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 kick the ball to the opposing team, usually on the fourth down, when the ball needs to be turned over to the opposing team
Sentence 1
It was fourth down and the Redskins punted.
Meaning 2
no more options; There is nothing more one can do.
Sentence 2
They are not going to sign the contract. Let's punt.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
The quarterback directs the offensive game of the team. He calls the plays.
Sentence 1
Johnny Unitas quarterbacked the Baltimore team to many victories.
Meaning 2
to direct a project
Sentence 2
Harry, you quarterback the computer buy-out.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to stop or block players of the opponent team so they cannot get to the carrier
Sentence 1
The guard ran interference for the quarterback and he made a first down.
Meaning 2
To get someone to do something for you so you can accomplish a goal.
Sentence 2
Get Jill in accounting to run interference for you by presenting the numbers.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to be taken out of the game / to be injured
Sentence 1
He was sidelined because of a knee injury.
Meaning 2
to stop working on something
Sentence 2
We better sideline that project.

Derivation

The lines of the playing field show where the game is to be played. Players within the lines or boundaries are playing the game. Those outside the boundaries are not playing or sidelined.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
A tackle (noun) is a defensive player on an American football team; the tackle tries to bring down players on the opposite team. To tackle is the verb. ...
Sentence 1
The Philadelphia Eagle defensive lineman tackled the quarterback as he was trying to throw the football.
Meaning 2
to vigorously work on a project
Sentence 2
"Let's get the report done. Will you please tackle the statistics needed for the report!"
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
In American football, the defensive team adds extra men to rush the quarterback. A blitz is an all-out attack. The term may have been used first by the military for offensive attacks.
Sentence 1
The Cowboys used the blitz to get to the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. The defensive line blitzed the quarterback.
Meaning 2
Usually, used offensively as an all-out attack, but can be used defensively as in football.
Sentence 2
The Nazi Blitzgreig, a combination of light armour and men in World War II, was a "blitz" as it rolled over the lowland countries at the beginning of the war. It blitzed The Netherlands and Belgium.

Derivation

The derivation is used in the sentence above. It was a German military offensive in WWII.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to go around the end of the opponent's defensive line
Sentence 1
The half-back did an end run and scored a touchdown.
Meaning 2
to go around the usual line of authority; to go around an immediate supervisor
Sentence 2
The student did an end run and went directly to the principal of the school rather than to his teacher.
IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
The defensive line, usually seven men, tries to stay in its position against the opponent's offensive attack.
Sentence 1
The Los Angeles Rams held the line at the five yard line against the San Francisco Forty-Niner offensive attack.
Meaning 2
to stay and not move
Sentence 2
Hold the line on that offer. We are not going to pay any more.

Derivation

Hold the line is a military term for holding or staying in place under enemy offensive fire.

IDIOM ►
Meaning 1
to move the ball across the opponent's goal line.
Sentence 1
A team scores six points for a touchdown.
Meaning 2
to achieve something, to win something
Sentence 2
You scored a touchdown when you hired Jane. She's a great accountant.