NFL season: a glossary of football terms and jargon you'll need to understand

NFL season: a glossary of football terms and jargon you’ll need to understand


Have you ever sat down and watched sports and wondered, “What’s going on?” Do you ever feel left out of a sports conversation because you don’t understand what we’re talking about?

Learning a new sport is difficult. Even knowing all the words and phrases of a sport you love is also difficult – let’s not even bother to start a conversation about football’s offside rule…

So, with the 2022 NFL season kicking off, we’ve compiled a list of common terms and words in the language of the sport that we think you should know.

With these in your arsenal, whether with family, friends or colleagues, you’ll be able to figure out what’s going on and impress others – or at least get by – with your diverse knowledge. of America’s favorite game.

Backfield: This is divided into offensive and defensive sections. The offensive backfield is the area behind the offensive line where the quarterback and running back line up. The defensive backfield is the area behind the defensive line where linebackers and defensive backs line up.

Flash: A defensive tactic where more than four defenders, sometimes including linebackers or defensive backs who usually don’t cross the line of scrimmage, choose to run full out to the opposing quarterback rather than cover the backfield (see below). over it) in an attempt to tackle or gain possession of the ball.

down: The action step of the game when the ball is live until it is declared dead and play stops. Most downs start with a snap from center position, but can start with kickoffs and punts. An attack has four tries or less to advance 10 yards from the ball’s original position on the first down to earn another first down and retain possession for another potential series of four tries. Teams start with first down, and each subsequent down is numbered – second, third, and fourth. If an offense fails to make the required 10 yards of forward progression from the first down position, possession passes to the other team.

End area: The area at each end of the field that teams attempt to reach to score a touchdown. Players must either catch the ball inside or carry the ball into the opponents’ end zone which measures 10 yards by 53 ⅓ yards.

Bonus points: After scoring a touchdown, a team may choose to attempt a kick, equivalent to a 33-year field goal, through the vertical goal posts at either end of the field to earn an additional point.

Field objective: A kick from a placekicker that goes through the vertical goal posts scores three points for a team. It can be attempted at any time within a team’s four downs, but is usually done when a team is on their fourth down and does not believe a touchdown is possible. The longest field goal in NFL history was made by Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens in 2021. Tucker managed to convert a 66-yard field goal, which bounced off the crossbar and more, so that time was running out to give the Ravens a 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions.

To grope: When a player, who is in control of the ball, drops it or the opposing team drops it – and said player is not considered to be already on the ground and sent off by contact. Once a player has fumbled, the offense or defense can recover. If the defense recovers, it is considered a turnover.

interception: When a defending player catches a forward pass by the offense, usually the quarterback, resulting in a change of possession.

Line of scrimmage: The virtual lines on which the offensive and defensive linemen position themselves. The offensive line runs from sideline to sideline and is marked from the front tip of the ball after a referee spots it. Players cannot cross their respective lines until the ball is broken.

Offensive line: The five players designated to protect the quarterback at all costs – especially on passing plays. However, these same keepers open holes for the ball carriers to pass through. Each offensive line has a center, who slams the ball to start a down (see above), two guards and two tackles – although more members of the attack can be part of the offensive line.

Sadness: If a team or player is deemed to have violated the Laws of the Game, they will be assessed a penalty. These could take the form of a yardage penalty or loss of down. When a penalty is imposed, an official will throw a yellow flag on the field.

Poached: The area that is formed around the quarterback by his offensive line to prevent a defensive player from firing him.

Red zone: The nickname for the area spanning the final 20 yards that an offense must move to score a touchdown – from the defense’s 20-yard line to the goal line.

Then Dallas QB Tony Romo leads the Cowboys into the red zone against the Detroit Lions on October 2, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.

dash : When a ball is advanced by a running offensive player with the ball in their hands, it is called rushing.

Bag: When a defensive player tackles the quarterback, while the ball is in his hands, behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of yardage.

Security: If an offensive player is tackled in their own end zone by a defensive player, a safety is awarded and the defensive team earns two points. The same applies if an offensive player goes out of bounds in his own end zone (made famous by Lions QB Dan Orlovsky) or if an offense commits a penalty in his own end zone. After a safety, play resumed at one point of the team that conceded safety, which means that the team that scored two points also regains possession of the ball.

instantaneous: The action that starts playing from a scrum. For a snap to occur, the center—or in some cases, the long snapper—passes the ball between his legs to the quarterback, kicker, or starter. In rare cases, the center can latch directly onto a running back, wide receiver, or tight end.

Special teams: All 22 players on the field on punts, field goals, extra points and kickoffs. Specialist players will feature in each phase, such as specialist punters, position kickers and kickoff returners.

landing: Worth six points, a touchdown is scored if a player carries the ball across the goal line or catches the ball in the opponent’s end zone.

Turnover: A delicious pastry often stuffed with a fruit filling – uh, we digress. When a defensive player gains possession after the offensive team has lost it often via a fumble or interception.

Two-point conversion: After scoring a touchdown, a team has the option of executing a single play from the two-yard line of defense to earn two points, instead of one point via an extra kick. The two-point conversion is complete if the ball is carried over the goal line or caught in the end zone, such as to score a touchdown.

Audible: When a quarterback changes the original play called in the huddle to a different play at the line of scrimmage.

Encroachment: A defensive penalty when, before the snap, a defensive player enters the neutral zone – the area on which players line up before the snap.

Grill: The stadium.

I salute you marie : A long pass thrown by a quarterback (most of the time) to a group of receivers in hopes of scoring a touchdown. An act of desperation at the end of games or halves, it tends to be used by a lagging team as a last ditch attempt to tie the score or win a game. The term refers to a Catholic prayer, and although it has been used in football parlance since the 1930s, it gained prominence in 1975 when Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach launched a game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Drew Pearson, saying afterwards, “I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.”

hard counting: A technique used by quarterbacks by varying their number of audible snaps, telling the center when to snap the ball, with the aim of inadvertently encroaching defensive players into the neutral zone and therefore advancing the offense five yards to following a penalty.

Hurry offense: When an offensive team chooses to run multiple plays in a row without huddle to concert. Usually used when time is of the essence, the goal is to use as little time as possible to run as many games as possible.

Glaze the kicker: The act of calling a time out just as the opposing team’s kicker is about to take a consecutive kick. The tactic is used in hopes of disrupting the kicker’s timing and modeled process. The theory is that the extra time will put more pressure on the kicker to consider the consequences of the situation.

In the trenches: The line of scrimmage where offensive and defensive linemen face off at the snap of the ball.

The line of scrimmage for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Carolina Panthers during the first half at Raymond James Stadium on January 9.

The locker room guy: Not necessarily a player who is present at every game, but a player who is essential to the success of the team, providing moral support on and off the pitch (see above). Often an older player, the extra experience helps bring teams together after losses or keep a team focused after a win.

Kick outside: A kick-off deliberately shortened in the hope that the team giving the ball away retains possession of the ball. Usually used at the end of matches by teams following.

Choose six: An interception (pick) that is returned for a touchdown.

Pigskin: A nickname for real football. The nickname is said to come from the story that the first footballs were made of an inflated pig’s bladder encased in pigskin or similar tough leather. Nowadays, they are made of cowhide.

Punch : When a kicker deliberately chooses not to kick off with full force in an effort to prevent a potential backswing from a dangerous returner. The ball often finds itself landing short – in and around blockers who rarely touch a ball during the season, let alone a game. Typically used at the end of halves or games, the offensive team concedes distances in hopes of wrapping up a result.

Shotgun: When the quarterback chooses to receive the snap several steps behind the center.

Formation of Victory: When a team is looking to hold a lead and cut time, the team’s quarterback kneels immediately after the snap, allowing time to run out. Usually used by a winning team at the end of halves or games.


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