How Well Do You Know Football Slang?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

From “audibles" to “zebras,” American football is filled with lingo and slang used as creative shorthand for every aspect of the game. Some of these terms are pretty easy to figure out — others, like “onside” kick or “PAT” are totally incomprehensible to anyone who doesn’t follow the sport. Do you know your football slang?

Slang isn’t mean to purposely confuse bystanders. Football is a fast-paced game that needs quick explanations, so fans, announcers and players alike all rely on the same lingo to convey the on-field action. So “false starts,” “hot routes,” and “muffed” punts are a part of the game. Do you think you can identify these sometimes weird and wacky terms, like “long snapper” and “pump fake”?

Head coaches and players use their special lingo to plan and execute plays with precision. Sports newbies who listen to a huddle would be completely baffled by the terminology — “snap count” and “weak side” mean nothing to the uninitiated. 

Are you a green rookie with no real concept of the “tuck rule,” or are you a football savant who knows every important term the game has to offer? Take our football slang quiz now and find out if you’re worthy of a head coach position or if you should just stick with cleaning the showers after a big game.

What’s a "Hail Mary"?

When a team is trailing at the end of a half, they’ll sometimes throw long desperation passes in hopes of scoring a TD. Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is the king of the Hail Mary.


Which player often performs a "dropback"?

After a QB takes the snap, he’ll often drop back to pass. A "dropback" may be just three steps, or it may be longer depending on the play that’s been called.


A "chip shot" refers to which aspect of the game?

A "chip shot" is a short kick. It borrows the concept of a short chip shot in the game of golf.


When the defense sends extra players to try and sack the quarterback, it’s called a _____.

Defenses often "blitz" by sending extra players hurtling toward the QB. But doing so may leave them shorthanded in the secondary.


What’s a "shotgun snap"?

QBs often stand a few steps back from the line of scrimmage to receive a long "shotgun snap." This gives them space and visibility to throw, particularly in a fast-paced attack.


What’s an unofficial term for the actual ball used in football?

Because they used to be made from parts of pigs (and similiar materials), the footballs are often called "pigskins." Modern NFL footballs have a rubber bladder covered with pebbled leather.


What does the "red zone" refer to?

The "red zone" is the scoring zone — the 20 yards just before the end zones. Defenses must stiffen in the red zone or risk giving up too many points to opportunistic offenses.


Which unit of a football team might perform the "run and shoot"?

The "run and shoot" is a fast-paced offense that relies heavily on the pass. QBs typically take a shotgun snap and throw as quickly as possible.


If the QB is tackled behind the line of scrimmage, he has taken a _____.

When QBs are tackled behind the line of scrimmage, they are "sacked." Defensive linemen covet the chances to rack up their sack statistics.


What’s a slang term for the football field?

Announcers often called the field a "gridiron," because it really does resemble the cooking appliance of the same name. And at the Dolphins’ stadium in early September, it feels just as hot.


What does it mean if a defensive lineman performs a "bull rush"?

Often, defensive linemen use fancy moves to get around offensive linemen. In a "bull rush," however, they charge straight ahead in a attempt push their man to the ground.


If a team "dinks and dunks," what are they doing?

Many teams resort to "dinking and dunking," or throwing a lot of short passes. They might do this because their QB is terrible at throwing long passes or because the defensive rush is too fast for a longer QB dropback.


If an offensive play falls apart, it is _____.

A "busted" play is an offensive play that falls apart, either due to a lack of execution or due to disruption caused by defenders.


Which player might "spike" the ball?

QBs "spike" the ball to stop the clock. This is a common play at the end of a quarter, giving the offense time to run more plays.


How many defensive backs are there in a "nickel" defensive scheme?

As the name implies, there are five DBs in "nickel" defense. It’s often a good way stifle an offense’s short passing game.


What’s a defining trait of a "no-huddle" offense?

In the "no-huddle" offense, the players don’t huddle to discuss plays. Instead, they quickly line up and execute plays in hopes of catching the defensive out of alignment.


If a QB changes the play at the line of scrimmage, he is performing an _____.

Typically, offenses already have a play planned when they hit the line of scrimmage. But the QB can "audible," or shout out, a new play if he sees a weakness in the defense’s lineup.


What happens during a "scoop and score"?

Defenders "scoop" up fumbles, and with luck, take them all the way back for TDs. It’s a "scoop and score."


Aggressive, risk-taking QBs are often called ______.

In true American fashion, QBs who take risks by throwing aggressive passes are often called gunslingers. Guys like Brett Favre are gunslingers. Alex Smith is not.


What happens on "Black Monday"?

Black Monday is the day after final regular season game — it’s the day when many coaches (other club execs) lose their jobs following an unsucessful campaign.


If a team is creating a "max protect," what are they doing?

In a "max protect" scheme, backs and tight ends stay behind the line of scrimmage to provide maximum protection for the QB. This scheme is often used during obvious blitzing situations.


How do opposing teams "ice" a kicker before an important field goal attempt?

Before game-altering field goal attempts, many coaches will try to "ice" a kicker by calling a timeout. The idea is to make him feel the pressure of the situation ... and then miss the kick.


Why would a QB perform a "hot read"?

When QBs realize a blitz is coming, they often do a "hot read," giving up on intended receivers and instead passing to players running shorter routes.


An intentional short punt is called a ______ punt.

A "pooch" punt is a short punt. The pooch punt comes in handy on a short field or when the punter is trying to keep the ball away from a dangerous return man.


Which players love the "coffin corner"?

The "coffin corner" is the corner of the field near the end zone and the sideline. Punters aim there knowing that kick returners won’t have much room to maneuever.


What’s the "gunner’s" job?

A gunner is a special teams player who races down field during kicks. His job is to tackle the kick returner as quickly as possible.


Which term refers to a dangerous type of tackle?

When tacklers grab ball carriers by the neck from behind, it’s called a "horse collar" tackle. The tackle is banned because it often causes injuries.


In a "flea flicker," the QB hands off the ball to a RB ... and then what a happens?

The flea flicker is a trick play. The QB hands off the ball to a RB, who then tosses the ball back to the QB. Then, the QB usually throws long, far over the heads of defenders who were closing into stop a supposed run.


Your friend thinks he can call plays better than the head coach. He is _____.

Everyone thinks they know a better game plan than the coach. They are the "armchair quarterbacks," the guys who call the plays from the comfort of their couches.


The "wildcat" is used by which unit of a football team?

In recent years, some pro and college teams have used the "wildcat" offensive set. The QB lines up as a WR ... and the WR or RB will take the snap to start the play.


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