American Football Idioms

Like many of our games, American football derived from English games. The colonists brought a form of soccer with them, which was later played at east coast universities. These universities then tried another English game, rugby, which became more popular than soccer. The ball in rugby could be moved with the hands as well as the feet. In the second part of the nineteenth century Walter Camp attended Yale University and played rugby, which he liked but thought could be improved. He changed many of the rules of rugby to make a new game, the early version of American football. Further changes have been made to the game in the 20th century.

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Players are lined up in formations or lines, with an offensive and defensive line. The team receiving the ball is the offensive team. It tries to move the ball down the field towards the opponent’s goal for a touchdown. The offensive team has four chances (plays or “downs”) in which to do this. If the ball is moved 10 yards within the four downs, a first down is made and the ball may be kept for another four downs. The ball is moved by throwing (“passing”) or running with it (“carrying it”). The offensive “line” helps “block” or stop the opposing team so its players can run or throw the ball. If the ball is not moved ten yards in four tries, the offensive team must give the ball to the opposing team. Often, the offensive team kicks (punts) the ball to the opposing team on the “fourth down,” in order to move it further down field. The offensive team can also kick the ball through the goal posts for a field goal and for an extra point after a touchdown. The defensive team tries to stop the offense by tackling players and blocking passes.

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IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to carry the ball in football
Sentence 1
The tailback carried the ball.
Meaning 2
to be responsible for a project, a business deal
Sentence 2
Will you carry the ball this time? Fumi did it last time.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to move back behind the offensive line in order to pass or run around the end
Sentence 1
The quarterback dropped back and passed twenty-five yards for a first down.
Meaning 2
to go back
Sentence 2
She was shy and dropped back behind the crowd.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
A team makes a first down if it moves ten yards towards the opponents goal post. The team has four chances or downs to do this.
Sentence 1
The fullback made it look easy to get first downs for his team.
Meaning 2
to have accomplished an objective on the way to a goal
Sentence 2
We have a first down . Everyone work hard and maybe we'll get the contract. The surgeon said, " Frst down and ten to go . We got the tumor. Now we need some chemotherapy."
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
the offensive team gathers together and decides on the next play
Sentence 1
After the huddle, the quarterback threw a long pass to the tight end.
Meaning 2
to confer or go into conference to decide something
Sentence 2
Let's get the senior partners together and huddle to decide on the next move in this trial. (verb)
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
A football game starts when one team kicks the ball to the other team.
Sentence 1
The Bears game against the Lions starts at 2:00. Be there for the kick off.
Meaning 2
to begin a long term project, a campaign
Sentence 2
The chairman kicked off the meeting with last year's result.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to start a football game by kicking the ball to the opposing team
Sentence 1
The kick-off of the football game was promptly at 2:00.
Meaning 2
to start or begin a project
Sentence 2
The kick-off date for that project will be April first.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to defensively try to stop the offense, man to man, as opposed to zone or area defense
Sentence 1
The basketball team's man to man coverage was successful. They won the game.
Meaning 2
to assign one or more men/women to the same number of people in another business
Sentence 2
Remember now, we're in tight man-to-man coverage: one boardroom executive whispers to another as the visiting team of executives arrives.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
For the football term "quarterback" go to that idiom. Fans replaying a play after the fact.
Sentence 1
Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots, threw a pass for a touchdown but the play was reviewed by news media later.
Meaning 2
To decide what could have happened after the fact. Hindsight.
Sentence 2
Avid football fans frequently are "Monday morning quarterbacks," reviewing their teams' play.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
A playbook is used in football; it describes moves on the football field for the team and coaches. They need to study the playbook before a game.
Sentence 1
All players are expected to memorize the plays in this new playbook for the season.
Meaning 2
A playbook can and often is used in a political campaign.
Sentence 2
This playbook, by our political consultants, is for the 2014 legislative campaign. It describes the strategy for the campaign, play by play.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to kick the ball down the field
Sentence 1
It was fourth down and the Eagles punted the ball.
Meaning 2
A difficult decision can be punted to someone else, decided later.
Sentence 2
The U.S. Supreme Court punted the decision back to the lower court, to the appellate court to be decided later. (see the blog)