The 12 Posts of Playoffs : 4 Quarters

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Here’s an easy but essential lesson in how football works.

Games consist of four 15-minute quarters. The 12-minute break in the middle of the game is called halftime (during the Super Bowl, it’s way longer, and it’s called Over the Top Entertainment). There are also two 2-minute breaks that occur at the end of the first and third quarters to allow the players time to switch ends of the field (remember this post about end zones?).

After the sides have rotated at the end of the first and third quarter play resumes as normal – the offense just picks up where they left off but on the opposite end of the field. However, the same is not true after the 2nd and fourth quarters. The end of the second quarter signals the end of the first half of football. After halftime, the team that did not kick off to start the game kicks off a whole new drive. It’s now the third quarter, the start of a new half. It doesn’t matter if you were a yard away from the end zone when time ran out before halftime: you’re out of luck! It’s a brand new half of football.

And, of course, after the 4th quarter the game is over, unless the game ends in a tie and goes into overtime.

Otherwise known as free football.

In overtime, if the team that possesses the ball first scores a touchdown on their first drive, they win. If they score a field goal, the other team gets the ball and has a chance to score. If they don’t, the first team wins. If they score a touchdown, they win. If they also score a field goal, the overtime period continues. If the first team doesn’t score at all on it’s first drive, the first team to score any points at all wins. During the regular season, overtime is one 15-minute quarter in which each team receives two timeouts and no challenges. During the playoffs, overtime will extend into as many quarters as needed until there is a winner.

The 12 Posts of Playoffs : 5 Offensive Linemen

football, basics, playoffs, linemen


The offensive linemen are probably the most important and least appreciated group of players on the field. They are absolutely essential to everything that happens on offense! Without a solid offensive line, a team will have a hard time getting any points on the board.


We’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s show you who these guys are and where they line up on the field.

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Ok, so the offense is on the bottom portion of this graphic, and the orange circles are the offensive linemen.

The offensive line is composed of five players:

The Center (C) is the guy who snaps the ball to the quarterback. He is found in the center (see what they did there?) of the five man offensive line. It’s important to know who the center is because he handles the ball on every play and is usually a key to the whole offensive system. He has to communicate flawlessly with the quarterback so he can communicate play calls and alterations with the rest of the offensive line.

The Left Guard (LG) is the guy who – you guessed it – is to the immediate left of the center. He is usually a good run blocker.

The Left Tackle (LT) is the guy next to the left guard. This is the player who protects the quarterback’s “blind side” – the side his back is toward – if he’s a right-handed passer. The left tackle is extremely important if you want your quarterback to be standing upright for the majority of the game.

The Right Guard (RG) is the guy to the right of the center – and just as a side note, I usually remember guards and tackles positions by remembering that they progress alphabetically from inside out: center > guards > tackles. He has a similar job description to the left guard, a combination of agility and run blocking.

The Right Tackle (RT) is the guy next to the right guard. He is usually another run blocker.

Collectively, these five players form the offensive line. Why are they so important? And what does it have to do with scoring?

First, they protect the quarterback. If there wasn’t an offensive line, the quarterback would be steamrolled every time he touched the ball. There would be no protection, no time for wide receivers to run down the field, no time for the quarterback to make reads and throw passes for touchdowns.

Second, the offensive line also plays a huge role in the running game. Remember how we talked about holes? The spaces in the offensive line where running backs run through? The offensive line opens up those holes as “running lanes” for running back to go through. Without lanes to go through, the running game would be a lot less effective. No running game means no run yardage gained, which means new downs will be a whole lot harder to come by.

For guys who don’t get a lot of credit, the offensive line sure does a lot on the field.

The 12 Posts of Playoffs : 6 Points Per Touchdown

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Here is possibly the biggest football misconception in existence: touchdowns are worth 7 points.

In a true or false test, that would be false. Because it is.

Touchdowns are worth 6 points!

Here’s the deal: when a touchdown is scored, the team that scored the touchdown gets another play to tack more points on to the touchdown. Most choose to kick an extra point, a kicking play kicked from the 2-yard line. Almost always, it’s a sure bet because a kick at the distance is a chip shot for an NFL kicker. Thus, most teams earn 7 points from most touchdowns.

But there is another option for scoring after touchdowns. The scoring team can opt to try a 2-point conversion. Instead of kicking an extra point from the 2-yard line, they can try to get the football into the end zone (by running or passing – just like a touchdown) from the 2-yard line. If they do, they earn 2 points, and in that case, the entire touchdown transaction would be worth 8 points.

But a touchdown in and of itself? That’s always worth 6 points.

How is a touchdown scored in the first place? Good question!

touchdown is scored when one team gets the football into the other team’s end zone. If the football is entering the end zone by a running player, the football has to cross the goal line and be inside of the pylons to count as a touchdown.

(Goal Line? Pylon? Say what? Check out this post.)

If the football is being caught in the end zone by a receiver, the receiver must have two feet down in-bounds and have full control of the ball for it to count as a touchdown.

There are other ways to score, but the touchdown is the king of them all.

The 12 Posts of Playoffs : 7 Hole

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I hope you guys didn’t have plans to do anything other than learn football, because apparently I decided to hit you with all of the hard stuff this week. But you are going to rock this weekend’s playoff games with all of this new info, so there’s that.

Ok! So, 7-hole. As per usual, it sounds like something it’s not. Golf, in this case.

In Monday’s post we referenced gaps, and today we’re going to talk about a similar concept: holes. Here’s the thing:

To prevent both offensive and defensive play calling from turning into “Hey, I’m going over there and you go over there!” football has a system of naming spaces in the offensive line. Defensive players identify space with letters called gaps. Offensive players identify spaces with numbers called holes. As with techniques, the value increases from inside to outside.

So in Monday’s post about defensive techniques, we described players as being responsible for “shooting the B gap” or “blocking the A gap.” That just means they are responsible for that specific space on the offensive line. It looks something like this:

football, basics, gaps

On offense, the gaps are numbered, not lettered. Like this:

football, basics, holes

What do those numbers mean?

The number of the hole tells the running back where to go when the play is called. Even numbers are always on the right, odd numbers are always on the left, and both increase as they move from inside to outside. Identifying the hole in the play call lets all of the other offensive players know where the play is going and therefore the area they are responsible for blocking.

So, as per this post, let’s say a running play was called and it was called to go through the 7-hole. The running back would take the handoff and go to the outside left, probably receiving blocking help from the tight end and left side of the offensive line.

Make sense?

For much, much more on all things gaps and holes, check out this post.

The 12 Posts of Playoffs : 8 in the Box

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Since we conquered the world of techniques in yesterday’s post, we’re going to leap right into another slightly-more-than-basic concept today: having “8 in the box.”

It sounds like the start of a good nursery rhyme.

Here’s what it actually means:

“The box” is the defensive area directly across from the offensive line (the 5 man line consisting of the Left TackleLeft GuardCenterRight Guard, and Right Tackle). It’s the space occupied by the defensive line and the linebackers, or the dark blue and light purple areas of this visual:

defense, zones, football

Usually, there are 7 players in the box. Depending on the defensive formation a team is running, those 7 players consist of either 3 defensive linemen and 4 linebackers or 4 defensive linemen and 3 linebackers (learn more about  4-3 and the 3-4 defenses here).

When a defense is anticipating a running play and wants extra protection up front, they’ll put “8 in the box” – meaning they’ll add another player up front to help guard against a running play. They’ll also bring another player up front if they want to blitz the quarterback.

Who is the extra player? More often than not, it’s the strong safety (the safety who is playing on the same side of the field as the tight end). He’ll come down from his usual position upfield where he defends against the pass and will “shake down” into the box instead. This gives the defense the advantage of having an extra man in coverage near the line of scrimmage.

It can backfire if the offense decides to pass instead of run or if the quarterback gets a pass off before the blitz arrives. The defense now has one less defender upfield in pass protection, which makes it much easier for the offense to find an open receiver.

9-techniques and 8 in the box. Done and done. You guys are pros.

The 12 Posts of Playoffs : 9-technique

football, basics, playoffs, technique

Ok, so we’re diving a little bit deeper into the football world today, but I know you can handle it!

A 9-technique is a defensive technique. Which begs the question, what is a defensive technique?

A defensive technique probably sounds like it’s describing a specific aspect of a defender’s play, like he has a trick move that he whips out on blitzes or something. But techniques actually refer to a defender’s stance when he lines up on the defensive line.

We’ll back this truck up for a minute to remember that the defensive linemen are the players lined up directly across from the offensive linemen. The defensive line consists of defensive tackles and defensive ends.


basic, football, offense, defense

(To clarify, the defensive line is in light green. The darker green squares labeled CB are cornerbacks; they are part of the secondary. If your brain feels like it’s in a blender, feel free to read this post all about defense.)

Ok, so for the players on the defensive line, each guy lines up in a specific “technique.” You’ll hear this terminology used quite a bit when draft time comes to call – analysts will be talking about a player as “a great 3-technique,” and so on and so forth. The technique describes his location on the line and what his primary responsibilities are.

In general, techniques are identified by numbers, starting with zero, and increase from inside to outside (almost always – this is still football, after all).

It looks like this:

football, fundamentals, technique

image by Pro Football Focus

There is an alternative system of numbering these techniques created by the legendary Bear Bryant, but it’s not quite as straightforward as this one. We’re going to stick to this method today, but feel free to read about both methods in this post all about techniques.

Ok, so the white line that crosses the field is the line of scrimmage. The circles on top of the line are the offensive line (plus one tight end on each side just to show how the numbers work when a tight end lines up with the O-line). The numbers on the bottom of the line indicate the “technique” of the player who would be standing in that position.

Stay with me, here.

So if a defensive linemen, usually a nose tackle, is lined up directly across from the center, he’s playing 0-technique. If a defensive tackle is lined up to the outside should of an offensive guard (labeled RG or LG), he’s playing 3-technique. If he’s lined up to the inside shoulder, he’s playing 1-technique. Directly over? 2-technique.

As per our post, the 9-technique would be lined up where?

If you guessed the outside shoulder of the tight end, you are correct!

Now the question is: who goes where? What type of player fits the mold for each technique? Let’s consider that in terms of odd-numbered techniques (except for zero), the ones most frequently used to describe defensive linemen:

0-technique: usually the biggest guy of the bunch. He’s traditionally (but not always) responsible for blocking the center and defending both A gaps*, so he’s got to be large enough to take up a lot of space on the field.

1-technique: similar physique and job description as the 0-technique, but he usually defends one gap (the A gap), not two, and should command attention from both the center and the guard.

3-technique: the lineman aligned in this position is poised for disruption. It’s his job to shoot the B gap and get into the backfield to disrupt any running or passing plays. As per Pro Football Focus (which is a must read for more information about these techniques – or about anything football, for that matter): “Unlike the first two tackle positions, the 3-technique relies far more on speed and agility than brute strength.”

5-technique: this alignment is designed to block the B and C gaps, not so much through size, but through length. The 5-technique player is usually large, but also tall.

7-technique: it’s all about setting the edge and stopping the run for the 7-technique player. In the case of a passing play, the lineman in this position should also be able to elude the tight end and the tackle and get into the backfield to disrupt a passing play.

9-technique: these are the speed rushers; the guys who are going to fly off the defensive line and into the backfield to rush the quarterback.

*Gaps? What? Read this post

So…that’s a lot to swallow, but does it kind of make sense? Questions, comments, and snide remarks welcomed below!