Football Terms

This is an open list of football terms you might here while watching a game or listening to guys talk. Use this to get at least a higher level understanding of what the term means but we have more details in other sections of Flip the Field.

At any time, search using the search box to the right to get more results for the term you are looking for. If you don’t see a term on Flip the Field that you want us to help you understand, please let us know and we’ll add it for you with our unique feminine insight!

BCS – Bowl Champion Series (a.k.a. Bull Crap Series). This is the messed up process of how the winner of the season is decided. Go here for more details.

Blitz – When lots of players (more than the defensive line) are sent to try and tackle the quarterback at the same time. 

Block – Just what it sounds like! It’s a legal move when one player obstructs another player’s path with his body.

Bomb  – Essentially, it is a long pass play. The quarterback throws the ball to a receiver who is as far down the field as the QB can throw it. It has nothing to do with any type of explosive device but if it works, it is an explosive play!

Bootleg – An offensive play when the quarterback fakes a hand-off to a running back, then runs in the opposite direction for a pass or a run of his own. This was one of Melissa’s favorites in flag football!

Box –  Imaging a ‘box’ drawn on the field around all defensive players who are relatively close to the line of scrimmage. The quarterback notices this every time before he takes the snap. If there are too many ‘men in the box’, he may switch from a running play to a passing play or vice versa.

Clock Management – This is an important strategy of the game. The team who holds the lead in the game will want to use as much time as possible. The trailing team will want to conserve time so they might have enough left to score. We’ll cover this more in offensive and defensive strategy sections.

Cover 2 – A bit more complicated term than some but here goes….A zone defensive strategy that separates the deep half of the field into two zones. Each of these deep zones is played by one of the safeties. The four defensive linemen rush the quarterback, while the three linebackers and two cornerbacks separate the part of the field in front of the safeties into five smaller zones. Check the defensive formation section for details.

Cover 3 – A defensive strategy when a team uses 2 cornerbacks and 1 safety to cover the 3 deep zones. Check the defensive formation section for details.

Defense – Can we say its the opposite of the offense? Ok, so that would be annoying. The defense is the group of players on the field who do not start the play with the ball. Their job is to ‘defend’ their end zone and keep the other team from scoring. 

Dimeback – There are typically two cornerbacks on the defense. But if they have 4, the 4th is called a dimeback. This means there are 6 defensive backs on the field. See nickelback for a similar formation and don’t ask us why 5 backs is called a nickelback but 6 is a dimeback?!

Down – There are 4 downs (chances) a team gets to score or move the ball 10 yards or score in order to get another set of 4 downs. We talk more about this in the About Football section.

End Around – A trick play when a wide receiver crosses the backfield towards the opposite end of the line and receives a handoff directly from the quarterback. The receiver can then either run the ball towards the line of scrimmage in order to gain yardage, or attempt to pass to another eligible pass receiver. Check out our way to use the term in everyday life.

Fair Catch – Strategic or Wimpy? You decide. This happens when the guy set to catch and return a punt, signals the intention not to run with the ball by waving his arms before catching it. This means the other team can’t tackle him and the offense starts where he caught it. 

Flea Flicker – An offensive play in which the ball is handed off, sometimes more than once, behind the line of scrimmage, and then thrown as a long pass down field. Melissa’s ‘cousin’, Phil McConkey had a famous one in Super Bowl XXI.

Fourth Down – The last down a team has to move the ball 10 yards from the original line of scrimmage and either score or get a 1st down. 

FBS – Football Bowl Subdivsion – Formerly called Division 1A (aka…all of the good and popular teams!)

Game clock – There are 4 15-minute quarters. The clock stops when a team calls time out, the quarterback throws an incomplete pass, the ball carrier goes out of bounds, there is a penalty, an injury, a team scores, when the ball changes possesion and the offensive gains a first down. Whew!! The game clock rules change some at the two-minute warning at the end of each half too. For example, when players go out-of-bounds the clock will start on the referees signal, not the snap of the ball. However, in the final two minutes of each half, the clock will stop until the snap of the next ball.

Hail Mary – A last ditch effort to score a touchdown on the last play of the game. The quarterback throws a very long pass as far into the end zone as possible.  A great explanation and way to use in everyday life is here.

Interception – If a defensive player catches the ball thrown by the offense, it’s an interception. These can be a real game changer!

Line of Scrimmage –  It is an imaginary line where the offense starts their play. It might be a bit more real than Mr. Snuffleupagus but not much.

Man to Man – Defensive strategy where a defender is assigned a specific offensive player to guard. Maybe it should be called man on man. 

Motion – movement of an offensive player prior to the snap which can be legal or illegal depending on the man and the timing of the motion. It can be used to confuse the defense and to help the offense understand what kind of strategy the defense is using.

Nickelback – A cornerback (the third cornerback on the field) who marks the 5th defensive back on defense. Get it 5: Nickel?

Offense – The team that has the ball and is trying to score. 

Onside Kick – When the offense kicks the ball in a way to prevent the other team from catching it in hopes to recover the ball. This is always exciting to see if it works! It is explained more in the offensive strategy section.

Penalty – Duh! It’s something that is against the rules. If someone commits a penalty, the entire team takes the punishment, just like your mom did when you were a kid and one sibling messed up and all the kids got punished.

Pick – Slang for interception. 

Pick Six – When a defensive player intercepts the ball and runs it back for a touchdown. Just has a nice ring to it.

Play Action – A pass play where the quarterback fakes a handoff to a running back while he is dropping back to pass. 

Play clock – The play clock is a running 40 second clock which begins as soon as each play is whistled dead and is the amount of time the offense has to snap the ball again. It keeps the offense moving along and not wasting time and thus making all of us fall asleep. There are some odd times when the referee will set it to 25 seconds but that’s not really important. If an offense does not snap the ball in time, they are penalized 5 yards.

Playoffs – This doesn’t exist yet, but the college football playoffs will start in 2014. It still won’t be what it should be, but at least it’s a start.

Pooch Kick  (aka – squib kick) – A short, low, line drive kickoff that usually bounces before the receiving team can pick it up. It is designed mostly to not have the really good kick-off return guy to be the one who actually returns the kick.

Possession – This either refers to the number of times or the amount of time an offense has the ball for any number of downs before they either score or lose the possession to the defense. 

Quarterback – The leader of the offensive team and calls the plays in the huddle. Often times, he’s also the cute one. 

Sneak – A quarterback sneak is when the quarterback dives forward while the offensive line surges ahead. This is used in situations when 1-2 yards are needed. It happens very quickly and is all about finding the ‘gap’.

Red Zone – The last 20 yards before the end zone. 

Safety Blitz – A defensive strategy where both safeties rush the quarterback in addition to the defensive line. It can be risky but also might come with a nice reward of driving the offense backwards.

Slot – This has nothing to do with machines in Vegas. It refers to the gap in the line between the outside wide receiver and the tackle. If another receiver is playing there (off the line a bit), they are called the slot receiver.

Tampa 2 – A defensive strategy that became popular in the late 1990s/early 2000s thanks to the NFL team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It is basically a 4-3 defensive lineup which consists of four linemen, three line backers, two cornerback and two safeties. Blah, Blah, Blah. Want more detail? See the defensive formations.

Time Outs – Each team gets 3 time outs per half to stop play for a minute and chat things over amongst themselves. Time outs not
used in the first half may not be carried over into the second half.

Trick Plays – Simply put, a play used to try to trick the opponent. We have a list of some of the best and with descriptions in our trick plays
section.

Wildcat – An offense where the quarterback is replaced by a running back. The running back takes the snap directly from the center. Explained here.

Zone – A defense that primarily protects against the pass where defenders are assigned an area (zone) of the field to guard and not necessarily a specific man (like man to man defense).

More Football Terms:

College Football Penalties

Football Positions Defined

Football Abbreviations

Football Sayings for Everyday Life

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