First and ten on the twenty-two [American football]


Senior Member
I am still on the same book, 'It Had To Be You' by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and once again I am trying to understand rules and plays of the American football.
The sentence I (really) can't understand is the following, but first you might need some context.
The Stars are playing the last minute of the last quarter of the game against the Sabers. They are desperately trying to win. The sentence I can't understand is: 'First and ten on the twenty-two'.
('twenty-two' should be the 22 yard line.)
The full sentence is:
The Sabers' defense, anticipating that the passing attack would continue, set up deep to protect against the bomb. Instead, they were suckered in by one of the sweetest running plays Dan had ever called. First and ten on the twenty-two.'
Can anyone tell me what 'first' and 'ten' are in this context?
  • Egmont

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    In American football, a team has four chances to advance the ball a total of ten yards. If they do this, they get another four chances to advance it another ten yards, and so on until they reach the opponents' goal line or fail to do this.

    Those four chances are called "downs." The phrase "First/second/third/fourth and [number]" means they are now on that down, in the series of four, and have [number] yards to go until they can begin the sequence again with another first down. "First and ten" is the normal way a series of four downs starts. If they gain four yards on that play, it will then be "second and six." If they gain another four yards on their second play, it will be "third and two;" but if they gain seven yards on their second play, it will be "first and ten" again in a new series of downs.


    Senior Member
    English - American
    It means "first down, ten yards to go, on the 22-yard line". A little more context would be helpful; however, the context you gave implies that they are on the defending team's 22-yard line, the one closest to the end zone the Stars are trying to reach. It also implies that they had to go a great distance to get there. When you only have one minute left and you have to get down the field, pass plays are pretty much the standard course of action. However, the Stars chose to execute a run, for which the Sabers were not prepared, and were able to gain enough yards to get them very close to their end zone in a short amount of time.
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