I love football season. Growing up, I played soccer, which is a fall sport where I live, but I’ve always loved watching football. Because I grew up in a football town, I thought everyone, men and women alike, understood at least the basics of the sport until I went to college.
I was watching a football game with a friend one weekend and after the team scored a touchdown, they lined up for the point after touchdown (PAT). My friend asked if it was like extra credit. Being the smartass I am, I told her there was a judge in a booth up top and if the team scored a cool touchdown, they were given the chance to score one more point, but if it was over the top awesome, they could try for two points. She was impressed. I was rolling on the floor.
Yes, I told her the truth, but what it taught me was that not everyone understands football like I do. I learned that lesson again when I met my husband and realized that although he watched the sport and liked it, he didn’t understand it as well as I did. (He told me he never watched as much football before he met me.)
Now I’m teaching my kids all about the sport I love, and we’re going to games and cheering and having a great time. If you’re a football fan, but not all that up on the sport, I’m sharing a few things with you over the next few days so you can fake your way through football season and convince your friends and family you know what you’re talking about!
I’m guessing it’s obvious that there are two teams, both trying to score. There are a few different ways to score in a football game. The most recognizable is a touchdown, which is worth six points (the PAT adds one or the two-point conversation adds two). The second way is a field goal, worth three points, and a safety worth two points.
A team scores a touchdown when a player with the ball is in the opposing team’s end zone. He could catch the ball or run into the end zone with the ball, but he has to make it into the end zone. We’ll talk rules next time, but just know that if the ball doesn’t make it into the end zone, there’s no score.
After a touchdown, teams get to choose if they want to kick the PAT or try for a two point conversation (at some levels they can’t go for two). A kick is the common pick because it’s almost guaranteed, but a team will try for two in strategic situations toward the end of a game.
The second most common way to score is a field goal. This is when the kicker lines up and tries to kick the ball through the goalposts. They are allowed to kick from anywhere on the field, but a good coach will know the kicker’s range and will usually not choose to attempt a field goal if it would be farther than the kicker can make it. If the kick is not good, the ball is turned over to the other team at the line of scrimmage where the kick was attempted, but if the kick is successful, the team gets to kick off again, so there’s incentive to make sure an attempt is going to be good!
An uncommon way to score, but one that you’ll see if you watch enough football, is a safety. A safety happens when a player is tackled in his own end zone, or when the ball leaves the end zone out of bounds. What I mean by that is Team A punts the ball and it ends up on Team B’s 2 yard line. Team B’s quarterback gets the ball snapped to him, he steps back, and gets sacked in the end zone. Team A just scored a safety.
If Team B’s center made a bad snap and the ball goes over the quarterback’s head and out of bounds, that’s still a safety. Sometimes players will intentionally kick a ball out of bounds in the end zone to give the other team a safety because it prevents a touchdown (which would happen if Team A grabbed a loose ball in the end zone).
There are a couple other ways to score a safety, but they’re so rare, I doubt you’ll ever see them. If you’re really curious, you can read about them here.
Are you ready now?
Football can be a really confusing game, but knowing how the points are awarded is a big step toward understanding the game itself. Next time we’ll talk a little about the rules of the game.
Did you learn anything new?
She’s a single mom with too much to do to worry about men. He’s her son’s new football coach, and too much at stake to stay. Neither wants to get involved, but both know it’s inevitable.