Fundamentals : The Field

Last week we covered the bare basics of the Who: who’s on the 53-man roster. Today we’ll take a break from personnel and move on to the Where: the field.

File:American Football field (NFL).png

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The field! You’ve seen the field before. No big deal. Let’s just dive into it a little bit more.

Here are the specs you need to know:

120 yards: the total length of the football field, which includes the 100-yard field and two 10-yard end zones

53.3 yards: the total width of the football field

10 yards: the length of each end zone (the goal posts are located at the back of each end zone)

5 yards: the distance between the yard lines across the field

1 yard: the distance between the hash marks

Aside from the numbers, there are a few important things to note about the field:

The Mysterious Yellow Line

You know that mysterious electronic yellow line that seems to follow teams around the field? That line is going to be your new best friend once you two get to know each other. It signifies how much further a team has to go to get a first down. (For the scoop on first downs, check out this post.) Once you understand the down system you’ll automatically know what the situation is for the offense depending on the down and distance and how close or far away they are from the yellow line. It’s a pretty handy tool for watching games on TV.

The Red Zone

The red zone isn’t red. But it is important! The red zone is identified as the 20 yards prior to the end zone. This is a critical area of the field, hence the high-alert title of “red zone,” because the offense is so close to the other teams end zone. When you hear commentators talking about a team nearing “the red zone,” this is the section of the field they are  referring to.

Their “Own” Side of the Field/The Other Team’s “Territory”

A teams “own” side of the field is the 50 yards of field nearest to their end zone. When a team is on this side of the field and doesn’t convert on 3rd down, they are more likely to punt the ball away so that the other team doesn’t get a field position advantage. (To go for it on 4th down on your own side of the field and not convert is practically giving the other team points; you’ll have to turn the ball over on downs and the other team will already be on your side of the field.)

The other team’s “territory” is the 50 yards of field nearest to their end zone. Once you enter their territory, your chance of scoring – either by touchdown or field goal – is much greater. A team is less likely to punt the ball away if they’re inside of the other team’s territory.

A Note On Sides:

Teams don’t have the same end zone for the entire game. You’ll notice that both end zones are painted for the home team, which might be confusing if you are expecting each team to have their own individual end zone. This is because teams switch sides of the field after each quarter, to ensure fairness in playing conditions (weather, condition of the field, fans, etc).

Grass or Turf?

It’s a pretty even split, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. You may have heard the Redskins take some flack for the condition of their field (grass) during the playoffs – and rightfully so. Hopefully, the NFL will intervene a few improvements to regulations before next season begins.

And there it is: the fundamental facts about NFL fields. Aren’t you glad to know more than you ever thought possible about where the game is played? Of course you are!

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