Do You Know if These Football Rules Are Real or Made Up?


By: Gavin Thagard

5 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

You hear a whistle and see a yellow flag thrown into the middle of the football field. It's another penalty; another rule was broken. Which rule was it? Do you even know the rules of football? Could you pass a quiz that 97 percent of people can't pass where you have to decide if the football rules are real or made up? Here's your chance to find out!

Most people don't like rules, particularly when they work against them. However, that's how a sport is defined, through its rules. Without them, players would be running around with a ball without knowing what to do with it, how to score, where to line up, or any of the other rules that create a game. That's no different for football, one of the major sports in the United States. 

Over the years though, rules have been added to football, further governing the game and making it more difficult for fans to understand calls that are made on the field. Are you an expert on these rules both new and old? Can you tell if the rule is even real? If you believe you know every football rule there is, take this quiz and prove your knowledge of football rules! 

Players score by throwing the ball through the goal post.

No player has scored more rushing touchdowns than Emmitt Smith. He finished his career with 164 rushing touchdowns.


A play starts when the center snaps the ball.

The offensive line is typically made up of five players. Occasionally, if a team wants to run the ball, they will bring in an extra lineman to block.


The ball can be thrown forward twice during a play.

No player in the NFL has thrown for more yards in a game than Norm Van Brocklin. In 1951, he threw for 554 yards while playing for the Rams.


Only the defense can recover a fumble.

Players work hard to avoid fumbling the ball, but some players just can't hold onto it. In the NFL, no one fumbled the ball more in their career than Warren Moon, who did it 161 times.


The ball can be tossed backward an infinite number of times.

If a team is losing in the final seconds of the game, players will pitch the ball backward to one another to avoid getting tackled. This strategy worked for the Titans in the 2000 playoffs during a play known as the Music City Miracle.


A pass that hits the ground is incomplete.

Drew Bledsoe once threw 70 passes in a game. It happened in 1994 while he was playing for the New England Patriots.


A handoff that hits the ground is a fumble.

Adrian Peterson had a fumbling problem early in his career. However, he worked hard to overcome it, and today, he's recognized as one of the best running backs to ever play.


There are 11 players on each side of the ball.

The ball can be snapped when there are fewer​ players on the field than needed. However, if there are more players, then it's a penalty.


On offense, nine players have to be on the line of scrimmage​.

There are seven players on and four players off the line of scrimmage. Where these players line up determines what kind of formation is being run.


On defense, four players have to be on the line of scrimmage.

Defensive players are given more freedom as to their formations. There are occasions when no one lines up on the line of scrimmage.


Without penalties, it takes 10 yards to get a first down.

Some teams go for big play after big play to get a large number of yards. Other teams will pick up one first down after the other to demoralize a defense.


You have four downs to get a first down.

If a team is out of field goal range, they will usually punt on fourth down. However, some coaches are risky and will go for a first down so their team can keep the ball.


Games are started with a tipoff.

Games are actually started with a kickoff. In the NFL, the kickoff happens on the kicking team's 35 yard line.


Punt returners cannot move the ball forward.

Devin Hester holds the record for most punt returns for a touchdown. He finished his career with 14.


A fair catch is signaled by waving your hand in the air.

Brian Mitchell has the most punt return yards of any NFL player to ever grace the field. He finished his career one yard short of 5,000.


The defense cannot get a holding penalty.

Defensive players are allowed to hold within the first five yards of the line of scrimmage. After that, they have to rely on their speed and athleticism.


Offensive pass interference is a 10-yard​ penalty.

Jerry Rice is one of the greatest wide receivers of all time. He played his career with two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, helping both of them to win Super Bowls.


Intentional grounding is called when there is no receiver around the thrown pass.

Intentional grounding is not called when the quarterback is outside of the tackle box. However, the quarterback has to get the ball beyond the line of scrimmage.


Running backs cannot catch passes.

Marshall Faulk was one of the best dual-threat running backs in the NFL. He once averaged more than 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in a season.


Linemen who are covered by an outside receiver cannot run routes.

Some teams will run trick plays by leaving a lineman uncovered so he can run a route. The Buffalo Bills did this a few times in 1992 with their offensive tackle, Mitch Frerotte.


Quarterbacks can't run the ball.

Cam Newton is a dominant running quarterback. By both rushing and throwing, he led the Carolina Panthers to a Super Bowl in 2015.


Defenders can hold receivers in the end zone.

When the offense moves inside the 20 yard line, it becomes much harder to score. This is because the defense has less field to defend.


A safety is worth two points.

The Rams once had three safeties in one quarter. This happened in 1984 against the Jets.


On a touchback, the ball is moved to the 25-yard​ line.

The ball used to be moved to the 20-yard​ line. However, in an effort to eliminate big hits, the NFL moved it to the 25-yard line so teams wouldn't return the ball out of the end zone.


A return man can wave off a fair catch they already made.

There is no returning the ball after a fair catch is made. If the receiver tries to return the ball, it's a penalty.


A running back can throw the football if it's pitched back to him.

Darren McFadden was famous in college for throwing seven touchdown passes as a running back. He showed off his arm again by throwing a touchdown pass in the NFL while playing for the Oakland Raiders.


There is no overtime in football.

Unlike college football, NFL games can end up in a tie. That happens if the score is still tied after the end of overtime.


If a team scores a touchdown in the NFL during overtime, the game is over.

They have to score a touchdown. If a team only kicks a field goal, the other team has a chance to respond.


A point after touchdown (PAT) is worth four points.

If a team choses to kick on their PAT attempt, they only get one point. They can also decide to go for two.


Linemen can hold defensive players who rush the quarterback.

This is called offensive holding. However, many linemen know tricks to get around the rule, which can be frustrating for defenders.


Only one defensive player can line up over the line of scrimmage.

If a player lines up over the line of scrimmage, it results in a 5-yard penalty. Many eager defensive linemen often get called for this.


If a team scores 50 points, the game is over.

It's rare for teams to score more than 50 points. However, if they do, the other team just has to deal with it as the game continues.


It's a penalty if a quarterback is hit after throwing the football.

Quarterbacks like Ben Roethlisberger are known for taking beatings on the football field. This is because of their own physical dominance, which requires defenders to be more aggressive.


The quarterback musts verbally call for the ball to be snapped.

The silent count has become much more popular in football over the years. It's often used to catch defenses off guard.


It's a penalty if the defender leads with the crown of his helmet.

Concussions are one of the leading issues in the NFL. Almost yearly, new rules are added to help reduce the number of head injuries.


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