Do you ever sit and watch sports and think, “What the hell is going on?” Do you ever feel left out of a conversation about sports because you don’t understand what’s being talked about?

Learning a new sport is difficult. Even knowing all the words and phrases in a sport you love is also difficult – let’s not even start a conversation about football’s offside rule…

So, as the 2022 NFL season kicks off, we’ve compiled a list of terms and words common in sports parlance that we think you should know.

With these in your arsenal, whether with family, friends or colleagues, you’ll be able to understand what’s going on and impress others – or at least hold your own – with your diverse knowledge of America’s favorite game.

Backfield: This is divided into offensive and defensive sections. The offensive backfield is the area behind the offensive line where the quarterback and running back line up. The defensive backfield is the area behind the defensive line where linebackers and defensive backs line up.

Flash: A defensive tactic in which more than four defenders, sometimes including linebackers or defensive backs who typically do not cross the line of scrimmage, choose to run full tilt toward the opposing quarterback instead of covering the backfield (see above) in an attempt to tackle or take possession of the ball.

Down: The action phase of the game when the ball is active until it is declared dead and play stops. Most downs begin with a snap from the center position, but may begin with kick offs and punts. An offense has four downs or fewer to advance 10 yards from the original position of the ball on first down to earn another first down and retain possession of another potential set of four downs. Teams begin with first down, and each down is subsequently numbered – second, third and fourth. If an offense fails to advance the required 10 yards from the first down position, possession changes to the other team.

End Zone: The area at each end of the field that teams try to reach to score a touchdown. Players must either catch the ball inside or carry the ball into the opponent’s end zone, which measures 10 yards by 53 ⅓ yards.

Extra points: After scoring a touchdown, a team may elect to attempt a kick, equivalent to a 33-year field goal, through the upright goal posts at each end of the field to earn an extra point.

Field goals: A kick from a place kicker that goes through the upright goal posts gives a team three points. It can be attempted at any time during a team’s four downs, but is usually taken when a team is down on its fourth down and does not believe a touchdown is possible. The longest field goal in NFL history was made by Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens in 2021. Tucker successfully converted a 66-yard field goal that bounced off the crossbar and over as time expired to give the Ravens a 19-17 victory against Detroit Lions.

Harrison Butker kicks the game-tying field goal for the Kansas City Chiefs against the Buffalo Bills late in the fourth quarter to send it into overtime in the AFC Divisional game at Arrowhead Stadium on Jan. 23.

Fumble: When a player in control of the football either loses it or the opposing team kicks it loose – and said player is not considered to be already on the ground and controlled by contact. When a player fumbles, either the offense or defense can recover. If the defense recovers, it is considered a turnover.

Wiretapping: When a defensive player catches a forward pass by the offense, usually the quarterback, resulting in a change of possession.

Line of scrimmage: The virtual lines on which the offensive and defensive linemen position themselves. The offensive line extends from sideline to sideline and is marked from the front point of the ball after an official has spotted it. Players cannot pass their respective lines until the ball is snapped.

Offensive Line: The five players designated to protect the quarterback at all costs – especially on the passing game. However, these same guardians open holes for them to run back. Each offensive line has a center who snaps the ball to start a down (see above), two guards, and two tackles—although multiple members of the offense may make up part of the offensive line.

Punishment: If a team or player is deemed to have broken the laws of the game, they will be assessed a penalty. These could come in the form of a yardage penalty or loss of down. When a penalty is awarded, a referee will throw a yellow flag onto the pitch.

Pocket: The area formed around the quarterback by his offensive line to prevent a defender from sacking him.

Red zone: The nickname for the area spanning the last 20 yards an offense must move to score a touchdown—from the defense’s 20-yard line to the goal line.

Dallas QB Tony Romo then leads the Cowboys in the red zone against the Detroit Lions on October 2, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.

Urgent: When a ball is advanced by an offensive player running with the ball in his hands, it is called rushing.

Sack: When a defensive player tackles the quarterback while the ball is in his hands behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of yardage.

Security: If an offensive player is tackled in their own end zone by a defensive player, a safety is awarded and the defensive team earns two points. The same is true if an offensive player runs out of bounds from their own end zone (made famous by Lions QB Dan Orlovsky), or if an offense commits a penalty in their own end zone. After a safety, the game is restarted by a punt from the team that conceded the safety, meaning the team that earned two points also regains the ball.

Snap: The action that begins the game from scrimmage. For a snap to occur, the center—or, in some cases, the long snapper—passes the ball between his legs to the quarterback, punter, or holder. On rare occasions, the center may direct the snap to a running back, wide receiver or tight end.

Special Teams: The 22 players on the field during punts, field goals, extra points and kick offs. Specialist players will appear in each phase, such as specialist players, place kickers and kick-off returners.

Touchdowns: Worth six points, a touchdown is scored if a player carries the ball over the goal line or catches the ball in the opponent’s end zone.

Turnover: A delicious pastry, often filled with fruit fillings – never mind, we’ll leave it at that. When a defensive player gains possession of the ball after the offensive team loses it, often via a fumble or interception.

Two-point conversion: After scoring a touchdown, a team has the option of running a single play from the defense’s two-yard line to earn two points instead of one point via an extra-point kick. The two-point conversion is complete if the ball is carried over the goal line or if it is caught in the end zone, equivalent to scoring a touchdown.

Audible: When a quarterback changes the original play called in the huddle to another at the line of scrimmage.

Intervention: A defensive penalty for when a defensive player before the snap enters the neutral zone – the area that players line up across before the snap.

Grid: The playing field.

Hail Mary: A long pass thrown by a quarterback (most of the time) to a group of receivers in hopes of scoring a touchdown. An act of desperation at the end of matches or halves, it tends to be used by a trailing team as a last gasp attempt to level the scores or win a match. The phrase is a reference to a Catholic prayer, and although it had been used in football parlance since the 1930s, it gained prominence in 1975 when Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach threw a game-winning touchdown pass to wide receiver Drew Pearson, saying afterward . : “I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.”

Hard number: A technique used by quarterbacks by varying their audible snap count, instructing the center when to snap the ball, in an attempt to cause defenders to inadvertently penetrate the neutral zone and therefore advance the offense five yards as a result of a punishment.

Hurry offense: When an offensive team chooses to run multiple plays in a row without gathering to confer. Usually used when time is running out, the goal is to use the least amount of time to run as many plays as possible.

Icing the kicker: The act of calling a timeout just as the opposing team’s kicker is about to take a punt. The tactic is used with the hope of disrupting the kicker’s timing and template process. The theory is that the extra time will put more pressure on the kicker to consider the consequence of the situation.

In the trenches: The line of scrimmage, where the offensive and defensive linemen battle at the snap of the ball.

The line of scrimmage of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Carolina Panthers in the first half at Raymond James Stadium on January 9.

Locker room guy: Not necessarily a player who features in every game, but someone who is vital to the team’s success and who provides moral support on and off the net (see above). Often an older player, the extra experience helps rally teams after defeat or keeps a team focused after a win.

Onside kick: A kick off deliberately taken short in the hope that the kicking team retains possession of the football. Usually used at the end of matches by ambushing teams.

Choose six: An interception (pick) which is returned for a touchdown.

Pork skin: A nickname for the actual football. The nickname is rumored to derive from the story that the first footballs were made from an inflated pig’s bladder encased in a pigskin or similar tough leather. Today they are made of cowhide.

Pooch Kick: When a kicker deliberately chooses not to kick off with full force for the purpose of denying a potential run back from a dangerous returner. The ball often lands short—in and around blockers who rarely touch a ball during the season, let alone a game. Typically used at the end of halves or games, the offensive team concedes yardage in the hopes that it will end a score.

Shotgun: When the quarterback chooses to receive the snap several steps behind center.

Winning Formation: When a team is looking to hold on to a lead and run down the clock, the team’s quarterback will immediately kneel after the snap to run down the clock. Usually used by a winning team at the end of halves or matches.



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