How much do you know about American football terms?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Soccer might be the world's most popular sport, but in the United States, American-style football reigns supreme. How much do you know about American football terms?

What's a "turnover"?

A turnover is a loss of possession of the football. Turnovers may happen if the offensive team drops the ball or throws it to the defense on accident.


If one player gives the ball to another player, it's called what?

When a player gives the ball to another player, it's called a handoff. Handoffs look easy, but in the heat of a hard-fought game, just handing the ball to someone else can be a challenge, and when the exchange is bobbled, it can result in a turnover.


What does it mean when the center "snaps" the football?

The offensive play begins when the center snaps the football, usually to the quarterback. Then, the quarterback will execute the play in hopes of moving the ball towards the end zone.


If you drop the ball, it's a called a _____.

Fumbles are the bane of football teams everywhere. Sometimes, players are able to recover fumbles and keep a drive alive. Other times, the defense grabs the fumble, which gives their offense control of the ball.


If a kick returner waves his arm in the air before fielding a punt, he did what, exactly?

Kick returners wave their arms to execute a fair catch. It's essentially a surrender that means he won't try to run back the kick, and it signals that the defenders aren't allowed to tackle him.


What's the "end zone"?

The end zones are the 10-yard sections at the end of the field. If the offense crosses the goal line into the end zone, it scores a touchdown.


What is the name of the imaginary line that divides the offense and defense before a play?

The line of scrimmage is the imaginary line between the offense and defense. Neither team can cross this line until the play begins.


If the offense moves the ball 10 yards, it receives what as a reward?

The offense has four downs to move the ball 10 yards. If it succeeds, it receives a first down and thus, four more downs to continue the drive.


If a defensive player grabs a pass intended for a receiver, he performed which act?

If a defensive player catches a pass intended for a receiver, he created an interception. Like fumble recoveries, interceptions are a type of turnover, and it means that the other team gets possession of the ball.


What's a "drive"?

A drive is a series of plays by the offense. The drive keeps going until the offense scores, punts or otherwise gives up possessions of the ball.


Where would you find the "red zone"?

The red zones are an unofficial area spanning the area from the 20-yard-line to the end zone. When offenses enter the red zone, they are close enough to score a touchdown or field goal.


What's the "offensive line"?

The offensive line is made up of five large linemen on the offense. The job of the offensive line is to protect the quarterback and help clear a path for ball carriers.


If the offense's players gather behind the line of scrimmage before a play, they were part of a _____.

The offense often gathers around the quarterback in the huddle. There, they quickly discuss the next play. In today's fast-paced game, many teams skip the huddle altogether (the "no-huddle" offense) to speed up the pace of the game and hopefully catch the defense off-guard.


When does the offense perform a "punt"?

The offense has four downs to achieve a first down (or score). On fourth down, they punt the ball away to the other team, which takes possession and begins an offensive drive of its own.


If the defense tackles an offensive ball carrier in his own end zone, the defense has earned a _____.

Defenses rejoice when they tackle offensive ball carriers in their own end zone because it means the defense scored a safety. Safeties are worth two points, and they also mean that the scoring team gets possession of the ball, too.


What's it called when the defense sends more men than usual in an attempt to sack the quarterback?

A blitz is when the defense sends extra men past the line of scrimmage. Blitzes are a common tactic, particularly on plays when the offense is likely to attempt a long pass. The extra time consumed during this type of play gives blitzing players more time to make a tackle.


What action do offensive players take to prevent defenders from tackling the ball carrier?

Offensive players, particularly the big linemen, are entrusted with blocking. Crisp blocking is a hallmark of a well-coached team.


If the defense tackles the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage, they accomplished which feat?

A "sack" is when defenders tackle the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage. Sacks are a moment of triumph for the defense, and they are often very demoralizing for the offense.


During a passing play, the quarterback hangs out in which area?

As he scans the field for an open receiver, the quarterback remains in the pocket, a safe area created by his blockers. If defenders collapse the pocket, they can sometimes sack the quarterback for a loss of yardage.


What's the name of the area behind the line of scrimmage?

The backfield is the area behind the line of scrimmage. It's where the running backs and fullbacks generally await the snap of the football.


What's it called when the quarterback fakes a handoff and then instead throws a pass?

When the quarterback fakes a handoff and instead throws, it's a play-action pass. Play-action passes may only fool defenders for a short moment, but sometimes that's all the time a speedy receiver needs to get open.


What's a "rusher"?

An offensive player who runs with the ball is a rusher. The best running backs often rush for more than 100 yards per game.


What do "special teams" do?

Special teams handle kicking plays. They may return kickoffs, kick field goals or attempt PATs. Some coaches overlook special teams, and in big games, that neglect often shows up at inopportune moments.


What's the name for the penalty when one player grabs another?

Holding is when one player unfairly grabs another player, often pushing or pulling him to the ground. Holding often results in a 10-yard penalty.


What's the name for a backward pass?

Unlike a forward pass, a lateral is a backward pass, and if the receiving player drops the ball, it's considered a fumble.


What's it called when the quarterback purposely throws the ball away to avoid being sacked?

If the quarterback chucks the ball just to avoid a sack, he may be penalized for intentional grounding, a foul that often results in the loss of a down. Coaches slap their foreheads in frustration when intentional grounding is called.


The "nickel" refers to which part of the game?

The nickel defense refers to a popular defensive scheme. In the "nickel," the defensive coach sends in a fifth defensive back in hopes of thwarting the offense's next play.


After a touchdown, what does the offense do?

After a touchdown, which is good for six points, the offense typically executes a PAT (point after touchdown) attempt. But they can also line up and go for two if they prefer.


What's it called when the quarterback changes the play at the line of scrimmage?

Sometimes, the quarterback will spot a vulnerability in the defense (or an imminent blitz), so he's forced to change the play at the line of scrimmage. He'll yell out the new play in an audible.


If defenders chase the quarterback, he may be forced to _____.

When offensive blocking breaks down, the quarterback may be exposed, meaning that he has to scramble. Some quarterbacks are speedy and evasive, meaning they can pick up chunks of yardage when they scramble. Other, lead-footed QBs are ripe targets for charging defenders.


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