8 yard line - third and twenty five

This comes from a TV show (AmE). This former football star is bragging about a game. There's really no context because these are the first lines of the episodes. He says:

- So I'm pulling turf|out of my teeth, right? We're on our own 8 yard line. Third and 25. The crowd's hollering|for our blood, right?- Hey, Doc. (uttered by a fan requesting an autograph)
- So I look over at the guys, and I say, "gentlemen...", I believe we got 'em|right where we want 'em.

What may he mean by the part in bold?
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    It's a term describing the state of play in an American Football game

    The team that takes possession of the ball (the offense) has four attempts, called downs, in which to advance the ball at least 10 yards toward their opponent's (the defense's) end zone. When the offense succeeds in gaining at least 10 yards, it gets a first down, meaning the team starts a new set of four downs to gain yet another 10 yards or to score.

    It means they are about to play their "3rd down" and need to advance the ball 25 yards in order to gain another first down. 3rd and 25 is not a good position to be in so the comment "I believe we got 'em right where we want 'em." is an ironic one because the speaker is where the opponents want him!
    In addition to what Julian Stuart said, note that if you need 25 yards for a "first down" (which calls for advancing the ball 10 yards from where you start), during your previous two attempts you not only did not advance the ball down the field at all, but you have lost 15 yards from the starting point. Also note that to be on one's own 8 yard line means one is 92 yards from the goal you are trying to reach (because a football field is 100 yards long.)


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Yeah, so the situation was completely hopeless. :)
    Not completely. A team can gain 25 yards in one play by using a forward pass. However, in this situation the defensive team knows that a forward pass is the offensive team's only real hope, so it can defend against that play rather than trying to defend against all the plays that an offensive team might use when it is in a better position. So, while "completely hopeless" goes too far, the odds were definitely against them.


    American English
    Theoretically, a team in a "3rd and 25" situation could get a "first down" by gaining 13 yards on each of two plays. However, if the team does not get a first down, the opposing team takes possession of the ball wherever it ends up at the end of the fourth down. If the team with a 3rd and 25 on their own 8 failed to get to the 33-yard line on fourth down, the opposing team would have the ball within 32 yards or less of their goal line. As a practical matter, teams only try to gain yardage on a fourth down if they only have a yard or two to go and if they are not close to the goal line they are defending. With more than one or two yards to go (4th and 1 or 4th and 2), and sometimes even with only a yard or two to go, an offensive team usually executes a special play called a "punt." This involves kicking, instead of carrying or passing, the ball. It automatically transfers possession to the (currently) defending team, but usually much farther down field. A team with "3rd and 2" might have two chances to make a "first down," but a team with "3rd and 25" really has only one, and the odds against making it are long for the reasons described by Egmont.