Tackle Football vs. Flag Football: 8 Differences

tackle football vs flag football

Tackle football and flag football are two different versions of the sport. Flag football is a less violent version of American Football, where they restrict tackling. In tackle football, players can tackle other players by using their hands to catch or hold them. While in flag football, you can only tackle the opposing players’ flags. The following are the main differences.

The Game Duration

The game duration in Flag Football is much shorter than in Tackle Football. The standard length for an American football game is 60 minutes, with 15-minute halves being the most common regulation length. However, this can vary depending on local customs and match-up.

Flag Football games tend to be around 12-15 minutes long, as they rotate the players out of play as soon as they have pulled their flag from the ground.


In Tackle Football, tackling another player without the use of illegal contact is permissible. This includes grabbing clothing and tackling them to the ground.

Another thing that they allow in Tackle Football is blocking. You can perform this by using your hands or arms/legs to impede an opposing player from catching a ball in motion.

Tackling and blocking are not permitted in Flag Football. Players can only pull their flag out of the ground and touch other players with it.

The Number of Players

In a tackling football game, there are 11 or 12 per team, with only one quarterback and two running backs per side. Flag football plays comprise seven players on each team: four linemen plus three “backs” who can be runners or receivers.

Direct Running Plays

The main difference between a running play in tackle football and flag football is that they do not permit blocking. In between plays, however, two linemen can place their hands on the shoulders of other players to show which direction they should run.

Any player other than those two linemen cannot initiate contact with another player during an offensive play only if they have possession of the ball.

In Flag Football, running plays are very rare. Players usually cannot outrun or catch up with other players who have pulled their flags, which means they can use the flag to touch down behind their opponent’s goal line.

The Timeout System

Another difference in the rules of Tackle and Flag Football is how timeouts work. In tackle football, they give teams four-time outs per half, while in Flag Football, there is only one time out available for each team during a match. 

This means offensive teams that remove all players from play after scoring a touchdown will not halt the game. Not even by calling a timeout, unless they do so before reaching the opponent’s end zone. The reason for this is that it would give them an unfair advantage over their opponents.

Fumbles and Punt Returns

Another major difference between these two football codes is that the receiving team in Tackle Football will always receive possession of the ball on any fumble if they recover it. In flag football, however, the defensive player who recovers a fumble has to roll it towards their end zone for his team to gain control of it.

This means that if they do not roll it back, then it’s automatically given to the offense team unless one of the teammates’ touches/records touches with it first before heading towards their end zone.

In Tackle Football, they consider punts’ live as soon as they’re kicked. Meaning that any player on the receiving team can legally touch the ball while in the air. 

However, flag football permits only one designated player to catch a punt while it’s in midair. If a fumble happens during the play, the play stops, and possession of the ball reverts to whichever team touched it last before going down.

Possession Rule

Another major difference between these two sports is how possession of the ball works after gaining control behind your goal line: In Flag Football, if you score by pulling flags or touching down behind your opponent’s goal line without their flags, they give you one point for every opposing player you have on the field. 

This means if you scored by pulling flags but had an opponent whose flag wasn’t pulled, then it will count as a point and not as a touchback.

The uniforms they wear

Tackle football wears shoulder and knee pads, as do flag football players; however, tackle football has hard plastic helmets that cover the ears while flags don’t because, in the tackle, it is illegal to tackle a player by grabbing their face mask. 

Tackle football players have plastic helmets covering the ears and hard shoulder pads; flag football players wear no helmet or only soft foam caps that do not cover the ears.

Final Thoughts

The debate over the best sport is never-ending. It may be impossible to determine which one is better, but it’s possible to make a more informed decision about your preference and why you enjoy either game so much.

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