Super Bowl Sunday is quickly approaching and for those who may not recall why the man in the white and black stripped shirt is throwing yellow flags on the ground and waving his arms around we created a quick tutorial for you. Listed below are some penalties, description of the penalties, description of how the referee will signal the penalty and finally the yardage. In addition we listed if either the penalty belongs to the offensive or defensive team. Not too sure who is the offense or defense, we have you covered:

The offensive team typically has a quarter back (the team leader), two additional players behind the quarterback often called the fullback and the tailback, five players in a line in front of the quarter back called the offensive line, and three receivers off to either side of the offensive line that are called tight end, split end, and flanker. The tight end is close to the offensive line; the others are further away. The center player of the five linemen on the offensive line is the center.

The defensive team typically has four linemen in front, three line backers in back of them and four defensive backs further back or to the sides called corner backs and safeties.

Here is an example of what the formation of the teams would look like on the field:

Now we are ready to look at the penalties and their descriptions:


Penalty Description Signal Yardage
Unsportsmanlike conduct Any person (usually a player but occasionally a coach and very rarely one or more spectators) acts or speaks in a manner deemed to be intentionally harmful or especially objectionable by the game officials, or by rule. Unsportsmanlike conduct is a non-contact foul; if contact is involved it becomes a personal foul. Both arms extended to the sides perpendicular to the body with open fists, palms down 15 yards, automatic first down if committed by defense

(offense or defense)

A blocker contacting a non-ballcarrying opponent from behind and at or below the waist Chopping the back of one thigh with the hand. 15 yards; automatic first down if committed by defense
Chop Block


An offensive player tries to cut block a defensive player that is already being blocked by another offensive player. The second block may need to be below the thigh or knee, depending on the code. Arms extended alongside the body, palms facing outward, then moving in to the upper thigh in a chopping motion. 15 yards


Before the snap, a defensive player illegally crosses the line of scrimmage and makes contact with an opponent or has a clear path to the quarterback. In high school, this includes any crossing of the neutral zone by the defense, whether contact is made or not. The play is not allowed to begin. Two hands placed on their respective hips 5 yards
Pass interference

(offense or defense

Making physical contact with an intended receiver (intentional physical contact in NFL), after the ball has been thrown and before it has been touched by another player, in order to hinder or prevent him from catching a forward pass.
(On offense, the restriction begins at the snap and continues until the ball is touched in order to prevent receivers from blocking defenders away from a passed ball.)
Both arms extended in front of the body, palms upright, in a pushing motion Offense, 10 yards; defense, spot of foul (or placement on the 1 if the foul occurs in the end zone) and automatic first down
Roughing the passer


A defender continues an effort to tackle or “hit” a passer after the passer has already thrown a pass. (In the NFL, a defender is allowed to take one step after the ball is thrown; a defender is penalized if he hits the passer having taken two or more steps after the ball leaves the passer’s hand.) Arm moved in a passing motion 15 yards and an automatic first down
Face mask

(offense or defense)

Grasping the face mask of another player while attempting to block or tackle him. In the NFL, the grasping and pulling/twisting must be intentional to be penalized. One arm in front of the body, forearm extended vertically. The hand is closed into a fist in front of the face and pulled downward 15 yards, automatic first down


If you still find yourself lost at your Super Bowl party, don’t frieght, most viewers watch the big game for the commercials anyways. Don’t believe us? Check out the poll below: