A rectangular field measuring 120 yards (110 meters) long by 53 1/3 yards (49 meters) wide is used to play American football. The sidelines are the longer boundary lines, and the endlines are the shorter border lines. A goal line is located close to each end of the field, 100 yards apart. The end zone, or scoring area, extends 10 yards past each goal line and finishes at each end line.

Every five yards, yard lines span the field and are numbered from each goal line to the 50-yard line, often known as midfield (similar to a typical rugby league field). Near the centre of the area, two rows of tubes known as inbounds lines or hash marks run parallel to the sidelines. To begin any play, the ball must be on or between the hash markings.

Two-goal posts, also known as uprights, are located at the rear of each end zone and are spaced apart by 18.5 feet (5.6 m) (24 feet (7.3 m) in high school). A crossbar that extends 10 feet (3 meters) above the ground connects the posts.

There are 11 players on the pitch at once for each squad. When there is a play pause, teams may, if time permits, replace any or all of their players. Because of this, every one of the 46 active players on an NFL club will play in practically every game. Players also have highly specialized jobs. The offence, defence, and special teams make up the three central units that makeup teams.

Game length

Four 15-minute quarters make up a regular football game, with a halftime break coming after the second quarter in high school football. The clock stops after specific plays. Thus a game can go on for a lot longer (often more than three hours in real-time). After four quarters of an NFL game, the fifth quarter of up to 15 minutes is played if the score is still tied. The first team to score in overtime of an NFL game wins, even if the opposing team does not have a possession; this is known as sudden death. If no side scores in overtime of an NFL regular-season game, the result is a draw. Additional overtime sessions are played in an NFL playoff game as necessary to decide the winner. Overtime describes the more complex overtime regulations that apply to colleges (sport).

Progressing the ball

The six-tackle rule and play-the-ball in rugby league are analogous to advancing the ball in American football. The team that receives the ball first (the offence) gets four opportunities, or “downs,” to move the ball 10 yards towards their opponent’s end zone (the defence). The offence receives a first down or an additional set of four downs to gain 10 yards once it has gained 10 yards. After four downs, if the offence has not made a first down (10 yards), it forfeits control of the ball.

The ball is always played by a snap, except for the start of halves and following scores. At the line of scrimmage, offensive players line up facing defensive players (the position on the field where the play begins). The quarterback often receives a pass (or “snap”) made by one offensive player, the centre, between his legs.

Next, there are two ways for players to advance the ball:

By rushing, often known as sprinting with the ball. A handoff is when one ball carrier passes the ball to another.

Bypassing the football to a teammate is often referred to as a forward pass. The forward pass is a crucial element that sets American and Canadian football apart from other football sports. Only from behind the line of scrimmage and once every play can make the offensive toss the ball forward. The ball may be pitched, flung, tossed sideways, or tossed backwards at any point. In American football, lateral passes are less prevalent than in rugby union or rugby league, where only backward passes are allowed.

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