive tackle (the 2 players who line up on the outside of the offensive guards with the specific purpose to tackle opposing team members), and the center (lineman who hikes the ball to the quarterback at the start of each play).

The defense includes the defensive end (contains the running back on running plays to the outside, and rush the quarterback on passing plays), the defensive tackle (stops the running back on running plays, getting pressure up the middle on passing plays, and occupying blockers so the linebackers can roam free), the nose tackle (stops the run and occupy the offensive lineman to keep them from blocking the linebackers), the linebacker (2 players who line up behind the defensive linemen and in front of the defensive backfield), the cornerback (lines up on the outside of the formation and is usually assigned to cover a wide receiver), the safety (helps the cornerbacks to pass the ball to the goal).

A touchdown is worth 6 points. A field goal (kicked to the goal post from a 2 yard distance in the NFL) is worth 1 point (after a touchdown is made) or 3 (attempted on fourth down instead of a punt when the ball is close to the goal line, or, when there is little or no time left to otherwise score). A safety is worth 2 points (when the offensive player in possession of the ball is forced back into his own end zone and is tackled there, fumbles the ball out of the end zone, or commits intentional grounding in the end zone).

The team that takes possession of the ball (the offense) has four attempts, called downs, to advance the ball 10 yards towards their opponent's (the defense's) end zone. When the offense gains 10 yards, it gets a first down, or another set of four downs to gain 10 yards. If the offense fails to gain a first down (10 yards) after 4 downs, it loses possession of the ball.

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