The 12 Posts of Playoffs : 3 Units

football, basics, playoffs, units

There are two obvious units on every football team: offense and defense. That’s because the other unit is kind of like the middle child of the family. Special teams is the unit everyone forgets about.

But each unit plays an important role – even special teams! Here’s the lowdown on each one.


Goal: To score. The quarterback gets the ball to a receiver, either by hanging it off or by passing, in an attempt to gain yardage (read about the down system here) and score points (read about scoring here).


Offensive Line (protects the quarterback, opens up lanes for running backs)

  • Left Tackle
  • Left Guard
  • Center
  • Right Guard
  • Right Tackle

Position/Skill Players (advance the ball down the field by running or receiving)

  • Running Backs
  • Tight Ends
  • Wide Receivers

Quarterback (orchestrates the offense, hands the ball off or throws it)


Goal: To score. Defenses score by taking the ball from the offense (read more about turnovers here). Their primary goal is scoring, their next goal is preventing the offense from scoring.


Defensive Line (puts pressure on the quarterback, stops running plays)

  • Defensive Tackles
  • Defensive Ends

Linebackers (defends front and mid sections of field)

Defensive Backs (Secondary) (defends back sections of field)

  • Cornerbacks
  • Safeties


Goal: To execute kicking plays effectively. Special teams is the unit on the play for all kicking plays.

Plays Involved:

  • Kickoffs (kicking off to the other team to start a new drive)
  • Punts (kicking to the other team to end your team’s drive)
  • Field Goals and Extra Points (kicking for points)

(Read more about special teams here.)

It’s wise to note that the offense and defense are comprised of players who play specifically for that unit. Special teams is mostly comprised of players who also play on other units (except for kickers – they only kick).

Ashley’s Rookie Season : False Start, Units, Field Goals, 12th Man

football, normal girls, rookie

Ashley is back with another great round of questions! Let’s get rolling!

Q: What does a player need to do for a false start to be called?

A: Perfect week for this question! Refer back to yesterday’s post, and be sure to print out the printable to keep handy, but the basic answer is that a false start is when anyone on the offensive line (the seven players on the line of scrimmage (starting line) for the offense) makes any sudden movement or jumps across the line prematurely before the ball has been snapped (transferred from the center to the quarterback). The opposite of a false start (which is called on the offense) is offsides (which is the same penalty but called on the defense).

(Were there enough parentheses in that answer for you? (Were there???))

Q: I know there’s offense and defense, because every sports team has that, but then football throws in this special teams thing? How many “teams” does each team have?

A: Oh, football. Always finding new ways to make life complicated.

There are 3 “teams” – called units – on each football team. There is the offense, the unit with the quarterback that tries to score points. There is the defense, the unit that is trying to stop the offense from scoring points (though their main job is to do this by scoring points themselves through interceptions, forced fumbles, safeties, etc). Then…there is special teams, the unit that gets the least respect.

Special teams is the unit that takes the field in any kicking situation. More often than not, most of the members of the special teams unit are members of the offensive or defensive unit as well. The main exceptions are the punter and kicker (or sometimes just one punter/kicker), who only has kicking responsibilities.

Q: Why would a team choose to go for a field goal instead of a touchdown?

A: It would seem like a team would always want to opt for the touchdown because it’s worth more points, right? But field goals are most often kicked on 4th down, a team’s last chance to earn a new first down. Coaches will opt for a field goal from kickable distance (anywhere from 20-50 yards, depending on the kicker) and go for the sure points rather than taking a chance on “going for it” and potentially failing and then having to turn the ball over to the other team right then and there. A good kicker has a better chance of kicking the football through the uprights from 47 yards away for 3 points than a good quarterback does of successfully throwing it into the end zone – in one try – from 47 yards away for 6 points (7 plus the point after).

The decision to kick or go for it on 4th down is all about strategy: what’s your field position, what’s the time on the clock, how badly do you need the points, and how confident are you in your kicker as opposed to your quarterback?

Q: How many players are allowed on the field at a time?

A: Eleven! You can have less if you choose (although no team would willingly choose that) but you can’t have more – if you do, it’s a 5-yard penalty.

Remember the “12th man” in Seattle? This is a term their fans usually use to describe their influence on the game; their boisterous, deafening presence is like having a 12th man on the field.

Alright, that’s a wrap for this week. Go forth in confidence, rookies!