Super Bowl: NFL rules explained for beginners

Don't know what a touchdown is? You've come to the right place...


Righto, chances are that you’re reading this because you don’t know the first thing about the NFL rules and you’re going to watch the Super Bowl.

You really can’t be blamed as the rules and regs of gridiron are about as complex and confusing as instructions to build an Ikea wardrobe. Keep it simple, lads!

The fact that American television channels sometimes have an expert on hand – think Peter Walton sitting in his little booth – to explain what’s going on just shows that even football fans can be left baffled.

But before you start to panic, we’re on hand with our NFL rules for dummies guide to get you in the know.

How long is an NFL game?

Despite NFL games feeling like they go on forever, they are in fact just one-hour long but split into four quarters of 15 minutes each. The reason why they drag on is because the clock stops when the ball is not in play!

If the two teams are drawing by the end of 60 minutes then 10 minutes of overtime are contested.

How many players are on the pitch in an NFL game?

There are a total of 22 players on the field – 11 for each team – at any one time during an NFL game.

You will typically see a team’s offense against the other team’s defense, although special teams take over for field goals and kick-offs.

What is the aim of the game?

The objective of gridiron is to outscore the opposition by getting the ball into their end zone.

How do they do that? Well, the offensive team receives four attempts – called downs – to get the ball at least 10 yards up the field, normally through the quarterback completing a pass or handing it off to a runner.

If they are successful then the downs are reset but if they fail to make 10 yards then possession is given to the opposition.

How many points is a touchdown worth?

A touchdown is scored when the ball is carried into or caught in the end zone. That is worth a cool six points.

After a touchdown, the scoring team can attempt to kick a field goal for an extra point or score another touchdown from the two-yard marker for two points.

A regular field goal scored during a series of downs is worth three points. Teams can also bag two points with a safety, which is when the offense commits a foul in their own end zone or if the ball carrier is tackled in their own end zone.

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