Here’s an easy but essential lesson in how football works.
Games consist of four 15-minute quarters. The 12-minute break in the middle of the game is called halftime (during the Super Bowl, it’s way longer, and it’s called Over the Top Entertainment). There are also two 2-minute breaks that occur at the end of the first and third quarters to allow the players time to switch ends of the field (remember this post about end zones?).
After the sides have rotated at the end of the first and third quarter play resumes as normal – the offense just picks up where they left off but on the opposite end of the field. However, the same is not true after the 2nd and fourth quarters. The end of the second quarter signals the end of the first half of football. After halftime, the team that did not kick off to start the game kicks off a whole new drive. It’s now the third quarter, the start of a new half. It doesn’t matter if you were a yard away from the end zone when time ran out before halftime: you’re out of luck! It’s a brand new half of football.
And, of course, after the 4th quarter the game is over, unless the game ends in a tie and goes into overtime.
Otherwise known as free football.
In overtime, if the team that possesses the ball first scores a touchdown on their first drive, they win. If they score a field goal, the other team gets the ball and has a chance to score. If they don’t, the first team wins. If they score a touchdown, they win. If they also score a field goal, the overtime period continues. If the first team doesn’t score at all on it’s first drive, the first team to score any points at all wins. During the regular season, overtime is one 15-minute quarter in which each team receives two timeouts and no challenges. During the playoffs, overtime will extend into as many quarters as needed until there is a winner.