The sport

In normal play, two teams of 11 players compete on the field (one on offense, the other on defense) for four 15-minute quarters.

Each side typically has three ‘time-outs’ every half, with a 12-minute half-time gap.

The game’s goal is to get the ball into the opposing team’s ‘end zone,’ either by running with it until tackled or passing it downfield to a teammate heading for the end zone.

A team is made up of 45 players, even though only 11 players from each side are on the field at any given time. The quarterback on each team, who tries to direct play, is the most important player.


Downs are an element of the game that frequently perplexes newbies, and they’re rather easy to understand. In a nutshell, the rule goes like this:

While on offense, the team in control of the ball (offense) must advance the ball forward by at least 10 yards. This is why the yardage lines on the pitch are delineated.

They have four opportunities, or downs, to gain that ten yards, and if they succeed, the clock resets, and the team gets another set of four downs to try to gain another ten yards.

If the offensive team fails to advance these 10 yards within four downs, control is turned over to the defensive team, who will then play offense. On fourth down, teams typically punt for a field goal or pass downfield to the other side to salvage some points before losing control.

American football scoring

As in almost every other sport, the ultimate goal of American football is to score more points than the opposing team. The following is how the game works out in terms of scoring:

A touchdown is scored (6 Points)

A touchdown is scored when a team crosses the opponent’s goal line with the ball or receives or retrieves the ball in the end zone.

The goal on the field (3 Points)

On fourth down, if the kicker is near enough to the end zone to kick the ball through between the upright posts, a team will normally do this.

Bonus Points (1 Or 2 Points)

After a touchdown, an extra point is scored by kicking the ball through the uprights (similar to conversion in rugby). Taking the ball into the end zone for a second time earns two points, but most teams opt for the one point because it is more difficult.

Safety is paramount (2 Points)

If a offensive team member is tackled with the ball in their end zone, the defensive team can score two points.

We hope that this guide has provided you with the tools you need to master the game. Like any other sport, football has many more aspects and regulations than those listed here, but if you grasp the flow of the game and the scoring, you should be able to enjoy and comprehend it while filling in the blanks.