Nfl TerminologyWed, 17 Sep 2008 23:02
Football is a complex sport that has numerous players and lengthy playbooks. With all that goes on in football games, especially in the NFL, it may be hard to keep up with the terminology that is often used to describe football situations, plays and players. This article will cover some of the terminology that is you are likely to hear when you watch an NFL game. Whether you are new to football and the NFL or if you have been following the sport and league for for years, you may have heard one or two of these expressions before. Here are some of the words and phrases that are commonly used in the NFL.
Audible – An audible is a signal given by the quarterback to his teammates to change the offensive play at the line of scrimmage. These quick signals are meant to confuse the defense and foil defensive plays. Quarterbacks often call audibles when they notice that the defense is in a good position to stop the offensive play.
Blocking – This term is used to refer to the action of preventing the defense from tackling a fellow offensive player. Blockers use their arms and bodies to keep incoming defense away from the ball carrier. Players cannot use their hands to hold on to helmets or any other part of the defender's body, otherwise they will be penalized for “holding.”
Bomb – The term bomb, often stated “long bomb,” is used to describe long passes thrown to receivers. Successful long bomb passes often lead to big plays for the offense because completed long passes gain a lot of yards for the offense. On the other hand, if the bomb or pass is caught by a defender, the play is called an “interception.”
Cut back – The terms “cut back” and “cut against the grain” describe the action of quickly changing directions to avoid defenders. Running backs and receivers often use speed and agility to cut back and avoid bigger or less agile defenders. If a player is running toward one side of the field and suddenly cuts back to the opposite side, this is referred to as cutting “against the grain.”
Down – This is one of the most frequently used terms in the NFL and in any football league or game. Basically, teams are allowed four chances to advance the ball 10 yards. Each of these chances is regarded as a down. Once the offensive team gains 10 yards, the play resumes at first down again. The second use of the term down is meant to describe the state of a player who has been tackled. Players can also “down” a ball, by touching in on the ground of an end zone to get a touchback.
Encroachment – This is a type of penalty that occurs when a player enters into the neutral zone and makes contact with a member of the opposite team before the snap. The snap refers to the action of throwing, tossing, or handing the ball to the quarterback to begin play. Players on opposite teams can only make contact with one another once the ball has been snapped, or else it will result in an encroachment penalty.
Fumble – Fumbles occur when the ball carrier loses possession of the ball. This can happen my mistake, but it usually happens when a defensive player swats or strips the ball from a defender. When the game is still in play and the ball is not in the possession of any player, it is referred to as a “loose ball.” When a player picks up a fumble or a loose ball, their team becomes the offensive team.
Lateral – When the ball is passed either parallel to the team's line of scrimmage or backwards from it, this is called a lateral pass or a lateral. This is opposed to forward passes (like bombs), which are thrown towards the opponent's goal line. Lateral passes can be thrown multiple times in one play, while forward passes can only be thrown once per play.
Line of scrimmage – These refer to the imaginary lines that determine where the offensive and defensive players will line up before the snap. These lines run parallel to the goal lines. Both the defensive team and the offensive team has a line of scrimmage at the start of each play. The space between these two lines is called the neutral zone. If players cross into the neutral zone and make contact with another player, their team is penalized. There is also a penalty called “offside,” which occurs when a player is beyond his line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped.
Man-in-motion – The man-in-motion is the offensive player who moves around behind the line of scrimmage before the snap. The player may run either parallel to the line of scrimmage or they can run away from it. The role of the man-in-motion is to get into the proper position to make a good offensive play. Teams of ten put a man-in-motion to confuse the defense. When more than one man on offense goes into motion before the snap, it is called a “shift.”
Pass rush – This is an defensive move that is aimed at rushing past blockers to tackle the quarterback before he is able to pass the ball. All defenders are actually looking to tackle the quarterback before he makes the play, but some plays are designed specifically for pass rushes. When the quarterback or any player is downed behind the offensive line of scrimmage, the offensive team loses yardage.
Play-action pass – The term "play-action-pass" is used to describe an offensive play wherein the offense fakes a running play and instead passes the ball. When running a play-action-pass, the quarterback usually receives the snap, drops back, fakes a hand-off and turns around to throw a pass. Basically, these plays are designed to leave passers open by tricking the defense.
Red zone – The red zone is an imaginary area between the defensive team's goal line and their 20-yard line. It is referred to as the red zone, because offensive teams are most likely to score points from this area.
Sudden death – This term is used in a number of sports and games. When regulation time ends and the two football teams are tied, the game is extended until one team scores, either by touchdown, field goal or safety. This is called sudden death because of the fact that one score spells defeat for the other team.
Super Bowl – The Super Bowl is one of the biggest and most anticipated football games in the world. This is the championship game of the NFL that is played between the champions of the AFC and NFC. The game usually occurs in January, at the end of the NFL playoffs.
There are hundreds of terms used to describe the objects, people, situations and plays that you often see in NFL games and most football games in general. If you are looking for a term that cannot be found here, you can easily look up certain terminology on the Internet. There are numerous online football glossaries and dictionaries that define most of the words used in football. Learning NFL terminology is a good way of getting to know the game and how it works.