Football “Cheat Sheet #3” -Know the game.

Talk the game like a PRO.

This is the “fun article” of the group. (link to #1 new to the game) and (link to #2 – positions)

Down and Distance. The play will nearly always start out “1st and ten.” This is the offense’s first attempt to go for ten yards to get a new set of “downs.” I get it; the idea is to get a touchdown, but 11 players are trying to stop that -so the strategy is to methodically work your way down the field. There will be attempts to exploit a defense and take a big chuck all at once, but we’ll get to that later. For now…

1st and ten.

Although some coaches and teams lean more towards running and some towards passing, a 1st and ten is a 50/50 toss-up. Anything can and will happen. There is no tendency for most teams at this play. Especially early in the game, the coaches feel the other team looking for playmakers and weak links.

If the offense runs the ball for 4 yards, the next play would be listed as “2nd and 6.” As it is now the second attempt, and they need 6 more yards.

Watch the “sticks” to see the down and distance.

Let’s say they pass it, but it is dropped. That’s not a fumble as the receiver never had possession, even if he touched it. A dropped pass is “incomplete.” It’s a dead play; nothing happens further. It is now “3rd and 6” as they still get their 4 tries to make it ten yards.

Now pay attention.

The offense needs 6 yards. That’s not easy.

Most likely, they will pass the ball in this scenario. Passing the ball typically can gain a team more yards. A pass can bypass the huge lineman, and although there is a risk of another incomplete and zero yards, a 2 yard gain on the run doesn’t really help their chances. Recall that on 4th down, an offensive team typically punts a ball to get better “field position” as if they miss the “First down line,” the opposing team gets the ball right there. A punt is needed often in a game, so the O coach knows how critical a third down gain is.

“3rd and long,” let’s say 9 yards or more is a sure pass. It’s practically the only option.

You’ll start to see and recognize formations better suited for passes and may notice on 3rd and long that there are 5 receivers and no running backs. The coach doesn’t need to fool anyone at this point; everyone knows it will be a pass, so he sets his team up for maximum success.

The defense will match players as the offense switches formation.

There are coaches above the stands “in the box” with binoculars and headsets constantly watching the opposing teams’ players to give their defense an edge with a proper matchup. The strategy is incredible, and although the “on-the-field experience” I had as a young coach’s kid was great, having a sneak peek in the box, the “war room”- was unreal!

Some head coaches even prefer being in the box to being on the field.

So let’s say it’s 3rd and long. The offense has extra receivers in.

See the trips? 3 WR. (wide receivers)

Here’s where you get to talk the game like a boss and impress the people too busy to read my articles.

When an offensive team has three receivers on one side of the field, we call that “trips,” like slang for three. To the amazement of the romance book club, you now yell, “Watch the Trips!” “Pass…watch the pass.”

See, isn’t this fun? You’re really doing good.

If you want to pick it up to the next level…when an offensive team shows “trips,” the defense should also match up by taking out a big guy (either a linebacker or lineman) and installing another Defensive Back (called DB or D-back.) That makes sense right?

If the offense has another speedy guy, the defense should as well!

When you sub for another speedy guy, that’s called a “nickel” defense. Sub two quick guys, we call it a “dime,” and let’s say, for the sake of learning and enjoyment, it’s the end of the game, with seconds to go and the offense needs a touchdown to win. They need a miracle- their only chance is a “long bomb” pass, a “Hail Mary” (as in a prayer) so they sub in all the speedy receivers – the D matches up with all speedy Dbacks…you got, It’s a “quarter” or a “Prevent” Defense formation.

“Trips, Nickel, Dime, Prevent, Hair Mary, Bomb”

Wow! You’re getting great at this?

What’s next? You’re feeling a little cocky and want to learn your kids’ passing routes?

Ok fine.

Now, look, every coach has their own terminology on this. Like all sports and works of life, hundreds of standard vernacular terms are interchanged. A middle linebacker is called “Mike or Mack” because it starts with an M. Strong side might be called “Sam or Slam (S)” These are as unique as the team and the coach’s preference. So ask your, kid, I’m learning my kid’s terms right now with you.

Flour Bluff Parents – a hint – the “base defense,” meaning typical starting formation with no alterations for the Hornets, is a “nickel” setup.

There are only 2 linebackers and 3 safeties in the “base D” as the coaches have adapted to the modern game of more passing so…Use that. Talk like a boss!

Passing Routes (hacks)

Like I said, all coaches have there own terms. Learn yours. Impress your son, wife, husband with a “Oh like a “Go route?”

My buddy Brett was a fantastic receiver, while looking for info on this article I talked to him. Remember when I said in the earlier article most players don’t play both ways? Yep. I was a linebacker. A defensive guy. I covered these guys but from my perspective may have called the routes something different than what they called them. In a crazy nuance to this game, I think even overlooked by coaches, is that many players don’t learn all the positions. It’s a game a specialties. I wouldn’t think an Airforce pilot in an F35 knows how to launch a torpedo on a submarine…anyway, Brett told me many coaches use a numbering tree for routes. 1,2,3…each number correlating to the next – football can get really busy really fast.

That said, Here’s some common generic terms.

The receiver takes off quickly for a straight route, a long pass option for maximum gain and big yards. Some quarterbacks can throw a ball 40-50 yards in the air. This is that route.

A “Go,” “Bomb,” “Fly” – like I said, each team has its own term. These work though, and you will hear them discussed on TV with the college and pro announcers. These may have subtle specifics. “Sail” – rounded out at around 18-20 yards, “Corner” – a more angled outside release. and “Follow” – two players with a 5-7 yard gap forcing the defensive player to gamble.

“Post” – run 7-8 yards straight and then diagonally to the middle of the field. Post refers to the goal post (in the middle of the field)

“Flag” – run 7-8 yards straight and then towards the endzone sidelines. Hint: The endzones all have those little orange columns that stick up, signaling the endzone. In the old days, those weren’t foam columns; they were flags. (hmmm, tricky)

“Slant” – easy, just what it sounds like – run diagonally (slant) toward the middle of the field. “Dig” a much harder 90 degree angle continuing across the field and “Option” where the receiver has the option of where to angle depending on what the linebacker covering him is doing.

“Stop” – run a step and stop – especially useful if the player covering you is giving you too much ground. Run a couple stops on this fool if he’s giving you easy free yards. This is often used to set up a huge play called, wait for it…a “Stop and Go!” leaving that poor chump in the dust and your star receiver off to the races!


“Out” – a forward burst and then a quick “cut” to the outside. This is good for a couple yards but also has a huge possibility of a one-on-one coverage. If that poor kid coving your stud one-on-one misses a tackle out there in the open?! You better watch yo’self! It’s on!

Defensive Game talk:

An interception is a “pick” and is sometimes shouted “Oskie” – an old-school term that is easy to shout loudly. When a player shouts “Oskie!” his teammates understand that he just made a pick and they should go knock some players from the other team down because…Because this is Awesome! The D just stole the ball!

Take a pick to the house (endzone) and (We must protect this house), and it’s called a “Pick6” – a pick for a touchdown (6 points!) – feel free to spill your Dr.Pepper during these plays.

Sack – a tackle for a loss of yards during a pass play. The defenses version of a bomb. A huge celebrated fun play.

Some people might see the guy with the ball. True fans see a pancake!


Pancake – You parents with offensive linemen need this term. The poor linemen never get the credit they deserve. When an O lineman wallops a kid so hard, the guy flies onto his back; that’s a pancake. We all want dirty jerseys, which means our kid played hard. Nobody wants grass stains on their back shoulders, tho – that means they got smoked!

haha – that was fun, hope this helps…see you at the games!

2 thoughts on “Football “Cheat Sheet #3” -Know the game.

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