Did you know that all progress on a football field hinges on advancing 10 yards at a time?
It’s time to talk about everyone’s favorite aspect of football…the down system!!!
If the phrase “first down” makes you twitch a little bit because you have no idea what it means or why it pertains to football, this post should help.
Once the offense starts their drive, they have four chances, called “downs,” to move the ball 10 yards from where they started (this place is called “the line of scrimmage”). Each play is then calculated by what chance (down) the offense is on and how many yards they have left until they reach 10 yards total. Once they reach or exceed the 10 yards in one set of downs, they get a new set – four more chances to move the ball 10 more yards.
This is the reason why 10 yards is the distance that makes the football world go round.
Here’s an example. Let’s say the offense is starting their drive on their own 20 yard line. The offense needs to reach or exceed the 30 yard line, which means they’ve gained at least 10 yards total from where they began (at the 20 yard line), over the course of the next 4 downs to receive a new set of downs and therefore another opportunity to score. You will know how far the offense needs to go to gain a new set of downs thanks to the magic of technology: they need to reach or exceed the bright yellow electronic line on the field, which indicates how far the offense has to go to get a first down.
The first play is called “1st and 10,” because it’s the offense’s first down (chance) and they still have 10 yards to go to get a new set of downs. Every play after that is calculated by what down it is and how much further the team has to go to reach 10 yards total. So if on the first play (1st and 10) a team gained 3 yards, then next play would be 2nd and 7 – it’s the second down, and they still have 7 yards to go to reach the first down marker.
Got it? If you need any extra help and lots of other examples, check out the Basics of Offense post.