You’re lost, right? You’re sitting down with the Super Bowl on TV but you have no idea what’s happening, do you?
It looks like rugby, but it’s not exactly the Six Nations. It’s called football, but they’re hardly Premier League players.
Fear not, we’ve got you covered with the absolute basics, all you need to know to enjoy the game.
What is a first down?
The entire game boils down to advancing up the pitch.
Each team is given four attempts (downs) to move the ball forward at least 10 yards via throwing and catching the ball or running with it.
At the start of possession, a team will have a 1st & 10 situation – it is their first attempt to advance 10 yards.
For example, if a quarterback throws the ball to a receiving player standing five yards further up the field, play will stop and the team will have a 2nd & 5 situation – it is their second attempt and have five yards to reach their target.
If the ball is caught, or a player runs with it, beyond the original 10-yard target line, this will result in a first down because they have successfully advanced at least 10 yards in those attempts – a fresh 1st & 10 situation has arrived.
This process repeats until a team gets the ball into the endzone to record a touchdown or close enough to the goal posts to attempt a field goal.
If a team does not reach the 10 yards in four attempts, the ball goes to the other team.
This can happen simply by not breaking down the opposition’s defence, or the ball can be directly intercepted by the opposition and they can launch a counter attack.
Usually, a team will kick the ball away on their fourth down to avoid their opponents getting the ball in a good position for their possession.
How many points for a touchdown?
Taking the ball into the end zone will instantly reward that team with six points.
They can then choose to A) kick the ball through the posts for one point or B) have one chance at throwing or running the ball into the endzone again for an extra two points.
Field goals are rewarded with three points.
And that really is all you need to know! Understanding tactics, formations, specific positions and bizarre rules (don’t get us started) will only add to the enjoyment, but at its core, American Football is all about the four attempts at advancing the ball 10 yards forward.
Or you could just go to bed…