How Well Do You Know NFL Lingo?


By: Beth Hendricks

6 Min Quiz

Image: Wiki Commons by Keith Allison

About This Quiz

If you've never watched an NFL game, brace yourself: It can sound like an entirely different language. From the opening coin toss where one team takes possession to the two-minute warning, the game can seem like a well-choreographed dance, one in which you don't know any of the steps! And, let's not forget overtime and all of its extra rules and terms. 

When a team's on offense, there are things like the backfield, false starts and draw plays to consider. Flip sides of the field and the lingo doesn't get any simpler: encroachment, dime backs and bump-and-run coverage. If that doesn't intimidate you, how about the verbiage for the field itself: hash marks, pylons and the line of scrimmage. Doesn't it sound like the National Football League is a world all its own?

Now, it's time for you to enter this world and see how good you are at deciphering the NFL's language. Do you know a first down from a fair catch? What about the difference between holding and a hash mark? Test your football jargon and see if you're the GOAT or a bust! (In the football world, that means you're either the "Greatest Of All Time" or you failed to live up to expectations. Now ... hut hut! (That means start playing!)

When you just can't get enough of an NFL game and the score is tied at the end of regulation, this is where you head. What is it called?

Overtime starts in an NFL game when both teams are tied at the end of four quarters of play. The winner of the overtime coin toss can win the game with a touchdown. If they score a field goal, the other team gets an opportunity to score as well.


Watch out! If your quarterback stays here too long, he might get an unwelcome greeting from the defense. What is this area called?

Quarterbacks typically stand "in the pocket" when they are looking for a receiver to throw to. These pockets are created by the offensive linemen, to give him a safe space to throw from before defenders sniff it out.


The leaders on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball are responsible for relaying what type of codes to the rest of their teammates?

Signals come from both the offensive and defensive leaders on the field, but we most frequently associate them with the quarterback, who delivers the signals for the next play in the huddle.


Some quarterbacks are better at this than others. When a pocket collapses and he has to take off, what is it called?

Quarterbacks may have to scramble, or take off running, if a pocket collapses or he isn't able to find a receiver downfield. If a quarterback doesn't scramble, he will likely be brought down in the backfield.


Get to the quarterback too late, and the officials might charge you with this football "crime." What is this penalty called?

Roughing, or roughing the passer as it is sometimes known, involves getting to the quarterback after he has released the ball. This incident typically results in a 15-yard penalty against the defense.


Ready ... set ... hut! What's the term the quarterback uses to indicate that he's ready to receive the ball?

The ball is snapped from the center to the quarterback on his command, signaling the start of the play. A long "snapper" may also snap a ball to the holder when instructed to do so.


What are the marks that run the length of the field, marking the turf in one-yard increments, called?

Hashmarks mark an entire football field off in one-yard increments, from one end zone to the other. They're not just for decoration, however; game officials use these to help determine ball placement.


If a defender wants to try to disrupt the quarterback, he might opt for the tactic known as what?

A blitz occurs when one or more defenders rush to the quarterback instead of dropping back into their respective defensive roles. This type of play is used to disrupt the offense or force the quarterback to pass before he's ready.


It's not as morbid as it sounds--what is the term used for a football when it's not in play?

A dead ball is what a football is called when it's not in play, such as when there is a timeout, between downs on a drive or when play has been stopped. This prevents anyone from grabbing it and attempting to score.


Which of these occurs twice a game, to warn the teams about the amount of time remaining?

The two-minute warning occurs at the end of the first half and again near the conclusion of the game, to warn teams that only two minutes of play remain. This prompts a time-out, of sorts, and typically commercials for those of us watching at home.


No relation to Switzerland, but this area of the football field is found at the line of scrimmage. What is its name?

The neutral zone is a virtual area at the line of scrimmage where no players are allowed to be until the ball is snapped. Encroach on the neutral zone before the snap and you'll earn your team a penalty.


A simple term that means a lot of things in a lot of different scenarios--in football, it represents where the ball should be placed. What is it called?

The "spot" is the place on the field where officials have determined that the ball should be placed. This sometimes involves using the chain crew to clarify a particularly important spot or to clarify placement.


Whether you're on offense or defense, you get 11 players. If you want to bring in a different player, what is this called?

Just like in basketball, teams are allowed to make substitutions in the NFL, replacing one of 11 players on the field with another player. They have a limited period of time in which to do this before the ball is snapped.


A relatively new NFL term, what penalty is assessed if a player lowers his head and makes contact with a player helmet-first?

Targeting was added as a penalty in the NFL in recent years. It is called when a player lowers his head and proceeds to initiate a tackle helmet-first. The league says this helps prevent unnecessary injuries.


It's something no team wants. What is it called when a team forces a fumble or an interception?

A turnover occurs when the defense is able to steal the ball away from the offense, either in the form of a ball that has been fumbled and recovered or a pass that has been intercepted.


This type of offense is designed to encourage players to move more quickly, reducing the gaps between plays. What's its name?

The hurry-up offense may be run when an offense is attempting to throw a defense off its game or tire them out more quickly, since there is less time between each play. Quarterbacks will lead this more fast-paced offense.


A quarterback doesn't always have to throw the ball down the field. He may opt for this pass version instead. Which of these fits the bill?

A lateral pass occurs when a quarterback throws the ball parallel to where he's standing or behind him to a waiting player. This is a less common type of pass in the NFL, but it does occur from time to time.


If your team isn't successful on the first, second or third of these, on the fourth they'll likely have to punt. Which of these is it?

A "down" in football represents four attempts a team has to advance the ball 10 yards before having to relinquish it. Typically, a team will try to pick up those yards in the first, second and third downs, and then may punt on the fourth (if they can't score).


Rob Gronkowski was one. What is the name for this offensive player, who can be an extra blocker or a pass receiver?

A tight end is an important role on many offenses, being able to serve in a multitude of roles including as an extra tackler on the end of the offensive line or a receiver down the field.


This crew is made up of eight workers who are connected not at the hip, but by posts 10 yards apart. Which crew does this describe?

The chain crew utilizes eight workers--employees of the home football team--who are connected by a chain with two posts 10 yards apart. The chain crew is responsible for helping determine where the ball should be placed.


This isn't a quiz about Tiger Woods, but you may hear this common golf term used in a football game when a short field goal is kicked. Which term plays double duty?

A chip shot field goal in the NFL simply refers to a short field goal attempt being made by a team. You may be familiar with the term, as it's also used in golf to refer to a short golf shot, usually onto the green.


The goal of every player on defense, this play is a combo of an interaction and a touchdown. What is it called on the field?

The term "pick-six" is used to describe a play when a player on the defensive side of the ball is able to intercept the quarterback and also run the interception back for a touchdown.


If your team gets here, you might yell, jump up and down and share high fives. If the other team does, well ... Which zone are we referencing?

The end zone is the ultimate destination for any football team, giving them the opportunity to add six points to the scoreboard and extend a lead--or catch up to the other team.


It might sound like something you see on a safari, but this style of offense allows the ball to be snapped to the quarterback or the running back. What is its name?

The wildcat offense has grown in popularity over the years. It may be used in one or more plays on the offensive side of the ball to throw the defense off, since it can deliver the ball to the QB or directly to the running back.


Shoulder, thigh and knee: Which of these does the NFL require be worn under NFL players' uniforms?

Pads are designed to protect sensitive areas of the NFL players' bodies, including knees, thighs and the upper body area. There is still a lot of controversy regarding how protective these pads are.


You'll see this boo-boo happen mostly on punts and kick-offs, when a player unsuccessfully attempts to gain possession of the ball. What is it?

Often called a "muffed punt," it is actually the interaction between the player trying to receive the ball and the ball that is "muffed." That means the player was unsuccessful in trying to gain possession of the ball.


You can't miss these bright sticks ... and hopefully, your team's ball carrier won't miss them either! What are they called?

Pylons mark the four corners of the end zone in a football game. A player is considered to have scored if he has possession of the ball and touches the ball to the marker at the corners of the goal line.


This acronym represents a stat all NFL receivers want to improve upon. In 2018, a 49ers tight end led the league in which of these?

YAC represents Yards After Catch. This stat indicates that a receiver is adept at making moves down the field to help secure more yardage after receiving the ball from the quarterback.


Throwing or running--before your team can score, this is where you need them to wind up. Where is it?

The downfield is the space between where the play begins and the ultimate destination where they can earn points. This is the space in which an offense must operate in order to score.


What is the type of kick called that requires no long snapper, but utilizes a holder or a tee?

A place kick occurs when the ball is technically on the ground, as opposed to being snapped from another player. This is the type of kick you'll see to start the game or after a team scores.


What feat is accomplished when your team earns two points and gets the ball back?

A safety is a play that can earn a defense two points if they are able to tackle the offensive ball carrier behind his own goal line. A safety earned by the defense also returns the ball to the scoring team.


This is a no-no! What penalty is called when a defensive player jumps into the neutral zone before the snap?

Encroachment is what happens when a defensive player enters the neutral zone between the two teams before the ball has been snapped. Officials call this as a penalty and the play is blown dead.


This position player spends a lot of time on the sidelines. Which player will you see when he trots onto the field for kick attempts?

The long snapper sends the ball backward (and between his legs!) to the holder on kick attempts. This means you'll see him when your team is kicking an extra point or a field goal, or if you're punting to the other team.


Don't touch that! What will the officials rule if you cross the wrong line or touch anything outside that line?

Players are considered out of bounds if they touch a boundary line (such as on the sidelines). This signals the end of the play and teams reset for the next run or pass attempt.


This guy has a lot of on-field responsibility, including keeping his eye on the line of scrimmage and directing the chain crew. Who performs these tasks?

The down judge is part of the officiating crew, which includes some of the other positions that were listed as answer options. Specifically, this role watches the line of scrimmage and guides the chain crew. You can find him or her on the field opposite the press box.


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