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flanker flare a short flip pass to a back still in the backfield and moving toward the sideline.

flea-flicker a lateral or a handoff followed by a sur­prise pass. Also, a pass followed by a lateral.

fly pattern a pass pattern in which the intended receiver runs at top speed straight downfield.

formation the alignment of the defense or offense at the line of scrimmage.

free safety a defensive back positioned well behind the line of scrimmage, who is responsible for covering midfield for running plays or passes but who is "free" to assist other defenders in covering receivers.

front line the players aligned along the line of scrimmage.

fullback an offensive back who plays behind the quarterback and blocks or carries the ball on hand- offs. A powerful but relatively slow-moving running back.

fumble to drop the ball.

gang tackle to tackle the ballcarrier with more than one tackler.

goal line the line marking the beginning of the end zone, over which the ball must be carried or passed to a teammate for a touchdown.

goalposts the U-shaped upright standing on either endzone through which goals are kicked.

gridiron a football field.

ground the ball to intentionally throw the ball to the ground or out of bounds to avoid being tackled for a loss of yardage behind the line of scrimmage, an infraction resulting in a 10-yard penalty and a loss of a down.

guards the two offensive linemen who flank the center and block.

Hail Mary a long pass, usually into the end zone, that requires "divine intervention" to be completed. Also known as Big Ben. To make a Hail Mary is known as "throwing up a prayer."

halfback the offensive player positioned in the backfield who acts as a receiver or ballcarrier, more commonly known as a running back.

hang time the elapsed time a kicked or thrown ball is suspended in the air.

hike a command to snap the ball to begin play.

hitch a pass pattern in which the receiver runs downfield, then cuts abruptly to the outside for a pass.

hitch and go a pass pattern in which a receiver fakes a hitch, then continues straight downfield for a pass.

huddle the huddling together or meeting of players in which plays are planned between downs.

I formation an offensive formation in which the tailback, halfback, and fullback form a line behind the quarterback.

illegal motion illegal motion of a player set on the line of scrimmage just prior to the snap.

incompletion a pass not caught.

ineligible receiver a player not permitted to catch a forward pass.

interception a passed ball intended for an offensive receiver but caught by the defense, resulting in an automatic exchange of possession.

kicking team a team's members who specialize in executing punts, field goals, and extra points.

late hit tackling or running into an opponent after the ball has been whistled dead, an infraction result­ing in a 15-yard penalty.

lateral a pass thrown underhanded or overhanded in a backwards or sideways direction.

leg whip to intentionally use one's legs after falling to trip up an opponent.

linebackers the defensive players positioned just behind the line who back up the defensive linemen.

line judge the official who keeps time and watches for encroachment, offsides, and illegal motion at the line of scrimmage.

lineman a player positioned on the line of scrimmage.

line of scrimmage the imaginary line that marks where the ball is down and separates the defensive line from the offensive line.

man-for-man a defensive strategy in which each receiver is guarded by only one man.

middle linebacker the linebacker positioned behind the middle of the defensive line.

Monday morning quarterback a fan who criticizes his team's play by using 20/20 hindsight the day after the game.

naked reverse a play in which a team's blockers all move in one direction to draw the defense while the ballcarrier moves in the opposite direction.

nickel back a back that replaces a linebacker in the nickel defense.

nickel defense a defense that uses five backs, the extra back replacing a linebacker.

nose guard a defensive lineman positioned in the center of the line. Also known as a middle guard or nose tackle.

nutcracker a practice drill in which a team's ball­carriers are subjected to tackles by one or more players.

offside being positioned beyond or over the line of scrimmage prior to the snap.

onside kick a low, tumbling, easily fumbled kick made by a team behind in the score in the last moments of a game in the hope of regaining posses­sion of the ball.

on the numbers a well-placed pass reaching the receiver at chest height, or "on the numbers."

outlet man a backup receiver used when the pri­mary receiver is closely guarded or when the quarter­back is under pressure to get rid of the ball.

overtime an extra period at the end of a game to determine the winner when the score is tied.

pass rush a rush by the defense to tackle the passer.

personal foul hitting, kicking, clipping, tripping, face-masking, or other unnecessary roughness, a 15- yard penalty.

pick off to intercept a pass.

pigskin nickname for the football.

pitchout a pass toward the sidelines and behind the line of scrimmage.

placekick a kick made from a tee or a teammate's hold on the ground.

play-action pass a play in which a handoff is faked to the running back, who pretends to hold the ball in his arms while the quarterback passes.

playbook a book containing a team's strategies and diagrammed plays.

pocket behind the line of scrimmage, a pocket formed by blockers which the quarterback steps into to evade the pass rush.

point spread in betting, the number of points by which one team is estimated to beat another team in a game.

pop a strong tackle or block.

post pattern a pass pattern in which the receiver runs downfield along the sideline, then makes a cut toward the goalposts.

prayer a pass requiring "divine intervention" to be completed; a Hail Mary.

primary receiver the planned receiver in a play, as distinguished from a backup or outlet man.

pump to pump or cock the throwing arm once or twice to fake a pass to deceive the defense.

punt a kickoff in which the ball is dropped in the air and booted before it hits the ground, executed when possession must be relinquished on fourth down.

punt return catching a punted ball and advancing as far downfield as possible before being tackled.

QB quarterback.

quarterback the player who calls signals, takes the snap from the center, and either runs, hands off, or passes the ball.

quarterback draw a play in which the quarterback drops back as if to pass, then runs straight ahead through a gap left by the defense.

quarterback sneak a play in which the quarterback takes the snap and immediately runs forward with the ball through the defense for short yardage.

quick count an unusually quick count that sig­nals the ball to be snapped much earlier than the defense would normally expect, used to throw off the defense's timing.

quick out a pass pattern in which a receiver crosses the line of scrimmage, then cuts abruptly to the out­side for a quick, short pass.

quick release a quarterback's ability to release the ball quickly when throwing.

receiver any offensive player eligible to receive a pass, specifically the backs and two ends (wide receivers).

red dog a blitz by the linebackers.

referee the leading official in charge of a game; he conducts the coin toss at the start of a game, explains fouls, administers penalties, and keeps track of the down, among other things.

reverse a play in which the ballcarrier running in one direction hands off to a teammate running in the opposite direction.

rollout left or right lateral movement made by the quarterback after receiving the snap.

roughing the passer charging into or tackling the passer after the ball has been thrown, a 15-yard penalty.

running back the more commonly used name for a halfback or a fullback.

rush to advance the ball downfield by a running play rather than a passing play.

sack to tackle the quarterback.

safety a score of two points awarded to the defen­sive team when a ballcarrier on offense is downed on or behind his own team's goal line. Also, a defensive back.

scrambler a quarterback adept at scrambling.

scrambling the eluding of tacklers by the quarter­back behind the line of scrimmage.

screen pass a pass to the side of the line of scrimmage.

scrimmage a practice game.

secondary the defensive backfield made up of the cornerbacks and safeties. Also, the area where these players are positioned.

shank to kick the ball off the ankle or side of the foot instead of the instep.

shiver to thrust the forearms up sharply to deflect an opponent's block.

shoestring catch a catch made at shoe level.

shotgun offense a spread-out formation in which the quarterback stands several yards behind the cen­ter to receive the snap in order to set up a pass play.

signals the quarterback's code used at the line of scrimmage to call the snap.

slant a diagonal pass pattern.

sled a padded steel frame on skids, used in blocking practice.

slot in the offensive line, the space between a tackle and an end.

slot formation a formation in which a running back is positioned in the slot between the tackle and the split end.

snap the center's passing of the ball between the legs to the quarterback to start play at the line of scrimmage.

spike after scoring a touchdown, the ritual of slam­ming the ball to the ground.

spiral the smooth, nontumbling spin of a well- thrown ball. Also, to throw a spiral.

split end a pass receiver positioned far to the out­side of the line of scrimmage. More commonly known as a wide receiver.

split the uprights to kick the ball through the goal­posts for a field goal or extra point.

squib kick a low, tumbling kick difficult to field without fumbling.

straight-arm to hold one's arm out stiffly to block a potential tackler.

strip the ball to knock or poke the ball out of the ballcarrier's hands and cause a fumble.

strong safety the safety lined up opposite the strong side of an offensive line.

strong side the side on which the tight end is posi­tioned.

stutter step a faked step in one direction; a short, deceiving step or momentary change in running rhythm to throw off the timing of a pursuer.

submarine to duck below a lineman's block.

sudden death overtime.

sweep to run to one side behind a wave of blockers.

tackle to knock or pull the ballcarrier down to the ground to stop play.

tackling dummy a stuffed bag used in tackling practice.

tailback in an I formation, the back positioned far­thest behind the quarterback.

TD a touchdown.

T formation a formation in which the backs assume the configuration of