Learn the nuances of the game for a more enjoyable Super Bowl Sun …By Olivia Putnal
While Super Bowl parties are a lot of fun- great food, fun commercials and catching up with friends- the big game is still the most important part of the night. But what if your lack of knowledge makes it hard for you to enjoy the sport? You know the essentials, sure, but it's the small details that make football so exciting. From false starts to two-point conversions, make sure you're prepared for this year's Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers with these must-know football facts. Photo by Chabruken / Getty Images
Terms to Know
With so many different terms, it can be hard to keep track of what's going on in a football game. Here are a few of the most important terms to remember.
Safety: If a team is tackled in their own end zone, the other team receives two points.
Two-Point Conversion: Instead of kicking a field goal following a touchdown, a team has the option to "go for two," which means they must score again from the second-yard line for an extra two points.
Sack: When the quarterback is tackled before he throws the ball.
Snap: When the ball is passed between the center's legs to the quarterback, marking the beginning of the play.
Line of Scrimmage: An imaginary line, with defense on one side and offense on the other, indicating where the ball starts the play.
While it's only technically one hour of play, a football game can last from three to four hours because of time-outs, halftime, penalties and commercial breaks. A game is split up into four 15-minute quarters. Halftime is typically 15 minutes, but for big games like the Super Bowl and College National Championships, it can last up to 30 minutes to accommodate the various performances.
Offense, Defense and Special Teams
Football teams are divided into three separate sub-teams: offense, defense and special teams.
Offense: This team's main job is to score. It's composed of the quarterback, who passes or hands off the ball; the center, who snaps the ball; two guards and tackles, who block the defense; two to four wide receivers to catch the ball thrown by the quarterback; one or two running backs to run the ball; and one or two tight ends to help block the defense and catch passes.
Defense: This team's main job is to stop the opposing team from scoring, passing, running and making big plays. It's composed of linebackers, who stop the team from passing and put pressure on the quarterback; defensive ends, who try to get past the offensive line to tackle the quarterback and running back(s); and corners and safeties, who focus on defending against the quarterback's pass.
Special Teams: Includes kickers and only plays during punts, field goals and kickoffs.
Most likely you know about the quarterback, but he's not the only player to keep an eye on. The running back, wide receiver and middle linebackers are also important positions.
Quarterback: In charge of calling the plays in the huddle and passing the ball to another offensive player, keeping the ball to run, or executing a trick play. The quarterback acts as the leader of the offense, taking on much of the responsibility during each game.
Running Back: Also a member of the offense, this player touches the ball almost as much as the quarterback. The running back sets up a strong running game by completing catches from the quarterback and moving the team down the field.
Wide Receiver: The quarterback often throws to wide receivers for long passes or to score a touchdown, completing bigger plays to score points.
Linebackers: Defensive players essential to stopping the other team from both running and passing the ball.
Downs and Distance
Each play of the game is called a "down," and lasts from the second the ball is snapped to when officials signal the end of the play. Each driving offensive team has four downs to move 10 yards. If the team gets 10 yards from the initial line of scrimmage, they get to start over with four more downs. This is the goal and means the team is moving down the field, closer to the end zone to score. If, after four downs, the team hasn't gained 10 yards, then the other team's offense gets the ball. Tip: You can always find a summary of the downs and how far the driving team has to go on the TV screen, where it will say, for example, "3rd and 4," meaning the offensive team is on their third down and has four yards to go to reach 10 yards.
Time-outs give players a chance to hydrate, talk with coaches and regroup physically and mentally, but they're also important strategically. Each team is entitled to three time-outs per half. If they don't use all three, the time-outs won't be carried over to the next half. Generally, teams save their time-outs until the end of each half in case they are trying to score and want to stop the clock. Head coaches also call time-outs to avoid being charged with a penalty or to challenge a call by the officials. If the team loses the challenge, however, they also lose one time-out. Tip: Fox will be broadcasting this year's Super Bowl and will most likely display time-outs beside each team's score.
When officials on the field throw a yellow flag, this signals a penalty. Make sure you're familiar with some of the common penalties below.
Pass Interference: When the ball is in the air during a passing play and an offensive or defensive player makes illegal contact with the other team's player before the ball reaches him.
False Start: When an offensive player, after getting into a set position, moves before the ball is snapped.
Holding: When an offensive player illegally blocks a defensive player.
Personal Foul: When a player commits what is deemed "unnecessary roughness" toward a member of the opposing team, such as making a late hit after the play is over or making an illegal play that officials deem particularly flagrant.
Delay of Game: When the offense doesn't begin the play in the allotted amount of time-from 25 to 40 seconds.
Face Mask: When a defensive line member grabs an offensive player by the face mask, usually while attempting to make a tackle.
Off-Sides: When a player travels across the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped.
Unsportsmanlike Conduct: When one or more players commit an illegal act, like taunting or excessively celebrating after a play is complete.