closeup photo of football players

Rules Of American Football

closeup photo of football playersBasic Rules of American Football

For beginners, American football may appear to be quite complicated. However, it is very easy to follow and understand the game’s fundamentals. This guide covers the basic rules of American football, including the scoring methods and flow of play.

Ryan at said this guide will provide you with enough information to allow you to enjoy watching American football or even playing the game while you are gaining a more in-depth knowledge of the game.

The game

Regular play involves two teams with 11 players each on the field (one team on offense and the other one on defense). The teams compete for four quarters of 15 minutes each.

Usually, there are three time-outs for each team per half, with a 12-minute half-time as well.

The goal of the game is moving the football into the end zone of the opposing team, by either passing the ball to a member of the team downfield or running with the football until tackled, in the direction of the end zone.

Although there are just 11 players on each team on the football field at one time, there are actually 45 players in total on a team. The quarterback is the key player who tries to dictate the play on the field.


One aspect of the game that confuses many newcomers are the downs. Actually, they are fairly straightforward. The following is the rule in a nutshell:

The team that is in the possession of the ball (offense) must move the football forward by 10 yards at last while they are on offense. That is why there are yardage lines clearly marked on the field. The offense has four downs or chances to gain 10 yards. If they are able to advance the football at least that far, then the count is reset and the offense will earn another four downs to attempt to move another 10 yards.

If the offense is unable to move 10 yards in four downs, then the defensive team will be given possession and get their chance to go on offense. Usually, teams will try to kick the ball downfield to the defense or try for a field goal on fourth down to attempt to earn some points before losing possession of the football.

American football scoring

In American football, the ultimate goal is similar to most other sports – to score more points than the other team. The following is how scoring works in the game:

Touchdown (6 Points)

To score a touchdown, a team must cross the goal line of the opposing team with the football, or catch the ball or carry it into the end zone.

Field Goal (3 Points)

Usually, a team will try to kick a field goal on fourth down when they are close enough to kick the ball through the middle of the upright posts to score 3 points.

Extra Point (1 Or 2 Points)

To earn one extra point, a team must kick the football through the uprights following a touchdown (similar to conversions in rugby). To earn two points, the ball must be taken into the end zone once again. However, since that is harder to do most teams try for 1 point by kicking the ball through the uprights.

Safety (2 Points)

Two points can be earned by the defensive team if they are able to tackle an offensive member who has the football inside their end zone.

Hopefully, this guide has provided you with the necessary information to understand the game. Like other sports, there are many other rules and elements involved in the game of football in addition to the ones we have outlined here. However, by understanding the game’s scoring and flow, it should help you understand and enjoy the game as you continue to add to your knowledge.