What He Said : Their Own 20-yard Line

More than likely you’ve heard announcers describe a team’s field position as being on “their own” such-and-such yard line. Which might raise more than a few questions if you aren’t sure which part of the field belongs to which team. Is it their own because of something they did in the game or something they won in the coin toss? Or their own because they’re the team on offense, trying to score?

All valid guesses.

But it’s actually much simpler than you might think. A team’s “own” side of the field is the 50-yards of field directly in front of their end zone. As we learned last week, each team has an end zone, and the one behind them is their end zone. The one in front of them is the opposing team’s end zone. The 50-yards attached to their end zone is their own side of the field, the other 50-yards attached to their opponent’s end zone is the other team’s “territory.”

So in a game between the Bills and the Jets, if the Jets are on the 20-yard line closest to their end zone they are on their own side of the field. If they are on the 20-yard line closest to the Bills’ end zone, they are in Bills territory.

Here’s a terrible visual, as well as a visual representation of why I am learning Photoshop right now. But it should do the trick. (Or blind you all, one or the other.)

football, basics, end zone

So let’s make life easy and pretend we have two teams: the blue team and the red team. The blue side of the field is the 50-yards attached to the blue team’s end zone, or their “own” side of the field. Ditto for the red team. If, as per the title of this post, the blue team was starting at their own 20-yard line, they would be lined up as pictured above. The yellow line across the 20 is the line of scrimmage. The blue team is going to line up facing the red teams end zone because that’s the end zone they are trying to score in. The red team lines up on the opposite side of the line to defend their end zone. They are also trying to force a turnover and score in the blue team’s end zone if possible.

As you can see (if you can still see), the blue team as a lot father to go until they cross over into the red team’s territory. This is the visual to keep in mind when 4th downs come to come. If, hypothetically, the blue team pictured above was facing a 4th and 5, they would only go for it is they were really, really desperate or really, really confident that it would work because if it doesn’t and they don’t get the first down they’d have to turn the ball over to the red team right where they are. That means the red team is already in scoring position, only 20-yards outside of the blue team’s end zone.

Does that make sense?