Mary Dacuma
February 01, 2015 6:05 am

Look, it’s an outdated notion that women don’t watch football. At least forty-five percent of NFL fans are women, and that’s as of 2013. But there are plenty of humans, both male and female, that don’t have any idea what’s going down today and that’s OK.  There’s nothing wrong with you if you aren’t into football. But the fact of the matter is if you don’t watch the Super Bowl this weekend, you’ll miss out on some emphatic tweets. And while you can always watch it for the commercials or Katy Perry’s halftime show, the game is going to take up most of your viewing time. If you have no clue what’s going on, you’ll be spending a few hours in awkward confusion. It’s not fun.

The good news is that when you know what’s going on, football—if you can separate if from the NFL’s serious issues— is kind of amazing. And with this handy little guide, you’ll have the basics down just in time for the Seahawks/ Patriots showdown.

A Great Battle

There are two teams: This year it’s the Seahawks and the Patriots. And the drama’s not just about the teams but about the coaches. “Super Bowl XLIX is not only a matchup of two of the best head coaches in the game, but two of the most aggressive coaches in recent NFL history,” according to The Bleacher Report. But back to the basics: Each team has an endzone at the end of the field with 100 yards in between. Teams take turns trying to get the ball into the other team’s endzone, earning points and the right to a tasteful celebration.

One Does Not Simply Walk Into the Endzone

The quarterback, the player in charge of his team, can give (hand off) or throw (pass) the ball to another player. If the hand-off or pass is complete, that player runs with the ball towards the endzone until he is tackled. Each attempt to get towards the goal is called a down. A team has four downs to move at least 10 yards. After 10 yards, they get another four chances. This continues until they score or run out of downs. Then the other team gets a chance to score. If a team has used up ¾ of their downs and still haven’t moved 10 yards, they have a few options:

  1. Try for it on 4th down – And may the odds be ever in your favor. Because if you don’t get to the 10th yard, the other team takes over from exactly where you land on the field.
  2. Punt the ball – If you’ve given up any hope of completing your 10 yards, you can use your fourth down to kick the ball as far away from your opponent’s endzone as possible, ensuring that they have a long way to go to score.
  3. Kick a field goal – If a team is close enough (usually within 45 yards), they can attempt to kick the ball through the uprights (the thing that looks like a tuning fork). If they can get it between the uprights, the team scores three points.


If a player reaches the endzone with the football, that’s a touchdown, which is worth 6 points. Afterwards, that team gets two options for a scoring bonus from the 2-yd. line.

  1. Extra point kick – the team gets an additional point if they can kick it through the uprights.
  2. 2-point conversion – a team gets two points if they can get the ball into the endzone in just one down.

“You Shall Not Pass!”

While the team who has the ball (the offense) marches down the field, the other team (the defense) is all like, “NU-UH!” And they block and tackle to try to keep the offense from going 10 yards. Better yet, they can reclaim the ball for themselves by doing one of the following:

  1. Forcing a fumble – When an offensive player has full control of the ball and then drops it on the ground, it’s called a fumble and any player on any team can get it for themselves. Defensive players can strip the ball or tackle a player in such a way that forces a fumble, then recover the fumble themselves.
  2. Intercepting the ball – When the quarterback throws a pass to another player on his team and a defensive player catches it, it’s called an interception. It’s now the defense’s ball and they start their first down from the point where the defensive player is tackled.

The Time that is Given to Us

Each game is divided into four 15-minute quarters with a half-time break for players to regroup and viewers to replenish their food and beer supplies. Additionally, the clock stops every first down and every time a player with the ball runs out of bounds. Each team also gets three time outs per half that they can use to pause for injuries, challenge decisions from referees, avoid time delay penalties, or simply regroup and strategize. If you are watching the game on television, there is usually a game clock that marks the time left and time outs. It will also say something along the lines of “1st and 10” or “3rd and 7.” The first number is the down and the second number is yards remaining to get a first down.

Obviously there are a lot more details – penalties, trick plays, that sort of thing. You’ll figure that stuff out over time (or not and that’s really also fine). But most importantly, just have fun watching the game. All that matters is that you know enough to be entertained.

Photo credits: Shutterstock, Giphy, Giphy Giphy, Fansided, Shutterstock

Advertisement