A football game is generally played by teams of eleven players (although eight-man football is common in some areas of the country, such as Nebraska, where small towns have difficulty fielding 11-man teams). Players can be substituted on an unlimited basis after the referee's whistle signals the end of a play and before the ball is snapped for the next play.
In playing the game and trying to get the ball further down the field in order to score, here is some basic information that you need to know:
The offense, the team that has possession of the ball, has to advance the ball at least 10 yards within the four chances (or downs). If they are successful, they receive four more downs to advance the ball further.
In trying to advance the ball further down the field, the offense usually hands it off to a runner or throws it to a receiver-both of which is known as "running a play."
A play officially ends when a player with possession of the ball is tackled to the ground; this uses up one of their four downs.
- If a team only has one more down to advance the ball 10 yards, they usually punt it to the ohter teamt. Since the opposing team gets the ball from wherever the ball is lost, punting (kicking) the ball on the fourth down forces the opposing team to start their next offensive series of plays further away from their goal line (unless, of course, the punt returner carries the ball back beyond the place from where the ball was kicked, called the line of scrimmage.