Once the toss has been won and the teams have made their choices, the team that decides to kick first takes up the offensive role as it is in possession of the ball. Typically, all the players of a team round up to communicate or discuss a play i.e. coordinated movements and actions, to be followed; this rounding up of team players is called a huddle.
Each half begins with a kickoff. Apart from the start of the half, the play begins at the line of scrimmage with a snap; the line of scrimmage is the position on the field where the play begins and where the offensive and defensive players line up against each other. Snap is the name given to the act of passing the ball between the legs to a teammate, usually the quarterback standing ready somewhere behind the Center. With this snap, performed by the offensive player, playing at the Center position, the game formally begins.
Once the game begins, the offense has four attempts to advance the ball 10 yards towards the end zone of the defense team, or in other words, towards its goalpost. These attempts are called downs. When the offense has advanced the ball by the first 10 yards, it gets a first down. After gaining the first down, the team has another set of four downs to gain yet another 10 yards or to score. If however, the offense fails to advance the ball by 10 yards even after 4 downs, the other team gets possession of the ball at the spot of the football, hence beginning with their first down. (American Football)
In order to get the downs, the ball can be advanced in one of two ways: By rushing, that means running with the ball, or by a forward pass. While rushing, one ball-carrier can hand the ball to another player, this act is known as a handoff, or throw backwards to another player. This throwing the ball backward is known as a backward pass or a lateral.
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