Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Football Outsiders Glossary: General Football Terms

Click here for a glossary of Football Outsiders terms.

If there is a term used at Football Outsiders you would like to see defined in this glossary, please email it to info-at-footballoutsiders.com.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | W | Z

3-4 – A defensive formation with three down linemen (two ends and a nose guard) and four linebackers. This is a good formation to run if the defense has very large players who can take up more space allowing the extra linebacker to go after the quarterback or defend against the pass.

4-3 – A defensive formation with four defensive linemen and three linebackers. This formation is best when facing an offense that prefers to run the ball between the tackles. This puts more defenders along the line of scrimmage.

46 defense – This is a defense that is best used against conventional offensive formations, such as the “I”. The 46 defense can struggle against formations with 4 or 5 receivers spread out. The 46 is a defense architected by Buddy Ryan and named after NFL safety Doug Plank who was a main cog in the defense when Ryan originally used it on third down blitzing situations. Plank wore #46 on his jersey. Ryan worked this defense to perfection in 1985 for the Chicago Bears, as that team’s defensive unit is frequently thought of as one of the best ever.

ACL – Anterior Cruciate Ligament. A ligament in the knee that when torn requires surgery and 9-12 months of rehabilitation for a player to return.

Across the middle – Refers to running a pass route in the middle of the field. This can be a dangerous area for a receiver if the quarterback throws the ball in a place where the receiver needs to extend his arms to catch the ball because more defenders will be able to put a hit on the receiver. Receivers can prove their toughness by frequently catching passes across the middle.

Alligator arms – a receiver who does not fully extend his arms to catch a pass because he is afraid that he will be hit hard immediately upon touching the ball. The receiver is protecting himself from the hit and does not catch the pass.

Audible – A call at the line of scrimmage by the quarterback just prior to snapping the ball where he changes the play because the previous one would have likely been easily stopped by the defense.

Belly – Running back runs the ball up the middle after taking the handoff from the quarterback with a reverse pivot.

Big uglies – Offensive linemen.

Bit – When a defender falls for a fake, Example: “Ricky Manning bit on Deion Branch’s hitch and it was a big gainer for Branch.”

Blind side – The side of the field facing the quarterback’s back side when he is dropping back to pass or standing in the backfield looking to pass. For a right handed quarterback, this is his left side or the defense’s right side. Teams put their better offensive linemen on the blind side.

Blitz – An aggressive play by the defense when they attack a specific play by the offense. A blitz can backfire if the offense is not running the play that the blitz was intended to stop.

Bomb – 1. a very deep pass. 2. The professional football career of Todd Marinovich.

Bootleg – when a quarterback runs out of the pocket with the ball looking to pass the ball as his first priority, but run with it if he can’t find an open receiver.

Borges, Ron – Cranky Boston Globe football columnist whose criticism of the Patriots for their lack of a run game combined with simultaneous praise for the 2002 Raiders for their lack of a run game inspired the initial statistical work that led to creation of Football Outsiders. Also one of America’s best boxing journalists.

(in the) Box – the defensive area between the offensive tackles extending approximately seven yards deep in the defensive backfield. The defense will put more players “in the box” the more intent they are on stopping a running play.

BSG – Acronym used to refer to ESPN.com writer Bill Simmons, who before ESPN was known as the Boston Sports Guy.

Bump and run – a defensive technique where the defender will initially hit the receiver at the snap of the ball and then run with him in coverage. This technique is used against offenses that rely on timing with the expectation that a receiver will be in a spot on the field at an exact time. Defenders may only bump the receiver in the first five yards forward from the line of scrimmage.

Cadence – The words or sounds a quarterback makes prior to receiving the ball from the center. One sound or word is usually the indication to the offense to begin the play.

Canton, Ohio – Home of the Professional Football Hall of Fame. Why Canton? Representatives from the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, and Dayton Triangles met at the Jordan and Hupmobile Auto Showroom in Canton on August 20, 1920. and formed the American Professional Football Conference, which in 1922 became the National Football League.

Capology – The study of the NFL’s salary cap system. Confusing to most and understood by few.

Chain gang – The officials on the sideline that hold the yardage markers. Referred to as the chain gang because the first down markers are held together by a 10 yard metal chain.

Cheat sheet – A paper the quarterback has on his wristband to easily see plays to be called.

Check down – See "safety valve".

Chop block – A block where the offensive player throws himself at a defender’s legs to take him down, but does not tackle.

Clip/clipping – A penalty where an offensive player blocks a defensive player in the back. Results in a 15 yard penalty.

Coffin corner – A punt where the punter is trying to kick the ball out of bounds as closely as he can to the end zone without letting the ball go into the end zone or fly over the end zone. Great coffin corner punts go out of bounds between the 5-yard line and the goal line.

Counter – A play where the offense runs the ball in the opposite direction that the defense expects. Usually preceded by a fake in the opposite direction of the actual play.

Cover 2 – See article, a defense where cornerbacks cover the wide receivers for the first 10-15 yards off the line of scrimmage, but then the safeties take over if the WR continues deep. This allows the defensive linemen and linebackers to contain a running play, short dump-off passes and get after the quarterback. This defense requires players that are fast and good at covering receivers. This defense can be beaten with deep passes up the middle of the field, as long as the quarterback as the necessary time for the receiver to get that far.

Crackback block – On a running play, this is when a wide receiver comes from the outside and blocks to the inside. Opposite of a kickout block.

Dime – Similar to the nickel defense, but where the defense removes another linebacker or defensive lineman and replaces him with a sixth defensive back. Only used in obvious passing situations. Very similar to a prevent defense.

Dink and dunk – A short passing game. Passes that can frustrate a defense as they are usually less than 5 yards, but a succession of short passes lead to first downs and uses up the clock.

Dive play – A run up the middle where the offense is hoping for at least minimal yardage. Usually used when the offense needs 2 yards or less to gain a first down or touchdown.

Double (teamed/coverage) – Two defenders covering one receiver.

Dr. Z – Sports Illustrated and SI.com columnist, real name is Paul Zimmerman. Wrote The Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football. Known for his weekly power ratings and picks, his end-year ratings of broadcast teams, and his horribly-edited, incomprehensible mailbags. In Football Outsiders Awards, voted writer that most readers want to do an homage contest for in 2004.

Drag – A route where the receiver runs downfield and breaks in towards the center of the field on a 90 degree angle. The opposite of an out. Not to be confused with Nathan Lane's character in "The Birdcage".

Draw – An offensive play where the quarterback drops back or stands in the pocket as if to pass and then runs the ball himself or hands it off to a running back.

Down by contact – The ball carried is ruled down when any part of his body is touching the ground (other than his feet or hands) and he is touched by a defender.

<Eligible receiver – A player who is legally allowed to touch the ball when thrown forward over the line of scrimmage. Eligible receivers are any player who is not lined up at the offensive center, guard or tackle position, unless they first tell the referee that they are an eligible receiver for that play only.

Encroachment – A penalty where a defender is in the neutral zone before the ball is snapped. Result upon acceptance of the penalty is 5 yards.

End around – A running play where a wide receiver carries the ball around the end of his offensive line.

Fair catch – A call by a kick returner where he waives his arm in the air prior to catching the ball to indicate that he will not run after catching the ball and that he can not be touched by a defender. It is a penalty if the receiver makes any motion to advance the ball after calling a fair catch. If the receiver touches the ball and drops it, contact may then be made by the defender.

Fantasy football (a.k.a. roto football) – A game for geeks (including every Football Outsider) where NFL players are drafted or auctioned prior to the start of the season, and gain points each week based on performance.

Flag pattern – The course that a wide receiver runs where he starts running straight downfield and then turns and runs diagonally toward the back corner of the end zone.

Flea Flicker – A trick play where the quarterback hands the ball off to the running back straight up the middle, but then the running back stops, and tosses the ball back to the quarterback behind him who then throws the ball deep downfield to a receiver.

FG – The abbreviation for a field goal. A play where the ball is place kicked through the uprights. Results in three points for the kicking team.

Field position – The yard line that the ball is on. Many games are won because a team continually has better starting field position.

Flanker – A receiver who doesn’t line up on the line of scrimmage. May line up just a step behind the line or in the offensive backfield.

Flat – An area on the field outside the hashmarks and 0-10 yards forward of the line of scrimmage to the offense.

Flood – Multiple receivers in the same area of the field.

Franchise tag – A ploy by an NFL team during negotiations with one of their own free agents. If a team puts the franchise tag on a player, that player is under contract for a period of one year at a salary equal to the average of the top five players at his position. A team may apply the franchise tag to only one player at a time. The team and player may renegotiate at any time and remove the franchise tag from the player.

Freak – A really cool sounding nickname given to Jevon Kearse.

Front four – The four down defensive linemen in a 4-3 defense. The primary run stoppers.

Front seven – The linemen and linebackers in a defense. Does not include the four defensive backs.

Fullback – The running back closer to the offensive line when there are multiple running backs in a formation. Usually used as a blocker for the tailback, but can also carry the ball and catch passes.

Fumble – Not to be confused with a muff. A fumble is the drop of a ball that a carrier had under their control.

Gap – The space between offensive linemen. Gaps are usually specified areas where a running back will carry the ball, or a defensive lineman/linebacker will attempt to run through when chasing the ball carrier.

Gridiron – Just another term for the football field.

Hail mary – A passing play where the offense is usually more than 40 yards away from the end zone. Receivers will run into one area of the end zone and the quarterback will just throw it up for them and pray one catches it. Prime examples: Boston College vs. U. Miami, 1984 and Colorado vs. Michigan, 1996.

Half the distance – The amount of yardage penalized when the normal distance would exceed half the yards between where the ball is spotted and the end zone. For example an offensive holding penalty would ordinarily result in a 10-yard penalty, but if a team is on its own 15 it would result instead in only half the yards to the end zone assessed and the penalty would take the ball back to the area of the 7 ½ yard line.

Halfback – A running back. Usually referred to as a halfback when there’s only one in the backfield. Can also be referred to as a tailback.

Hands to the face – A penalty where a defender uses his hands to strike an offensive player’s face mask.

Hang time – The amount of time that a punt stays in the air. Longer is better for the punting team as the tacklers then get more time to get to where the ball will be coming down. A combination of a long punt with a long hang time is optimal on most punts.

Hard count – When a quarterback calls out one sound or word more loudly than the others during his cadence in an attempt to get the defense to jump offsides. Not used very often, since it can also make his own linemen jump early and draw a false start penalty.

Hashmarks – The marks just outside the middle of the field that span the entire field and are the same width as the uprights. If a ball carrier is tackled outside the hash marks, the ball is spotted on the nearest hashmark. However if the carrier is tackled between the hashmarks, the ball is spotted where the carrier was taken down. Not to be confused with “trackmarks”, the permanent scars that Lawrence Taylor now has on his body.

Heisman – The award given to the best college football player in the country by the Downtown Athletic Club (DAC) in New York City. Named after John W. Heisman, the first director of the DAC. Warren Mulrey of Fordham University modeled for the pose of the trophy.

Hidden Game of Football – The best book ever written about NFL statistics, and the book that got Aaron started in thinking about how to evaluate football plays and players. Written by Bob Carroll, Pete Palmer and John Thorn.

Hitch – A part of a pass route that causes a defender to stumble. Frequently will be a faked stop by the receiver, who then continues on to another part of the field.

Hook and lateral – Seen as a trick play where a receiver will run a pass route that is straight down the field, stop and turns back to face the quarterback where he catches the pass. Without trying to advance the ball, he immediately throws the ball to a teammate who is not forward of him. Used by the Miami Dolphins to score a touchdown on the last play of the first half against the San Diego Chargers on January 2, 1982, in the AFC divisional playoff game that some consider the greatest NFL game ever played. (Maryland residents consider this blasphemy.)

Hook – A pass route where the receiver runs down field approximately 12 yards and turns back to face the quarterback to catch the pass.

Huddle – The grouping of players on offense and defense to call a play.

I-formation – Offensive formation where two running backs line up in a straight line behind the quarterback.

Immaculate Reception – 12/23/1972, AFC divisional playoff, with 10 seconds left in the game, the Raiders led the Steelers 10-6 and the Steelers had the ball on 4th and 10. QB Terry Bradshaw threw to John “Frenchy” Fuqua but Raider safety Jack Tatum hit Fuqua at the same time as the ball arrived, knocking the ball loose. RB Franco Harris caught the deflection just inches from the ground and then raced 42 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

In motion/motion/motion man – An offensive player who moves around the backfield prior to the snap of the ball. Rules state that the player may not be moving toward the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball and may only have one man in motion up until one second before the snap of the ball.

In the grasp – When a play is ended by an official because the quarterback is being held by a defender and in the official’s opinion the quarterback is no longer attempting to complete the play. This call is to protect a quarterback from getting unnecessarily slammed to the ground.

Intentional grounding – A penalty when a quarterback intentionally throws the ball in a place where none of his receivers can catch it or in an area without any receivers in an attempt to avoid being tackled for a loss of yardage. In addition, for this play to be a penalty, he must have thrown the ball while being in the tackle box and the ball must make it to at least the line of scrimmage. The penalty is 10 yards and a loss of down.

Jacked and pumped – See “pumped and jacked”.

James, Bill – The man who coined the word “sabermetrics” and led the revolution in statistical analysis of baseball with his annual Baseball Abstract books in the 1980s. The model for our NFL analysis.

King, Peter – A Sports Illustrated football columnist who writes a weekly Monday Morning Quarterback article. He also loves the coffee at the Starbucks on Thayer Street in Providence RI. He never mentions to Football Outsiders that he’ll be there, despite the fact that Outsider Patrick works literally less than 200 feet from there.

Kickout block – On a running play, this blocker is running parallel to the line of scrimmage and his job is to to keep the outside edge rusher (usually a DE or OLB) from crashing to the inside. It's almost always a fullback or a pulling guard who does the kickout block. Opposite of a crackback block.

Lateral – A thrown ball to a player that is either lateral to or behind the ball carrier relative to the yard lines.

Leading with the head – Any hit by a defender where the first contact is with the helmet. A penalty.

Leg whip – An illegal play where a player on the ground swings his leg at a player in an attempt to tackle or block.

Levitra – Drug which cures male impotence by annoying football fans so much with commercials that fans shut off television and take out wives for romantic dinner followed by sex. Spokesman for company is “Iron Mike” Ditka.

Line of scrimmage – An imaginary line extending from sideline to sideline where the ball is spotted.

Lombardi Trophy – The trophy given to the team that wins the NFL’s Super Bowl. Named after former Green Bay Packer coach Vince Lombardi.

Looking into the backfield – A mistake made by a defensive back when he watches the quarterback and tries to guess what he is going to do instead of covering his man. This is what allowed Muhsin Muhammed to get behind the Patriots defense for an 85-yard touchdown catch in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

LT – In the 1980’s, LT was New York Giant linebacker Lawrence Taylor, but now LT is slowly becoming the moniker for LaDainian Tomlinson of the Chargers.

Man to man (coverage/defense)-A defender is assigned a specific player to cover regardless of where the offensive player goes.

MCL – Medial Collateral Ligament. A ligament in the knee that when torn may not require surgery for a player to return.

MNF – Acronym for Monday Night Football. Broadcast by ABC and hosted by Al Michaels and John Madden.

Muff – A muff is the drop of a punt that was never under control. Not to be confused with a fumble.

Music City Miracle – Play to end the 2000 AFC Championship game where the Buffalo Bills kicked off to the Tennessee Titans, Frank Wycheck received the kick and then immediately and legally threw the ball to Kevin Dyson who ran the ball for a game winning touchdown.

Naked bootleg – A running play where all the blockers run in one direction and the quarterback carries the ball in the other direction.

Neutral zone – The area of the field between the offense and defense when both are lined up read for the snap of the ball. Defined as the length of the football.

Nickel – A defensive formation where the defense will remove a linebacker and put a fifth defensive back on the field. Used in obvious passing situations such as third and long.

Offsetting penalties – Penalties by players on offense and defense on the same play that cancel out. Results in a repeated down with same distance to go.

Off-tackle – An offensive running play where the running back attempts to carry the ball to the outside of the offensive tackle and inside of a tight end, if present.

Onside kick – NFL rules state that a kickoff must first touch the ground and go at least 10 yards before the kicking team can recover a kickoff. It does not need to be touched by the receiving team first. This ploy is usually reserved for when the kicking team is losing and there is little time left, or less frequently as a surprise. The drawback to the play for the kicking team is that they are giving the receiving team excellent field position and if the receiver can break through the tacklers, there is a short field for him to score.

Option – An offensive play rarely used in professional football where the quarterback will run with the ball, but pitches it to a running back behind him if he’s about to be tackled. Used frequently by Nebraska Cornhuskers. Rarely used in the NFL because the defense will always get to tackle the quarterback which risks injury.

Out pattern – The course that a wide receiver runs where he starts running straight downfield and then turns and runs toward the sideline in an attempt to get open.

Pasquarelli, Len – ESPN.com football columnist.

Passer Rating (a.k.a. QB Rating) – The NFL’s own next to impossible to understand equation for judging quarterback performances. Described in detail at the NFL's official site.

PAT – Point After Touchdown. One point if the ball is place kicked through the uprights, two if the ball is rushed or thrown and received in the end zone. The PAT begins on the two yard line.

Pitch – 1. an underhanded throw by the quarterback to the running back who is running out wide. 2. another term for throw, as in “pitch and catch”. 3. a non-American term for the field.

Play action – The quarterback fakes a handoff to the running back in order to make the defense believe it is a running play for the purpose of helping the receivers get open.

Playmakers – A dramatic TV series about a fictitious football team. The series was produced by ESPN. The series was cancelled after the first season due to good ratings mostly because the NFL was unhappy with the show’s sensationalism and portrayal of the negative aspects in the life of a professional football player.

Pocket – The area where the quarterback stands during a play while looking to throw the ball downfield and where his linemen are protecting him. If the offensive linemen don’t properly block, then the pocket will “collapse”.

Pooch kick – An intentionally short punt not to be confused with the every week work of Ken Walter. Punters will “pooch” their kick when the offense is too far to attempt a field goal, but too close where a normal full punt would go into the end zone. Similar to a coffin corner punt, but the ball will remain in bounds to either be covered by the kicking team or received as a fair catch by the returning team.

Post pattern – The course that a wide receiver runs where he starts running straight downfield and then turns and runs diagonally toward the goal posts.

Prevent defense – A defensive formation where the team on defense is simply trying to prevent giving up a long, quick play for a touchdown and keep the clock running by leaving defenders deep and along the sidelines to keep the ball carrier in bounds. Offenses can gain yardage up the middle of the field, but that will come at the cost of time off the clock.

Pro Bowl – Year-end football game played by the year’s best NFL players that closely resembles a high school powder puff game. Actually, it’s a game played each year in Honolulu where the starters are chosen by the fans, the reserves chosen by the coaches. It’s the NFL’s all-star game and team owners and coaches just pray their players do not get hurt.

Pro-formation – Offensive formation where two running backs line up behind and lateral to the quarterback. Similar to the wishbone sans the third running back directly behind the quarterback.

Pylon – The usually orange marker that indicates each of the four corners of the end zone. If the ball carrier makes contact with a pylon before going out of bounds on a running play, a touchdown is scored even if the carrier never touches any other part of the end zone.

Quarterback sneak – Akin to the “quarterback keeper”, it is when the quarterback tries to gain short yardage by keeping the ball and running forward. Usually used when the offense only needs less than one yard.

Quick kick – A trick play where the offensive starts the play as if they are going to pass or run the ball but then actually punt. This play is intended to give the other team a poor starting point on the field and the punt is not intended to be returned.

Quick out – A route where the receiver runs downfield and then breaks towards the sideline then looks for the ball. The opposite of a drag or in.

Quick snap – When the center gives to the ball to the quarterback immediately upon the offense setting up rather than letting the quarterback go through his cadence.

Red Zone – The area from the defense’s 20-yard line to the goal line. Scoring is harder because the field is so condensed, but easier because the goal line is so close.

Reverse – An offensive play with two hand-offs. The quarterback gives the ball to a carrier running in one direction, who then hands the ball to a carrier running in the other direction. A trick play.

Rollout – Part of an offensive play where the quarterback runs to one side of the offensive backfield looking to pass the ball. Usually used to run away from defenders.

Sack – A tackle of the quarterback for a loss of yardage. All time leader in sacks is Bruce Smith, all time leader for one season is Michael Strahan.

Safety valve – A running back or receiver that the quarterback will look to pass to if all other receivers are covered. Usually the safety valve will not be too far away from the quarterback. Passing distance will be minimal, but avoids a sack.

Salary cap – The amount of money that an NFL team may spend on player salaries and bonuses. This amount increases each year and is expected to be approximately $83.4 million in 2004.

Screen – A passing play where the offensive linemen allow the defense to go past them after the quarterback, while a receiver or running back runs behind the offensive line to catch a pass from the quarterback. The goal is to have many defenders chasing the quarterback, who passes to the running back before getting sacked.

Seam – 1. An area of the field on the edges of a defensive zone. An area that may cause confusion to the defensive coverage. 2. A route where a receiver runs downfield for 8-10 yards, and then angles in towards the center. Essentially a fly that changes angles. The receiver does not generally break and will be heading downfield at all times during the routes.

Shotgun – 1. An offensive formation where the quarterback is backed up behind the center. Used primarily in passing situations. 2. What Mike Martz might be looking to use on himself after not going for a touchdown in his last playoff game of the 2003 season.

Shoulder dislocation – When the arm comes out of its socket. Occurs when the arm is twisted in an awkward direction.

Shoulder separation – A separation of the two bones that form the “point” of the shoulder. A separation of the AC or acromioclavicular joint. Can occur when a quarterback is knocked to the ground directly onto his shoulder. May require surgery.

Shovel pass – A passing motion where the quarterback “pushes” the ball rather than over – or under-hand throws it.

Single-wing – An offensive formation that was once the standard for all teams but now is never used in the NFL or major college football and rarely used at any level. In the single wing, the ball is snapped to the tailback, who can then run or pass. The quarterback, fullback and halfback are primarily blockers. Coach Glenn “Pop” Warner (no relation to Malcolm Jamal) developed the single wing and used it in the early 20th century.

Slant – A pass route that is immediately diagonal to the field.

Slobberknocker – A hard hit by a defender. When a player is hit so hard, that the “slobber” is knocked out of his mouth.

Smashmouth – Adjective for hard-nosed, physical football now ruined forever by the “All Star” band.

Snap – The transfer of the ball from the center to the quarterback, punter or place kick holder.

Sneak – An unexpected running play.

Spearing – A penalty where the tackler’s first contact with the ball carrier is with his head. A very dangerous hit for both players, but can cause a neck injury to the tackler.

Spot – When used as a noun, it is the place where the ball was when the ball carrier was tackled, stopped or went out of bounds. When used as a verb, it’s the officials putting the ball where the ball carrier was stopped.

Spread – 1. The number of points that Las Vegas assigns to the favored team in order to get equal money bet on both teams. 2. A type of offensive formation with multiple receivers line up far from the tackles and/or tight end. 3. The layout of food at a Super Bowl party. Usually includes meats (gotta have meat), chili, various pastas, beer and oh yeah, meats.

Spy/key – When a defender is specifically responsible for one player on the offense. Sometimes an entire offense’s success can revolve around one specific player, so a defender will be assigned to watch and follow that one player throughout the play. Example: Ray Lewis keyed on Michael Vick all game to keep Vick contained in the pocket.

Square in – A pass route where the receiver runs straight downfield and then turns at a 90º angle to the middle of the field.

Squib kick – A kickoff that is intentionally of medium depth and intended for a player the middle row of blockers to run the ball back. The kickoff play is usually attempted when the kick returner is especially dangerous (ie Dante Hall) or when it will be the last play of the half. Kicking the ball deep may allow the return team to sufficiently set up their blocking and get a good return or all the way for a touchdown.

Smack talk – Also known as trash talk. Any kind of talking to the other team that tries to intimidate or boasts of your own superiority. Frequently found funny by people it was not directed at.

Statue of Liberty Play – Similar to an end-around, but the quarterback drops back and brings his arm up as if to pass. The end runs behind the quarterback, reaches up and takes the ball, and then continues on his run. This play takes its name from the way the quarterback pauses with his passing arm extended before the end takes the ball. Rarely used in the NFL because of the increased risk of a fumble.

Strong side – Using the offensive center as the middle, it is the side of the offense that they have more players lined up. Usually the side where the tight end lines up. Some plays have a balanced formation and do not have a strong side.

Stunt – A pre-designed defensive play intended to stop a specific offensive play. Can be similar to a blitz.

Swagger – The magical ability to defeat an opponent simply by walking like John Wayne.

Sweep – A running play where the ball carrier receives the ball and runs toward the sideline and upfield.

Swing pass – A route used by running backs as they "swing" out of the backfield, where they break left or right of the line behind the line of scrimmage and then begin heading downfield. Often thrown in the flats. (The first few yards around the line of scrimmage where the receivers line up, but underneath where the corners are).

Tackle box – An area in the defensive backfield defined as between where both offensive tackles lined up that extends all the way backward to the end zone’s back line. This zone is used in part for determining an intentional grounding penalty. No, it has nothing to do with fishing.

Tagliabue, Paul – The commissioner of the NFL.

Tailback – The running back deepest from the offensive line. Usually the team’s best ball carrier.

TD – Touchdown. Ok, if we have to explain this one, footballoutsiders.com might not be the best web site for you yet.

The Catch – Pass play in the 1981 NFC championship from Joe Montana to Dwight Clark to win the game 28-27 with only 51 seconds left.

Threw it away – When a quarterback legally throws an incomplete pass with the sole intention of ending the play and avoiding a sack.

Touchback – A play that results in the ball being placed on the 20-yard line. Usually a result of the punter kicking the ball into the end zone, but can also occur if a fumbled ball is knocked out of the end zone by the defense.

Trap play – An offensive play where a defensive player is seeming allowed to go after the ball carrier unimpeded, only to find that he has been taken out of position or blocked in a away that allows the ball carrier to go where the defender just left.

Trenches – The offensive and defensive line. Games can be won in the trenches which means the team whose linemen perform better on that day come out ahead.

Trips – Short for triple, as in three receivers. “Trips right” or “Trips left” mean three receivers are lined up on one side of the ball. If the defense is caught by surprise with this formation, the offense can get a mismatch leading to an easy reception. Drawback to this formation is the defense can crowd more defenders around the receivers and it leaves fewer offensive players to block for the quarterback.

Tuck Rule – An incomplete pass where the football comes out of the quarterback’s hand as his arm is moving forward in a passing motion (might have been trying to pass but changed his mind, or he might have simply been faking a pass) and he has not completely brought the ball back under control. This rule gained notoriety in the New England vs. Oakland game in the 2001 playoffs. The play is frequently confused with a fumble.

Tuna – Nickname for Bill Parcells. Coined during his days coaching New England when a reporter attempted to play a practical joke on him but Parcells caught on and asked, “Who do you think I am? Charlie Tuna?”.

Weak side – Using the offensive center as the middle, it is the side of the offense that they have fewer players lined up. Usually the side opposite where the tight end lines up. Some plays have a balanced formation and do not have a weak side.

West Coast Offense – A style of offense designed by former rams and chargers head coach Sid Gillman and later used by dozens of coaches throughout professional and college football, most notably San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh. Gillman’s offense emphasized precise passing down the field, although through the years the West Coast offense has become more associated with many short passes and passes to running backs in the flat. Many of Walsh’s assistant coaches have gone on to get their own head coaching jobs in the NFL, so this offense has been used by many teams.

Wishbone – Offensive formation with three running backs. A fullback lines up directly behind the quarterback and two halfbacks line up one yard behind and one yard to either side of the fullback. (The four members of the backfield make a shape resembling a wishbone.) The most common wishbone play is the triple option, in which, depending on what the defense does, the quarterback can hand the ball to the fullback, pitch the ball to the halfback, or keep it himself. Texas assistant coach Emory Bellard invented the wishbone in 1968, and it quickly spread throughout college football, with Oklahoma and Alabama having the most success among the teams that followed Texas’s lead. Although the wishbone allowed teams to run successfully, it also made passing difficult, and so the wishbone never caught on in the NFL and is now rarely used at any level.

Zone (coverage/defense) – When a defender is responsible for covering any offensive player who runs into a specific part of the field.

Zone Blitz – Any blitz in which the defenders in pass coverage play zone defense. Many zone blitzes require a defensive lineman to drop into coverage to replace a blitzing linebacker or defensive back.

Zone Blocking – An offensive line principal that requires linemen to block specific gaps, not specific defenders. Zone blockers often double team a defensive lineman at the snap, with one of the blockers peeling off to engage the linebacker once he commits to a certain gap. Linemen who do a lot of zone blocking use the "four hands, four eyes" rule: keep both sets of hands on the defender in front of you, but keep your eyes on the second level.