Down (American and Canadian football)

A down is a game section in American and Canadian football, which extends over a turn. A German translation is faithful, trial. This should not ( also German: ) test, with the try can be confused in rugby.

Origin of the term

At the end of the 19th century it was in the rugby rule that a ball leading player when he was tackled and could not move the ball forward as a "hero ": called ( German content ). Then answered the tackelnde players ( German: Got him down! ) " Have it Down!". The getacklte player was so down. Following a scrum was started at the point where took place the tackle.

In American football, the concept was that a play is over when the ball carrier down is also recorded. A player had the opportunity to volunteer to shout " Down!" To end the turn. This practice was virtually abolished in college football ( under NCAA rules ), since there is a turn ends immediately when a ball leading player touches the ground, except for hands and feet. However, it is still in the National Football League ( NFL) possible, " Down!" To call to exit a turn. However, this rule does not apply in practice.

Important for accurate understanding is to say that one down, which literally translates from English below is called, not in this context means that a player must be on the ground. It is enough that the player can achieve no more room gain. Examples would be that he is being held by several players standing, it is not on the floor but on another player or he is in such a small crowd that he does not have the opportunity to go to the ground.

American Football


Each series of attacks an offense begins with a first down ( first attempt). With four downs, the offense must try ten yards space gain achieved in order to obtain a new first down. Each down begins with a snap at the line of scrimmage and ends when the ball carrier is tackled to the ground. A down is also past when the player leaves the field of play, a pass is not caught (English: Incomplete Pass) or dotted. These possibilities for the end of a Downs also refer to players of Defense that may have come with a turnover in possession. At the point at which the turn is over will be the new line of scrimmage. Be achieved after four attempts not ten yards space gain, possession changes to the defending team.


In colloquial usage, the number of attempts is usually combined with the distance to the next first down. This results in some situations in the game, which occur more frequently than others. Examples of these situations are:

  • 2nd & 5: This describes a second experiment in which five yards space savings must be achieved in order to achieve a new first attempt.
  • 2nd & 17: This describes a second experiment, in which only 17 yards extra space must be achieved. This can be done by loss of space in the first down - turn, such as a bag, or by penalties.
  • 3rd & Inches: This is the distance to the new first attempt at a third trial, less than a yard. If the distance is too short to determine whether a new first trial have already been scored Chain Department is called onto the field to measure with a chain.

However, not only the exact distances are used as classification by journalists and fans, but also approximate distances.

  • 3rd & long: This describes a third attempt and a long distance to the first down. Here is the definition of " far " relative. Usually, these are more than seven or eight yards for a new first attempt.

Such a classification is made to group similar game situations. So " 3rd & long" a situation in which the offense with a high probability attempts a Passspielzug, since a space profit by running plays of more than seven yards is rarer than passports, which are indeed risky, but if successful, usually a achieve higher space savings. A further summary would be, for example, "2nd & short ", where " short" ( German: short) stands for approximately one to three yards.

Other terms are: Turnover on Downs: This describes the situation in which a team can not make a room gain of ten yards in four attempts to achieve. Then the ball goes to the opposing team. This means there is a turnover.

  • Three -and-out: This describes a situation in which it has not managed a team to achieve a new first attempt during a series of attacks. After three moves, they leave the pitch again since the fourth attempt usually is not played by the offense, see 4th Down.

In addition, there are other colloquial phrases, such as:

  • 4th & Game: This is a situation in which a first down or touchdown is absolutely necessary to keep the game going. This is usually the case in situations in which the attacking team must score points because the time is no longer sufficient to get back to the ball, should fail the test and get the opposing team the ball.

4th down

In American football, the fourth experiment differs significantly from the previous three. Is achieved with the fourth attempt, no new first attempt, possession changes. For this reason, the ball is a field goal in most cases punted or if you are close enough to the opponent's end zone, trying. Is punted to give the opponent a worse field position, so starting position for his offense. There are few cases in which a team is trying to play off the fourth attempt (English: Fourth Down Conversion Attempt ). Reasons for this are:

  • The attacking team is back and there is not enough game time to get back in possession, if you punts.
  • The attacking team tries to surprise the defending team, usually with a fake punt.

Canadian Football

In Canadian football, there are only three downs per series of attacks.


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