How Many Rules In American Football (Well Explained!)

Last Updated on October 15, 2023 by Alex PT

There are 18 rules in the official NFL Rulebook, but each rule is divided into various Sections and many of them are subdivided even further into Articles. The entire thing is available on and is 161 pages long.

How Many Rules In American Football

1. The Game Structure

Each game of American football consists of four 15-minute quarters, separated by a half-time break after the second quarter. The game starts with a coin toss, and the winning team chooses whether to attack or defend first. The primary aim is to score more points than the opponent within the stipulated time.

2. Scoring System

There are several ways to score points:

  • A touchdown, the most significant score, awards the scoring team six points.
  • A field goal grants the team three points.
  • Extra-point attempts, which follow a touchdown, can add either one point (via a kick) or two points (via a play from scrimmage).
  • Safety, which involves downing an opponent in their own end zone, yields two points.
Scoring MethodPoints Awarded
Touchdown6 Points
Field Goal3 Points
Extra Point1 or 2 Points
Safety2 Points

3. The Play Start

Plays start from the line of scrimmage, where the offense tries to advance the football against the defense.

4. Downs System

One of the distinguishing characteristics of American football is its system of downs. The offense is given four downs (or attempts) to advance at least 10 yards. If they succeed, they get a new set of downs; failure to do so results in a turnover to the defending team.

5. Passing and Rushing

The football can be advanced by either passing (throwing) it to a teammate or rushing (running) with it.

6. Penalties

There are numerous penalties in American football, with consequences typically involving loss of down, yardage loss, or automatic first down for the opponent. Common penalties include holding, offside, false start, and pass interference.

7. Safety Measures

To maintain safety, specific rules prohibit certain actions, like hits targeting a player’s head or neck, hits against a defenseless player, and using the crown of the helmet to initiate contact.

8. Overtime Rules

If regular play ends with a tie score, the game moves into overtime. NFL overtime employs a sudden-death system where the first team to score wins the game.

The Object Of The Game

The object of this sport is to score more points than your opponents before the end of the game. And to score more points than your opponents, a team must move the ball down the goal line of the opposing team before eventually taking it into the end zone for a touchdown by either running with the ball or passing it to a teammate. 

Winning The Game

The winner of the game is deemed by the team with the most points at the end of a single game. Overtime will come into play if a regular game is tied, and the two teams will play an additional quarter until a winner is deemed. 

Scoring In American Football

Scoring In American Football

The scoring objective in the game of American football is quite similar to other team sports like soccer and basketball. The ultimate goal is to score more points than the opposing team

Safety (2 Points)

If a defensive team tackles one of the players in the offensive team with the ball in their own end zone, they will be awarded two points. 

Field Goal (3 Points)

If a kicker is in a close position to the end zone where he can kick the ball through between the upright posts, he’ll normally attempt a field goal on the fourth down. 

Extra Point (1 Or 2 Points)

Just like a conversion in rugby, a team will gain an extra point when a kicker kicks the ball through the uprights after a touchdown. However, a team will gain two points when a player takes the ball into the end zone again. But most teams opt to take the one point because it’s more difficult to take the ball into the end zone again. 

Touchdown (6 Points)

When a team crosses the goal line of the opposing team with the ball, a touchdown is scored and it’s normally 6 points. Also, a touchdown is scored when a team catches or collects the ball in the end zone. 

Rules Of American Football

Rules Of American Football

1. A regular American football has four quarters which last 15 minutes each. There’s normally a break between the 1st & 2nd and 3rd & 4th quarters, and this break lasts for only 2 minutes. Also, there’s a sort of halftime rest that lasts for about 15 minutes. 

2. Players are allowed hundreds of different plays to run on any down. Besides, teams make the plays and a team organizes its players to run around the field in a tactical way. The plays are called for the defensive team by the defensive captain while the field plays are called for the attacking team by either the quarterback or the head coach. 

3. To gain 10 or more yards in a match, a team has 4 downs each. A yard can be made by either running with the ball or throwing it. The down then resets immediately after a team gains the required yards. A turnover will be awarded to any team that fails to make the yardage after four downs.

4. The referee tosses the coin at the beginning of every match to decide the side of the pitch they want to start from and the team which receives the ball first, just like it is done in soccer. 

5. As the match kicks off, one team punts the ball downfield for the other team to get it and then runs back with it as quickly and as far as possible.

6. There are normally two options for the offensive team on fourth down, which is either the team try to kick the ball or make up the yards they are short. Kicking the ball can be in two major ways; to try for a field goal directly or to punt. A team’s play is usually influenced by its position on the pitch. It’s common to get a field goal attempt when a team is within 40 yards or so of the opposition’s goalposts. Punting the ball will be the only option if a team is positioned further back. 

Closing Thoughts 

American football has rules and fundamentals that all newcomers should understand before venturing into the game. The most important rule is the down system where an offensive team has to advance the ball at least 10 yards on every four downs or plays. Going through this guide will help you know all you have to understand to triumph in the game.  We’ve reached the closing chapter of this informative article. We hope you were able to find good resources in your quest to know how many rules in American football. If you have any questions or comments about the article topic, don’t hesitate to contact us. Thanks


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