American Football Explained

Have you ever watched American football and thought, “What the heck is going on?” You’re not alone! Let’s see if we can explain it…

What’s with all the players on the field? Why do some players come on the field….and then they leave and other players come on the field? Why did they kick the ball sometimes, but other times throw it???? What is going on??

Many questions international students ask when watching good ol’ American football. With the 52nd Super Bowl coming up on February 4 you may be seeing the excitement leading up to the big day. The Super Bowl is one of the most watched events on TV in the United States. Some people watch for the game, some watch for the famous half-time show, others just watch for the commercials.

Yes–commercials. Those annoying ads we usually try to avoid while trying to watch our favorite TV shows. We’ll get to those in a minute.


Basic Rules

  1. The purpose is to get the ball to the opposite team’s end zone. This is done by either running with the ball until tackled (brought down) or by throwing the ball to a team mate.
    1. The team has 4 tries (called “downs”) to gain 10 yards. When the ball reaches 10 yards, that is called a FIRST DOWN. Then they earn another 4 chances to get another 10 yards.
    2. If they fail to get 10 yards, then they have to kick or PUNT the ball to the other team and now it’s their turn.
    3. When the ball gets to the endzone, it’s called a TOUCHDOWN and it’s worth 6 points.
    4. After a touchdown the team can kick the ball for 1 extra point or try to get the ball in the endzone again for 2 points.
  2. There are 11 players for each team.
    1. A team is split into OFFENSE players and DEFENSE player.
    2. OFFENSE players are the ones on the field when the team has the ball and are trying to score.
    3. DEFENSE players are the ones on the field when they are trying to keep the other team from scoring.
  3. The game is divided into four quarters, each one is 15 minutes.
  4. After the first two quarters, there is HALF-TIME which is 12 minutes. The players take a break and usually there is some form of entertainment during this time for the audience.

OK–we know that’s a lot to read. We found some videos we thought were helpful.

This one is VERY HELPFUL!!

This one is also helpful…..and funny. ‘MERICA!


It's a glorious moment to win the Super Bowl.
It’s a glorious moment to win the Super Bowl.


Super Bowl Commericals

So now that you understand a little bit more about American football, let’s get back to those commercials.

Only during the Superbowl do people WANT to watch the ads. Companies pay MILLIONS of dollars to show commercials during the Superbowl because they know MILLIONS of people are watching. The commercials usually end up being the “talk of the town” the day after the Superbowl rather than talking about the game itself.

It’s such a big deal, Super Bowl Commercials even has a website.

You can see all the companies who will have commercials during the Super Bowl, links to the best commercials, and more.

Picking the best commercials can create heated debates even among friends. Here is an example of one company’s view of the Top 10 Super Bowl Commercials of ALLLL TTIIMMEEE.

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