What you need to know

January 25, 1998


Audible: A change of plays called by the quarterback at the line of scrimmage.

Blindside: The side opposite from the quarterback's throwing arm, where he has less-than-maximum vision when setting to throw.

Bootleg: A play in which the quarterback carries the hidden ball away from the direction of the play.

Clipping: An illegal block in which an offensive player hits a defensive player from behind.

Crackback block: An illegal block executed by an offensive player positioned more than 2 yards outside an offensive tackle. The intent is to protect defensive players coming across the line from being hit from their blindside in a situation that can cause a serious knee injury.

Down: A play from scrimmage. The offense gets four downs to make 10 or more yards and receive another first down.

Downing the ball: To stop play intentionally by touching a knee to the ground with possession of the ball in your end zone for a touchback.

Drop back: When the quarterback takes the snap and retreats. This creates more distance between the quarterback and the rushers, giving the quarterback more time to throw and the receivers more time to complete their pass routes.

Fumble: To lose control of the ball. A fumble, when recovered by an opposing team, can be advanced.

Handoff: The quarterback giving the ball to another player, usually a running back.

Huddle: A brief team gathering for calling plays and signals.

Lateral: A backward toss or pass.

Man in motion: The action of a running back or receiver who runs behind and parallel to the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped.

Off-tackle run: When a ball carrier heads just to the outside of one of the tackles.

Pancake: When a blocker knocks a defender flat on his back.

Play-action pass: A pass that is thrown after the quarterback has faked a handoff to a running back.

Pocket: A U-shaped area whose boundaries are defined by the interior offensive linemen. In theory, the pocket provides protection for the quarterback, allowing his receivers time to get downfield and him time to find them.

Quarterback sneak: When the quarterback plunges forward with the ball as soon as he receives the snap, following the blocking of his linemen.

Safety valve pass: - A pass thrown as a last resort to a player behind or near the line of scrimmage when all downfield receivers are covered.

Screen pass: A short pass caught behind the line of scrimmage by a receiver who then follows a screen of blockers down the field.

Shotgun: A passing formation in which the quarterback receives the snap 5 or more yards behind the line of scrimmage.

Slot receiver: Any receiver lined up 1 yard behind the line of scrimmage and in between the weak-side tackle (the tackle away from the tight end) and the split end.

Smashmouth football: A term used to describe straight-ahead, power football. A team that wins with power, rather than finesse, plays this.

Spike: To intentionally throw the ball into the ground in celebration or anger.

Strong side: The side of the offense with the tight end, normally the wide side of the field.

Turnover: A change of possession that occurs when an offensive player loses the ball.

Two-minute drill: When the team that possesses the ball tries to get itself into scoring position as quickly as possible by effectively managing the clock.

Weak side: The side of the offense without the tight end, normally the short side of the field.

West Coast offense: An offense that features a three-step drop back from the quarterback, and short routes and crossing patterns by the receivers.


Blitz: A pass rush involving linebackers and/or defensive backs.

Bump-and-run: A type of coverage in which a defensive back hits a receiver as he comes off the line of scrimmage.

Dime defense: In an obvious passing situation, the defense inserts two extra defensive backs and takes out two linebackers.

4-3 defense: The standard defensive alignment with four defensive linemen, three linebackers and four defensive backs.

Goal-line stand: What the defense is said to have made when an offensive team has several downs in which to score a touchdown from close range but is unsuccessful.

Interception: When a defensive player catches a pass intended for an offensive player. This changes team possession.

Man-to-man: A type of defense in which linebackers and defensive backs are each assigned an individual receiver to cover.

Nickel defense: Five defensive backs are put in the game instead of the normal four. Used in obvious passing situations.

Prevent defense: Used on a down in which the offensive team must throw the ball, extra defensive backs play extremely deep to prevent the offense from scoring.

Sack: A play in which the quarterback is tackled behind the line of scrimmage while attempting to pass the ball.

Safety: One of two members of the secondary who lines up between the cornerbacks.

Safety blitz: An unexpected rush by one or two safeties.

Secondary: What a team's defensive backs are collectively known as.

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