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American football is one of the most popular and exciting sports in the world, but it’s also one of the most complex and challenging.

So much so that, for those who switch on the television and try to follow an NFL match without any kind of background, the game can seem impossible to understand. But believe it or not: there’s a logic behind it all.

In this complete and up-to-date guide, we’ll explore everything about this fascinating sport, including its history, rules, fundamentals and player positions.

By reading to the end, we’re sure you’ll understand the basics of American football and won’t get lost in the broadcasts.

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What is American football?

American football is a team sport known for its combination of physical strength, tactical strategy and speed. The game is played between two teams of 11 athletes on a 120-yard-long pitch.

The aim is to score points using combinations of moves. At the end of the match, the team with the highest score is declared the winner.

Points can be scored in two different ways: by entering the opponent’s scoring zone with the ball (through the hands) or by hitting it between the opponent’s posts (through kicks).

The sport is known for its strategic complexity, as teams need to execute a variety of offensive and defensive moves in order to score points and, at the same time, avoid opposing attacks.

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The sport is very popular in the United States. It’s no wonder that the American league (NFL) is the most famous in the world.

Its grand final, also known as the Super Bowl, is one of the most important sporting events of the season. The game involves huge audiences, millionaire sponsors and musical shows during half-time.

History of American football

história do futebol americano
History of American football

American football is a variant of traditional football and rugby, sports that emerged in England in the mid-19th century.

These two sports arrived in the United States via the British, but soon began to be modified with new rules.

At the end of the 1800s, the American people began to create alternative forms of football. The rules and fundamentals varied from region to region, but some branches ended up standing out from the others.

This was the case with the football developed by Walter Camp in the late 1800s, which is precisely the American football we know today.

Camp developed most of the rules that are used in the NFL today. No wonder he’s called the “father of American football”.

At the time, physical educators Eddie Cochems, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Knute Rockne and Glenn “Pop” Warner also played their part in popularising the sport, which was initially played only in schools, colleges and other educational institutions.

American football only became professional in 1920, with the founding of the American Professional Football Association (later renamed the National Football League, NFL).

With championships being played annually – and bringing together teams from different regions of the United States – American football has gone from strength to strength, becoming an unprecedented global phenomenon.

The NFL is the main league on the planet, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other tournaments out there. There are countless other American football competitions around the world, but none as relevant.

American football rules

regras futebol
American football rules
  • Objective | Score points by advancing the ball into the opposing team’s scoring zone (endzone) or by hitting shots between the posts. The team with the most points at the end of regulation time wins the game;
  • Field | The American football pitch has dimensions of 120 yards long by 53.3 yards wide;
  • Game duration | The match is divided into four periods of 15 minutes each. In the event of a tie, there may be extra time;
  • Start of the game | The game begins with a kickoff, where the kicking team tries to send the ball as far as possible into the opponent’s field. Possession is decided on a heads and tails basis;
  • Progression | Each team has four downs (attempts) to advance at least 10 yards with the ball. If the attacking team reaches this mark, it gains four more downs to continue progressing down the field;
  • Possession of the ball | Possession of the ball can be lost through interceptions, fumbles (when the ball is dropped on the ground or in the air) or if the team fails to advance 10 yards in four downs;
  • Scoring | The touchdown is the maximum score in American football. It’s worth six points and happens when the ball is carried into the opposing team’s endzone. After the touchdown, the team can execute a bonus kick, which is worth one point. Finally, there’s the field goal, which is a kick that can be taken in the middle of the game, from anywhere on the pitch. Unlike the bonus kick, it is worth three points;
  • Offences | There are various rules for which penalties can be applied, such as obstruction fouls, pass interference, grabbing an opposing player’s helmet, among others.

American football fundamentals

Positioning is one of the most important fundamentals in American football, as players need to understand and execute their specific roles on the pitch according to their positions.

Blocking is another key fundamental. Attacking players need to block their opponents so that their team-mates can progress with the ball.

In the same way, defenders need to slow down their opponents’ progress by blocking them on the pitch, either by pushing, marking or making tackles. In American football, a tackle is the act of knocking down an opponent.

Passing is also on the list of the sport’s basic fundamentals, but is the exclusive preserve of the quarterback. Using his hands, this type of player has the mission of throwing precise balls to his attacking team-mates.

Offensive players also need to be effective at running. This skill consists of carrying the ball as far as possible with their hands. This is how many touchdowns are scored.

Receiving is also extremely important. It may seem simple, but the act of catching an oval ball in your hands requires a lot of training.

Finally, there’s kicking. This is a one-off skill, trained only by the players in the squad who execute field goals.

American football positions

posições football
American football positions
  • Quarterback (QB) – The quarterback is the player who initiates possession of the ball. He can throw the ball to team-mates, hand it off to a running back or even run with it;
  • Running Back (RB) – Running backs are responsible for running with the ball and gaining yards, using strength, explosiveness and speed;
  • Wide Receiver (WR) – Wide receivers are pass catchers. They move around the field to catch passes from the quarterback. Athletes in this position are often fast and agile;
  • Tight End (TE) – The tight end is a hybrid position that combines blocking and receiving characteristics. They can block the opposition’s ground game and also receive passes;
  • Offensive Line (OL) – The offensive line is made up of players who block opponents to protect the quarterback and clear the way for the running backs. Its main members are the centre, guards and tackles;
  • Defensive Line (DL) – The defensive line is responsible for trying to penetrate the opposing offensive line, put pressure on the quarterback and stop runs. It includes players such as defensive ends and defensive tackles;
  • Linebacker (LB) – Linebackers play behind the defensive line and have responsibilities both in stopping the ground game and in pass coverage. There are different types of linebackers, including middle linebackers, outside linebackers and inside linebackers.

American football equipment

American football players need to wear a range of compulsory equipment, such as helmets. This accessory is used to protect the head from the great physical impacts of the game.

In addition to the helmet, athletes must also wear: shoulder pads, a rib protector, a neck protector, a mouth protector, a thigh protector, knee pads, shin pads, a hip belt, gloves and boots.

All this equipment is necessary to ensure the player’s safety, as American football is an extremely violent sport.

That’s it! Now you know all about American football. Did you like this content? Let us know in the comments! And keep following us for more fresh articles on games, betting and sports 👊

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