Sunday, February 7, 2010

What's Going On In Between the Super Bowl Commercial: A Beginner's Guide- Part IV

Alright- it's game day! Time for a last minute crash course on penalties.

Penalties are what make a 60 minute football game last 3 hours. When a team does something that is against the rules, a penalty is called. If the team that committed the error is on offense, the penalty is, well, penalized as a loss of yardage. That means the line of scrimmage is moved backwards. There might also be a "loss of down." So, if the Saints are on a 2nd and 7 and there is a 5 yard penalty called, the result will be either a 2nd and 12 or a 3rd and 12- depending on the penalty. On the other hand, if the Saints are on 2nd and 7 and the Colts commit a 5 yard penalty, then the Saints would have a 2nd and 2 or a 3rd and 2, again depending on the penalty. So penalties committed by the offense make it harder to get a first down and penalties by the defense make it easier to get the first down. As I mentioned last time, some penalties result in an automatic first down.Others may result in a first down because the penalty adds enough yards that the team makes it to a first down.

With penalties, is important to watch the referees. During a play, if you see a yellow flag go flying, then you know there is a penalty. You can also watch the top of the tv screen which will also indicate that  flag has been thrown.  After the play is finished the camera will show the head ref indicate what the call is via a hand motion. He will indicate the call and then point in the direction of which team it is called on. Then they will confer with the other referees, come back on the screen, and announce over the loudspeaker what the call is and what the penalty is. The team that did not commit the foul has the option of turning down the penalty if it is advantageous for them (ex- if the actual play resulted in a touchdown but the penalty will result in re-playing the down, the team will opt for the touchdown rather than replaying the down) and the ref will announce that decision at this time, if applicable.

There are way too many penalties to cover now- so we'll go with a few for today that are more common.

Watch for these first three penalties at the start of each play.
1) Delay of game- indicated by the ref folding his arms in front of his chest- This happens when the play clock runs out before the ball is snapped. Teams typically have 40 seconds to line up and start a play. If they do not start a play before that 40 seconds run out, the penalty is a 5 yard penalty and the down is replayed.
2) False Start- indicated by a "wheels on the bus" motion. This occurs when an offensive player crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped (play doesn't officially begin until the ball is snapped to the quarterback).  Also a 5 yard penalty and replay of down.
3) Offsides- the ref will put his hands on his hip- This is when a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. It is the opposite of a false start. Also a 5 yard penalty- here against the  defense, so the offense will gain 5 yards.

4) Holding- ref will put one fist in front of his crest and grab the wrist of that arm with his other hand. This is pretty common and occurs when a player grabs another player (other than the player with the ball) in an attempt to ward off a block or protect a receiver. If committed by the offense, it is a 10 yard penalty. If committed by the defense, it is a 5 yard penalty AND an automatic first down.

5) Intentional Grounding- ref will swing his arms on an angle across his body and towards the ground. Essentially- when a quarterback can't find a open receiver to throw the football to and can't find anywhere to run to himself, he will sometimes throw the ball to no one to avoid being sacked. This is illegal if he is "in the pocket," which means the area between his offensive tackles.  This is a ten yard penalty or spot of the foul, whichever is farthest from line of scrimmage.

Actually- this is a pretty good start. If you feel comfortable with this, you can spend some time reviewing these pages- 

So- here you go- you are prepared for the Super Bowl. Feel free to ask any questions (or you can follow me on Twitter @kebhouse).  I'll be rooting for the Colts, since they are my favorite team. But I also went to school in New Orleans, so I'll be happy for the Saints if they win too! Who will you be rooting for?

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