Football Rules

History of Football

Football Rules

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Frequently Asked Questions

Football Rules

Different rules in Football are what distinguish the game from rugby and soccer. The game is played with an oval-shaped ball that needs to be advanced towards the other team’s end zone to score a goal and win points. Players can carry the ball by throwing or passing it by hand to other teammates. The sport of football is often referred to as American football owing to its wide popularity. The game is also known by the name gridiron football. The purpose of naming the game football was also to differentiate it from the famed game of soccer and rugby football, often mistaken as being synonymous with football.

This section discusses the basic rules of American football. The Football field is a rectangular field 120 yards long and 3 yards wide. The longer boundary lines are known as sidelines, the shorter lines called end lines. At end of each field is a goal line separated by 100 yards. At the back of each end zone are two goal posts that are 18.5 feet apart from each other, also known as uprights. The posts are linked using a crossbar that is at 10 feet from the ground. All acceptable kicks must be above the cross bars and in between the uprights.

Teams and Players

Each team is allowed 11 players on the field at one time. The teams are allowed to replace all or any of their players, if time allows, during a break or in between plays. Teams are divided into three separate units: the offense, the defense and the special teams.

Kickoffs and free kicks

Every half of the play begins with a kickoff. The ball is kicked using a kicking tee. The other team's kick returnee attempts to catch the ball, also progress it as away as possible. At the point where the player is stopped, the offense begins its offensive play. Teams also kick off after scoring touchdowns and field goals. After safeties play, the team that gave up the 2 points puts the ball into play with a punt or placekick from its own 20-yard line.

Duration & Advancing rules

A regular football game consists of four 15-minute time periods, also known as quarters. There is a game break of interval known as half-time after two quarters are played. If none of the team scores, the game is called a tie. The play continues with additional overtime periods until the tie is broken.

Advancing the ball is similar to the six-tackle rule and play-the-ball rule in rugby. The team in control of the ball has four attempts, known as downs, to advance the ball 10 yards in direction to their opponent'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 after 4 downs, it loses possession of the ball.

A play or down ends when the ball becomes dead upon,

  • The player with ball is forced to the ground or has his forward progress halted by members of the other team
  • In case of an incomplete pass
  • Out of bounds: The ball or the player with the ball goes beyond the limits of the field

Changes of possession

How is the change of ball possession determined? Following are the cases when the offense loses possession,

  • The possessing team fails to move the ball forward at least 10 yards in four downs, known as turnover on downs.
  • The offense scores a touchdown or field goal. It is mandatory for the team that scored to kick off the ball to the other team.
  • The offense punts the ball to defense. A punt is a kick in which a player drops the ball and kicks it before it hits the ground.
  • Incase when a defensive player catches a forward pass to his receiver, also known as interception.
  • An offensive player drops the ball and the defensive player picks it up
  • When the offensive team misses a field goal attempt.
  • An offensive player with ball is tackled, forced out of bounds, loses the ball out of bounds, or commits penalties in his own end zone, also known as safety.


A very important part of the game, a team scores points by the following plays:

  • A touchdown point is scored when a player runs the ball into or happens to catch a pass in his opponent's end zone. Every touch down scores 6 points.
  • During conversion
  • By Field goals. Field goal can be placekicked or drop-kicked. A field goal (FG) is worth 3 points,
  • A safety is scored by the defense when the offensive player in possession of the ball is forced back into his own end zone and is tackled there, or fumbles the ball out of the end zone, or commits intentional grounding in the end zone. It is worth 2 points.


Penalties are associated with foul game, or impeding the right game flow. All most all penalties in football involve moving the ball towards end zone or away from it.