Clock management

In gridiron football, clock management is the manipulation of a game clock and play clock to achieve a desired result, typically near the end of a match. It is analogous to "running out the clock" (and associated counter-tactics) seen in many sports, and the act of trying to hasten the game's end is often referred to by this term. Clock managements strategies are a significant part of American football, where an elaborate set of rules dictates when the game clock stops between downs, and when it continues to run.

In American football

Rules for the game clock

Upon kickoff, the clock is started when a member of the receiving team touches the ball, or, if the member of the receiving team touches the ball in their end zone, carries the ball out of the end zone. The clock is stopped when that player is tackled or goes out of bounds. (The clock never starts if the receiving team downs the ball in their own end zone for a touchback.) The clock is then restarted when the offense snaps the ball for their first play and continues to run unless one of the following occurs, in which case the clock is stopped at the end of the play and restarts at the next snap unless otherwise provided:[1]

  • A player carrying the ball goes out of bounds. Unless after the 2-minute warning of the first half or inside the last 5 minutes of the second half/overtime, the clock is restarted when the ball is spotted, unless another condition causes the clock to start at the snap.
  • A loose ball is out of bounds. The clock is restarted when the ball is spotted, unless another condition causes the clock to start at the snap.
  • A forward pass is ruled incomplete.
  • Either team calls for a timeout or an official calls for a timeout, perhaps because a player is injured or there is a penalty on the play. Officials will restart the clock after an official timeout, but not a team timeout, has concluded unless another of the conditions applies, or if the timeout is for a penalty enforcement after the 2-minute warning of the first half or inside the last 5 minutes of the second half/overtime (absent special timing rules for specific fouls).
    • 10 seconds will be taken off the clock, and the clock started when the ball is spotted, if the offense, after the 2-minute warning of either half, fouls or commits certain other acts that cause the clock to stop (including an injury when the offense is out of timeouts, except under certain circumstances), unless the clock will stop anyway for a different reason. In Canadian football, the offense may execute one additional untimed play if the clock expires while the ball is not in play.
  • A score or touchback occurs. Additionally, the clock does not run during or after a conversion attempt in the NFL or NCAA college football.
  • Possession of the football is transferred between teams for any reason.
  • In college football, the clock is briefly stopped when a team earns a first down to allow the chain crew to reposition themselves. The NFL has no such stoppage.

If the clock runs out during a play, the current play is allowed to continue to its conclusion. If the clock runs out between downs, the period ends in American football, but in Canadian football the offense is allowed one last down.

Each team is given three timeouts per half which they can use to stop the clock from running after a play. In the NFL, teams get two timeouts in a preseason or regular season overtime period, or three in a postseason overtime half.

On a fair-catch punt, the clock starts at the snap and stops at the end of the play.

Strategies

Strategies for leading teams on offense

A team on offense that has the higher score seeks to use as much time as possible. A drive that scores no points may nevertheless benefit the team by taking time off the clock. The team may:

  • Favor run plays over pass plays.
  • Use the center of the field rather than the sidelines to avoid going out of bounds and stopping the clock.
  • Delay the start of each play until the play clock approaches 0.

The team may use counterintuitive game plans, such as declining to score or allowing the opponents to score, to accelerate the end of the game.

If the defense does not have enough time-outs to stop the clock before the ball is turned over on downs, the offense can run out the clock by executing repeated quarterback kneels until the clock runs out. In the NFL and college football, up to 40 seconds can be taken off the clock between plays. The NFL also has a built-in two-minute warning that stops the clock after the play that occurs when the clock hits two minutes ends. In order to successfully run out the clock by kneeling, there must be less than 40 seconds on the clock if the opponent has two time-outs, 1 minute 20 seconds if the opponent has one time-out, or 2 minutes if the defense has no time-outs remaining, at the beginning of the series of downs. The offense can burn further time off the clock by timewasting: keeping the ball live (and the clock running) simply by keeping away from any defensive player, regardless of position on the field.

Strategies for trailing teams on offense

A team on offense that has the lower score seeks to conserve time. The team may:

  • Use a no-huddle offense; forgo detailed design of a play and instead signal and initiate a play quickly.
  • Have the quarterback "spike" the ball, sacrificing a down to stop the clock. (An explicit exception is written into the American football rule books so that the move is not penalized for intentional grounding.)
  • Use a passing play (because an incomplete pass stops the clock) or a run play toward the sidelines (because taking the ball out of bounds also stops the clock).
    • Most ideal after a 1st down.
  • If a play ends such that the game clock continues running, use a timeout.
  • If the ball is still alive while the clock runs out and the team with the ball is still trailing, do everything within the team's power to keep the ball alive until it can be advanced to the end zone. Often this incorporates a series of lateral and backward passes to avoid the ball carrier being tackled and the game ending.

A team that is tied or trailing by one or two points but is within the red zone (and thus in easy field goal range) seeks to burn a specific amount of time off the clock, such that they can stop the clock with five or fewer seconds on the clock, so that their placekicker can kick a field goal with no time remaining and win the game.

One exceptionally rare strategy that a team in possession of the ball near the end of the game can use is the fair catch kick. For the fair catch kick to be a viable option, several conditions must be met: the opposing team must have punted the ball within play and the receiving team used the fair catch to secure the ball, the punt must have been exceptionally short so that the spot of the fair catch is within field goal range and unlikely to be returned, and the team using the fair catch kick must be either tied or within three points.

Strategies for the defense

A team on defense has little control over the pace of the game. It may expend its timeouts to ensure that there is adequate time left on the clock, in case the team regains possession. The defense can make decisions on how to stop the ball carrier based on whether the team is trailing or leading: if the offense is trying to conserve time, the defense can foil that by tackling the ball carrier in-bounds before they can get out of bounds. Defenses likewise can safely devote more personnel to the perimeter and leave the center of the field and areas near the line of scrimmage less defended, as an offense that cannot afford to keep the clock running will have to throw toward the sidelines (see also: prevent defense). The only recourse a team has once the game has progressed to the point where the opposing offense can run out the clock with kneels is to deliberately ram the opposing center into his quarterback, hoping to disrupt the snap and cause a fumble; Greg Schiano is known for this strategy, but it is otherwise considered poor sportsmanship and rarely used.[2]

Various rules ensure that the defense cannot deliberately commit fouls to manipulate the game clock, and in the most extreme such cases, an unfair act can be declared and the game forfeited to the offense. (Likewise, if the offense commits fouls to burn off time and get extra downs, the clock is reset and unsportsmanlike conduct is called on them.)

Canadian football

In Canadian football, a team trailing by one point or tied has an additional option: a ball can be kicked from anywhere on the field in that sport, and balls kicked into or through the end zone and not returned score a single point. This allows a team trailing by one to advance the ball upfield, then punt the ball toward the end zone in hopes of tying the game for one point (the player could also drop kick the ball, which would allow the kicking team to win on a field goal if kicked through the uprights). To prevent this scenario, defending teams will place their punter in the end zone to retrieve the ball and kick it back out of the end zone, preventing that single point from being scored.

Several of the strategies discussed above for American football above can be used in the Canadian code, however rule differences mean that running out the clock much more difficult:

  • Teams are allowed only three downs to advance the ball 10 yards without losing possession (as opposed to four in the American game).
  • The offensive team has only 20 seconds after the ball is whistled into play to start a new play (as opposed to 25 seconds in American high school football and 40 seconds from the end of the last play in college football and the NFL).
  • After the three-minute warning in Canadian football, two key timing changes occur:
    • The clock stops after every play. The clock restarts when the referee whistles the ball in play after a tackle in bounds, and with the snap after an incomplete pass or a tackle out of bounds.
    • A "time count" (the same foul as "delay of game" in American football), which is a 5-yard penalty (with the down repeated) at other points in the game, becomes a loss of down penalty on first or second down and a 10-yard penalty on third down. Additionally, if the referee deems a time count violation on third down in the last three minutes of a half to be deliberate, he can require the offensive team to legally place the ball in play within the 20-second count, with a violation resulting in loss of possession.[3]
  • If the clock hits 0:00 between plays, Canadian teams are required to execute one final play, even if the ball has not yet been snapped. In the American game, if the clock hits 0:00 between plays, the game is over unless the previous play ended in a defensive penalty, a score, or circumstances warranting various types of kicks.

These differences make for radically different endgames if the team with the lead has the ball. In the NFL, a team can run 120 seconds (2 minutes)--and slightly more in the NCAA--off the clock without gaining a first down (assuming that the defensive team is out of timeouts). In the Canadian game, just over 40 seconds can be run off.

See also

References

  1. ^ "2016 NFL Rulebook". NFL Football Operations. Rule 4, Sections 3 & 4. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  2. ^ Garafalo, Mike, "Coughlin to Schiano: 'You don't do that in this league'", USA Today, September 17, 2012. Accessed September 17, 2012. [1]
  3. ^ "Rule 1, Section 7, Article 9: Time Count" (PDF). The Official Playing Rules for the Canadian Football League 2015. Canadian Football League. pp. 18–19. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 21, 2015.

Further reading

Andy Reid

Andrew Walter Reid (born March 19, 1958) is an American football head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs of the National Football League (NFL). Reid was previously the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, a position he held from 1999 to 2012. From 2001 to 2012, he was also the Eagles' executive vice president of football operations, effectively making him the team's general manager. He led the Eagles to five National Football Conference (NFC) championship games, including four consecutive appearances from 2001–2004, and one Super Bowl appearance in 2005. Reid ranks seventh in NFL head coaching wins at 207, which are the most of an NFL head coach not to win a championship.

Conversion (gridiron football)

The conversion, try (American football, also known as a point(s) after touchdown, PAT, or extra point), or convert (Canadian football) occurs immediately after a touchdown during which the scoring team is allowed to attempt to score one extra point by kicking the ball through the uprights in the manner of a field goal, or two points by bringing the ball into the end zone in the manner of a touchdown.

Attempts at a try or convert are scrimmage plays, with the ball initially placed at any point between the hash marks, at the option of the team making the attempt. The yard line that attempts are made from depends on the league and the type of try or convert being attempted.

If the try or convert is scored by kicking the ball through the uprights, the team gets an additional one point for their touchdown, bringing their total for that score from six points to seven. If two points are needed or desired, a two-point conversion may be attempted by running or passing from scrimmage. A successful touchdown conversion from scrimmage brings the score's total to eight.

Whether a team goes for one or two points, most rules regarding scrimmage downs, including scoring touchdowns and field goals, apply as if it were a normal American fourth-down or Canadian third-down play. Exceptions, including cases where the defense forces a turnover during a conversion attempt, vary between leagues and levels of play. One thing that sets the try apart from other plays in the NFL is that, apart from the actual points, ordinary statistics are not recorded on the try as they would be on a regular scrimmage play. For example, on December 4, 2016, Eric Berry of the Kansas City Chiefs made an interception on a try and physically returned it 99 yards for a defensive two-point conversion. However, because it occurred on a try, Berry did not get statistical credit for the 99 yards of return yardage; nor would a player ever be credited with passing, rushing, or receiving yardage on a try.

Cornerback

A cornerback (CB), also referred to as a corner or defensive halfback in older parlance, is a member of the defensive backfield or secondary in American and Canadian football. Cornerbacks cover receivers most of the time, to defend against offensive plays, i.e create turnovers in best case or (more common) deflect a forward pass or rather make a tackle. Other members of the defensive backfield include the safeties and occasionally linebackers. The cornerback position requires speed, agility, and strength. A cornerback's skillset typically requires proficiency in anticipating the quarterback, backpedaling, executing single and zone coverage, disrupting pass routes, block shedding, and tackling. Cornerbacks are among the fastest players on the field.

Fumble

A fumble in American and Canadian football occurs when a player who has possession and control of the ball loses it before being downed (tackled), scoring, or going out of bounds. By rule, it is any act other than passing, kicking, punting, or successful handing that results in loss of player possession. A fumble may be forced by a defensive player who either grabs or punches the ball or butts the ball with his helmet (a move called "tackling the ball"). A fumbled ball may be recovered and advanced by either team (except, in American football, after the two-minute warning in either half or 4th down, when the fumbling player is the only offensive player allowed to advance the ball, otherwise the ball is ruled dead at the spot of recovery if the ball bounces backwards or spotted at the point of the fumble if the ball travels forward). It is one of three events that can cause a turnover (the other two being an interception or on downs, though the latter does not count toward the team's total turnovers), where possession of the ball can change during play.

Under American rules a fumble may be confused with a muff. A muff occurs where a player drops a ball that he does not have possession of, such as while attempting to catch a lateral pass or improperly fielding a kicking play such as a punt (you cannot "fumble" a loose ball). Ball security is the ability of a player to maintain control over the football during play and thus avoid a fumble. Thus, losing possession of the ball via a fumble includes not only dropping the ball before being downed; but, also having a ball taken away, or “stripped” from the runner’s possession before being downed.

Hack-a-Shaq

Hack-a-Shaq is a basketball defensive strategy used in the National Basketball Association (NBA), where Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson adapted the strategy of committing intentional fouls (originally a clock management strategy) to the purpose of lowering opponents' scoring. He directed players to commit personal fouls throughout the game against selected opponents who shot free throws poorly.

Nelson initially used the strategy against Dennis Rodman, the power forward of the Chicago Bulls. However, the strategy acquired its name for Nelson's subsequent use of it against Shaquille O'Neal, the center of the Orlando Magic.

Hurry-up offense

The hurry-up offense is an American football offensive style, which has two different but related forms in which the offensive team avoids delays between plays. The hurry-up, no-huddle offense (HUNH) refers to avoiding or shortening the huddle to limit or disrupt defensive strategies and flexibility. The two-minute drill is a clock-management strategy that may limit huddles but also emphasizes plays that stop the game clock. While the two-minute drill refers to parts of the game with little time remaining on the game clock, the no-huddle may be used in some form at any time. The no-huddle offense was pioneered by the Cincinnati Bengals and reached its most famous and complete usage by the Buffalo Bills, nicknamed the "K-Gun", during the 1990s under head coach Marv Levy and offensive coordinator Ted Marchibroda.

Intentional grounding

In gridiron football, intentional grounding is a violation of the rules where "a passer...throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion." This typically happens when a quarterback about to be sacked passes the ball toward an area of the field with no eligible receiver. Were it not for this rule, the quarterback could easily turn the sack into an incomplete pass which, by rule, would advance the ball back to the line of scrimmage and stop the clock.

Interception

In ball-playing competitive team sports, an interception or pick is a move by a player involving a pass of the ball—whether by foot or hand, depending on the rules of the sport—in which the ball is intended for a player of the same team but caught by a player of the opposing team, who thereby usually gains possession of the ball for their team. It is commonly seen in football, including American and Canadian football, as well as association football, rugby league, rugby union, Australian rules football and Gaelic football, as well as any sport by which a loose object is passed between players toward a goal.

In basketball, a pick is called a steal.

Muffed punt

In gridiron football, a muffed punt is defined as "touching of the ball prior to possessing the ball.”

A muffed punt occurs when there is an "uncontrolled touch" of the football by a player on the returning team after it is punted. This can occur when:

The kicking team interferes with the other team's right to catch the punt

A player on the kicking team is struck unaware by the football running down-field to cover the punt.

A player attempts to return the ball, makes contact with it but cannot retain the ball in his hands and it comes loose.

To be a fumble, the receiving team must possess the football, then lose control. In the case of a fumble, the ball is live and can be returned by the team that recovers the ball. In the case of a muffed punt, it is possible for the punting team to recover the ball and continue the drive, but at least in NCAA and NFL rules, they cannot advance the ball on that same play. Rules vary by league about how to handle a muffed punt.

Nonetheless, a muffed punt is a turnover. In the NFL, a muffed punt recovered by the kicking team cannot be challenged by a coach for review because all turnovers are automatically reviewed.

NCAA Football 10

NCAA Football 10 is a college football video game created by Electronic Arts. It is the successor to NCAA Football 09 in the NCAA Football series. It was released on July 14, 2009 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, and PlayStation 2 consoles. Brian Johnson, Brian Orakpo, Mark Sanchez, and Michael Crabtree were the cover athletes for the game.

Play clock

A play clock, also called a delay-of-game timer, is a countdown clock intended to speed up the pace of the game, and hopefully the scoring, in American football and Canadian football. The offensive team must put the ball in play by either snapping the ball during a scrimmage down or kicking the ball during a free kick down before the time expires, or else they will be assessed a 5-yard delay of game (American football) or time count violation (Canadian football; that code's "delay of game" is a different infraction) penalty. If a visible clock is not available or not functioning, game officials on the field will use a stopwatch or other similar device to enforce the rule.

In all levels of Canadian football, the offensive team must run a play within 20 seconds of the referee whistling the play in; in amateur American football, teams have 25 seconds from the time the ball is declared ready for play.In the NFL, teams have 40 seconds timed from the end of the previous down. Before 2008, in college football, the play clock was 25 seconds after the ball was set, but the clock was not stopped for the ball to be set unless the previous play resulted in a stoppage of the clock. Now, the same intervals as the NFL are used, with minor differences for the final two minutes of each half. In

high school football, starting with the 2019 season, teams will use the 40-second play clock as in the NCAA and NFL, with minor exceptions. Various professional leagues have used their own standards; the XFL, for instance, used a 35-second play clock to encourage faster play. Arena football uses a 32-second play clock.

Also in the Canadian Football League, a time count is enforced differently at certain points of the game. If the time count occurs before the three-minute mark of a half, the penalty is five yards and the down is repeated. In the final three minutes, the penalty is a loss of down on first and second down or 10 yards, with the down repeated, on third down. If the referee deems a time count committed on third down in the last three minutes of a half to be deliberate, he also has the right to require the offensive team to put the ball in play legally within 20 seconds or else forfeit possession. (Time counts during convert attempts, during which the ball is live but the clock does not run, are 5-yard penalties with the down repeated at all times in the game.)In the strategy of clock management, a team can slow the pace of a game by taking the maximum amount of time allotted between plays. A team wishing to do so would wait to snap the ball until there is one second left on the play clock.

In many football games, the play clock is managed by the back judge who is positioned behind the defense and faces the quarterback. When the play clock counts down to 5 seconds remaining, some back judges will raise their arm over their head to warn the quarterback, and rotate their arm downward to their leg, counting down the final seconds. A penalty flag for delay is thrown afterward. The infraction typically results in a five-yard penalty.

Prevent defense

The prevent defense is a defensive alignment in American football that seeks to prevent the offense from completing a long pass or scoring a touchdown in a single play and seeks to run out the clock. It is used by a defense that is winning by more than a touchdown, late in the fourth quarter, or in specific situations, such as third-and-very-long if it seems clear that the offense must pass the football to gain long yardage.

The alignment uses five or more defensive backs (or players in that role), preferring fast players over large players. They back up so far that they concede short-yardage plays but try to ensure that no receiver is uncovered downfield or can get behind them.

Punter (football)

A punter (P) in American or Canadian football is a special teams player who receives the snapped ball directly from the line of scrimmage and then punts (kicks) the football to the opposing team so as to limit any field position advantage. This generally happens on a fourth down in American football and a third down in Canadian football. Punters may also occasionally take part in fake punts in those same situations, when they throw or run the football instead of punting.

Quarterback

A quarterback (commonly abbreviated "QB"), colloquially known as the "signal caller", is a position in American and Canadian football. Quarterbacks are members of the offensive team and line up directly behind the offensive line. In modern American football, the quarterback is usually considered the leader of the offensive team, and is often responsible for calling the play in the huddle. The quarterback also touches the ball on almost every offensive play, and is the offensive player that almost always throws forward passes.

Spike (gridiron football)

In gridiron football, a spike of the ball is a play in which the quarterback intentionally throws the ball at the ground immediately after the snap and is principally used as part of clock management by a team on offense. A spike is technically an incomplete pass, and therefore, it has the effect of stopping the clock at the cost of exhausting a down. A spike is performed when the offensive team is conducting a hurried drive near the end of the first half or of the game, and the game clock is still running in the aftermath of the previous play; as an incomplete pass the spike causes the referee to stop the game clock, and the offensive team will have a chance to huddle and plan the next play without losing scarce game-clock time.

A spike is not considered intentional grounding if it is done with the quarterback under center and immediately after the snap. No penalty is assessed.

Running a spike play presumes there will be at least one play by the same team immediately afterward, so it would not be done on fourth down; instead, a regular play would have to be run without a huddle.

In the 1998 Rose Bowl, Ryan Leaf spiked the ball and inadvertently ran the clock out on that play. In the 2012 Rose Bowl, Russell Wilson also ran the clock out on a spike ball play. In both cases, just before such spike, the clock was stopped with just 2 seconds left (while the sideline chains were being moved for 1st down, the usual procedure when playing under college football rules).

In 2014, Nick Montana spiked the ball on 4th down near the end of the first half of a game between his Tulane University and UCF, resulting in a turnover on downs; he erroneously believed his team had gained a first down.In Canadian football, spike plays are legal but very rare. This is mainly because a final play is always run whenever the game clock expires while the ball is dead, rendering spike plays unnecessary. Also, the offense in Canadian football only receives three downs instead of four.

Statue of Liberty play

The Statue of Liberty is a trick play in American football named after the Statue of Liberty.

The Hidden Game of Football

The Hidden Game of Football is an influential book on American football statistics published in 1988 and written by Bob Carroll, John Thorn, and Pete Palmer. It was the first systematic statistical approach to analyzing American football in a book and is still considered the seminal work on the topic.

Two-minute warning

In most levels of professional American football, the two-minute warning is given when two minutes of game time remain on the game clock in each half of a game, i.e. near the end of the second and fourth quarters. The suspension of play is two minutes long, the same as the short two-minute intermissions between quarters within each half. There is an additional two-minute warning in the rare event only two minutes remain in an overtime period. However, in the postseason, where games continue indefinitely if there is no score, there is no two-minute warning in the first overtime, but if the second overtime, or any subsequent even overtime, is still tied with two minutes remaining (which has never happened), there will be a two-minute warning. If the football is in play when the clock reaches 2:00, the two-minute warning is called immediately after the play concludes, when the ball is declared dead. The two-minute warning stops the game clock in all cases.

Wide receiver

A wide receiver, also referred to as wideouts or simply receivers, is an offensive position in American and Canadian football, and is a key player. They get their name because they are split out "wide" (near the sidelines), farthest away from the rest of the team. Wide receivers are among the fastest players on the field. The wide receiver functions as the pass-catching specialist.

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