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American Football Rules and Regulations


If here at CFL-MI we’ve attracted the attention of anyone who isn’t aware of the rules of American football, we’ve dedicated this entire page to them so they are aware of how to play.

It’s one of the most intense sports in the world, with such fine margins deciding if a team and/or player is successful.
However, every sport needs certain regulations in place so that the game can be played properly and with no untoward advantages favouring either side.

Let’s break down exactly how to play American football so that you can start throwing touchdown passes in no time!


What is a Team’s Overall Goal in American Football?

The first question that should be cleared up is how to win an American football match. It’s fairly simple – you need to score more points than the other team within the 4-quarter time period. To do this, you need to advance the ball down the pitch from one side to another and handle it within the touchdown zone. You do this by either running with the ball yourself or throwing it to one of your teammates who runs further than yourself.
There are a variety of American football tactics of varying success and complexity, so we won’t be going into too much detail about that here.

Simply, this is how to score points. If you’re team scores a touchdown, then you can add an extra point with a field goal. This is the case of a player kicking the ball from a still position through the posts which are located at both ends of the pitch.
If your team thinks that it won’t be able to reach the end zone for a touchdown before the ball is lost (usually at 4th down, which we’ll get to soon), then you can opt for a field goal early which will result in 3 points if successful.


What is a Down in American Football?

The next crucial aspect to remember when playing American football is downs.

These stipulate how many times a team has been successfully tackled without gaining more than 10 yards. If you are unable to pass 10 yards within 4 downs, then the ball will be lost and given to the other team to attack. However, if a team is ever in danger then the usual tactic is to either go for a field goal (mentioned above) or punt it down field to maximise the distance that the other team must make up.

If the defending team manages to cleanly catch a pass attempt, then play will immediately switch in their favour.


How Long Are American Football Quarters?

Each game is split into four 15-minute quarters.

Each team also has the ability to call for a time-out 3 times during one half. These are usually done for a variety of reasons depending on the situation, but are known to be used for slowing opponent momentum, taking a rest or solidifying tactics. Once the second quarter has finished, the teams will take a 12-minute break before play is resumed.

If scores are equal at the end of the 4th quarter, a 15-minute sudden death will take place.