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The game as a whole is made simpler and more coherent if it is only possible to move forward when attacking, and this requires that it not be possible to move forward when defending. To be attacking, a team must have possession, one way or another. The exception is backward movement made as part of the attack, i.e. the snap and any backward passes or runs: the attacking team sacrifices territory now in order to gain territory in several seconds.

Each attempt at moving the ball forward is called a down. A down ends when the player with the ball is tackled (see further definition later) or leaves the field of play, some kind of score occurs, a pass is incomplete, or the player in possession stops making forward progress. Note that the down ends, the ball is dead, and no further "in play" action can occur from that exact instant, even if it is not known until some time later when precisely the instant was.

  • the down ends, the ball is dead, and no further "in play" action can occur from that exact instant, even if it is not known until some time later when precisely the instant was;

  • the ball is placed for the next down based on its position when the down ends, and not for example when a defender first made contact with the attacker or when the attacker first took possession.

In the case of a player moving backwards, the player stops making a gain in territoryforward progress because they have begun doing the opposite.

In the case of a player falling forward, the same principles are applied as above. Aa tackle requires that some part besides the hand or foot of the player in possession has touched the ground (or any part of that player or the ball has touched an object or ground outside the field). Since the player is still making forward progress, every inch of territory gained until the down has actually ended must be counted.

These seem like inconsistent ideas when compared directly, but make sense when considered in he context of the game. If it were possible for a defending team to reduce or negate gains by choosing to not tackle an attacking player, and an attacking team does better by ensuring their own players are tackled than by trying to move forward, the entire enterprise would revolve around picking up players bodily and trying to move them around, at which point the ball is just a marker of which player is to be picked up rather than the focal object of play. It thus avoids the situation where a player is lifted high by one team and being dragged down by another, or being used in a strange tug-of-war variant, where each can lead to serious and unmanageable risks of injury.

Each attempt at moving the ball forward is called a down. A down ends when the player with the ball is tackled (see further definition later) or leaves the field of play, some kind of score occurs, a pass is incomplete, or the player in possession stops making forward progress. Note that the down ends, the ball is dead, and no further "in play" action can occur from that exact instant, even if it is not known until some time later when precisely the instant was.

In the case of a player moving backwards, the player stops making a gain in territory because they have begun doing the opposite.

In the case of a player falling forward, the same principles are applied as above. A tackle requires that some part besides the hand or foot of the player in possession has touched the ground (or any part of that player or the ball has touched an object or ground outside the field). Since the player is still making forward progress, every inch of territory gained until the down has actually ended must be counted.

These seem like inconsistent ideas when compared directly, but make sense when considered in he context of the game. If it were possible for a defending team to reduce or negate gains by choosing to not tackle an attacking player, and an attacking team does better by ensuring their own players are tackled than by trying to move forward, the entire enterprise would revolve around picking up players bodily and trying to move them around, at which point the ball is just a marker of which player is to be picked up rather than the focal object of play. It thus avoids the situation where a player is lifted high by one team and being dragged down by another, or being used in a strange tug-of-war variant, where each can lead to serious and unmanageable risks of injury.

The game as a whole is made simpler and more coherent if it is only possible to move forward when attacking, and this requires that it not be possible to move forward when defending. To be attacking, a team must have possession, one way or another. The exception is backward movement made as part of the attack, i.e. the snap and any backward passes or runs: the attacking team sacrifices territory now in order to gain territory in several seconds.

Each attempt at moving the ball forward is called a down. A down ends when the player with the ball is tackled (see further definition later) or leaves the field of play, some kind of score occurs, a pass is incomplete, or the player in possession stops making forward progress. Note that

  • the down ends, the ball is dead, and no further "in play" action can occur from that exact instant, even if it is not known until some time later when precisely the instant was;

  • the ball is placed for the next down based on its position when the down ends, and not for example when a defender first made contact with the attacker or when the attacker first took possession.

In the case of a player moving backwards, the player stops making forward progress because they have begun doing the opposite.

In the case of a player falling forward, a tackle requires that some part besides the hand or foot of the player in possession has touched the ground (or any part of that player or the ball has touched an object or ground outside the field). Since the player is still making forward progress, every inch of territory gained until the down has actually ended must be counted.

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Each attempt at moving the ball forward is called a down. A down ends when the player with the ball is tackled (see further definition later) or leaves the field of play, some kind of score occurs, a pass is incomplete, or the player in possession stops making forward progress. Note that the down ends, the ball is dead, and no further "in play" action can occur from that exact instant, even if it is not known until some time later when precisely the instant was.

In the case of a player moving backwards, the player stops making a gain in territory because they have begun doing the opposite.

In the case of a player falling forward, the same principles are applied as above. A tackle requires that some part besides the hand or foot of the player in possession has touched the ground (or any part of that player or the ball has touched an object or ground outside the field). Since the player is still making forward progress, every inch of territory gained until the down has actually ended must be counted.

These seem like inconsistent ideas when compared directly, but make sense when considered in he context of the game. If it were possible for a defending team to reduce or negate gains by choosing to not tackle an attacking player, and an attacking team does better by ensuring their own players are tackled than by trying to move forward, the entire enterprise would revolve around picking up players bodily and trying to move them around, at which point the ball is just a marker of which player is to be picked up rather than the focal object of play. It thus avoids the situation where a player is lifted high by one team and being dragged down by another, or being used in a strange tug-of-war variant, where each can lead to serious and unmanageable risks of injury.