Football 101 – 04 : Special Teams

Today’s post is all about Special Teams. They’re an underappreciated part of football which all involve kicking in one form or another (it is called ‘foot’ball, after all). There are three different kinds of kick : field goal / extra point, punt, kickoff. There are three different kind of kick ‘defense’ : field goal block, punt return, kickoff return.

EXTRA POINT / FIELD GOAL

Let’s begin with the extra point. After scoring a touchdown (worth 6 points), the team can try for the extra point (also known as either a conversion or a PAT – Point After Touchdown). In order to do that, they’ll line up like this:

C is the Center. He long snaps (throws) the ball between his legs to the Holder.
H is the Holder. He catches the ball and holds it so that it stands with its end on the ground.
K is the Kicker. He kicks the ball in between the posts.
All other players on the offense block the defenders.
The defenders try to get past the offensive line and stop the ball being successfully kicked between the posts.

An extra point is, not surprisingly, worth 1 point.

DECISION TIME

Way back in the first blog of Football 101 I said that an offense has four downs to make their 10 yards. This is true, however a team has other options too. It’s important to know what happens if a team run or pass on 4th down and don’t get enough yards for a new 1st down. In that case, the other team will get the ball (they will get to be on offense) from the spot where the team that failed made it to. This is mostly not a good thing, so often teams will either attempt a field goal (a field goal is just the same as an extra point, except it’s from further away, and is worth 3 points), or they’ll punt the ball away as far as possible. The other team will still get the ball, but hopefully 40 or 50 yards away. Think of it as sacrificing your fourth and final chance to make a new first down, but gaining a whole lot of yards to make it difficult for the other team to score (they might have to go 80 yards to score a touchdown instead of 40, for example).
Here’s a diagram of a punt and punt return (not really to scale) :

C is the Center. He long snaps the ball
P is the Punter. He catches the ball and punts it away as far as possible
PR is the Punt Returner. He catches the punt if possible and tries to return it as far as he can.

KICKOFF

At the start of the first half, second half, or after any score, there is a kickoff. A standard kickoff formation is as follows (again, not really to scale) :

K is the Kicker. He puts the ball on a tee and kicks it away as far as possible.
KR are the Kick Returners. They catch the ball and try to return it as far as possible.

Something to remember is that the offense aren’t the only ones who can score a touchdown. A Punt Returner or Kick Returner can do it too. Once the ball has been caught by the Returner, his teammates try to block for him, while the teammates of the Punter/Kicker try to tackle the Returner. If none of them can tackle the Returner, he can score a touchdown.

Special Teams aren’t easy to explain in a short blog post, and definitely not without actually being able to see them do what they do. They are rather important, as field position is very important in football. Fortunately though, most of football (about 6/7) is offense and defense, and those are things that we have a better grip on!

So next time, we’re going to leave the players alone, and talk about the other people that we need for a good game of football – the coaches and the officials. Until then

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