What Does 2nd & 10 Mean In Football? Downs Explained

By vIQtory

Football, unlike other sports, has stoppage after every play. This stoppage is known as downs, or chances the offense has to get 10 yards. So what do 2nd and 10 mean in football, and how is it relevant to offenses?

2nd and 10 means it is 2nd down and 10 yards to go. The offense has four downs to try to get 10 yards. If they fail to get any yards on first down, then it will be 2nd and 10. If the offense fails to gain yards on the 3rd or 4th downs, they will turn the ball over to the other team.

This article will show you what 2nd and 10 mean in football and how you can tell the down and distance after each play.

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Downs In Football

Football is a unique sport because it has a start and stoppage after each play. Each play typically lasts only 6 seconds. Unlike other sports like basketball and soccer, football referees will play the whistle when a player is tackled, which then the referee will signal the down to change.

Offenses in football have four downs to get 10 yards. When they receive the football from a kickoff and get tackled, the drive will automatically start 1st and 10. This means the offense is on its first chance to get 10 yards.

The best way to think of downs is to think of chances. First down means the team is on their first chance to get 10 yards. If the team gains yards, the referee will signal the down marker referee to move where the ball is spotted.

For example, if the offense runs the football and gets no yards on first down, then it will be 2nd and 10 on the next down. If the team again runs the football and gains no yards, it will be 3rd and 10.

If on 3rd down, the team gains no yards again, then it will be 4th and 10. This is the offense’s last chance to try to get 10 yards. Teams will often punt the football if they feel as if they cannot get 10 yards.

This is the cycle of how football works and what the down and distances mean (2nd and 5, 2nd and 3, etc.).

Football Chains

Every first down, the chains are reset to extend 10 yards. Two referees will hold the two chains as tight as possible, which equals out to 10 yards.

This is the distance the offense must travel to get a 1st down. The defense must keep the offense from reaching past the second chain marker, allowing the offense to get the first down.

Football relies on 11 offensive players working in unison to gain those 10 yards. Teams ultimately want to get past those 10 yards and get into the endzone for a touchdown. But bare minimum, they are trying to get a first down.

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Down Marker

The down marker is typically the numbered marker you see on the sideline. This is sometimes a flip marker, or it can be digital. Regardless, it will display a number, 1-4, which tells the coaches, players, and fans which down it is.

This first down marker is important because the coaches calling the plays need to know what it is. Each down and distance has its strategic advantage for both the offense and the defense. Teams will try to gain as many yards as they can on first and second down to make third and fourth down less stressful.

Coaches will gameplan each down and each distance against the defense they’re playing against. Each scenario will have a play call attached to it.

Why Is Down & Distance Important In Football

Understanding the down and distance in football is the key strategy in football. Coaches need to gameplan properly and remain calm when coaching the game. This helps them think clearly and choose the right situation on gameday.

Football is all about calling the right play and executing when the time is right.

Down and distance is essential because if the players don’t execute properly, they could put themselves in non-favorable situations.

For example, if teams are consistently in 3rd and 5+ situations, there’s almost a guarantee that they will throw the football. This allows defenses to be more aggressive and blitz the quarterback rather than worry about the run.

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Keep Learning

2nd and 10 mean the offense is on their second chance to gain 10 yards. If they can gain the 10 yards, then it will be first down again. Teams will try to gain 10 yards down the field until they score a touchdown.

Let’s keep learning! Our learning center is packed with information regarding techniques, schemes, and more!

If you’re looking for more in-depth breakdowns & coaching resources, visit ourĀ coaching resource page here.

This has been our short article on learning about down and distances, such as 2nd and 10.

If you enjoyed this article, make sure to check out some of our other articles on speeding up your learning process.

About the author

Chris Haddad is the founder of vIQtory Sports. Chris has coached football for 12+ years and continues to coach at the high school level. He continues to study and provide valuable content for those looking to learn more about this wonderful game of football.