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New for 2022 — Timing Loopholes Closed



The NF made two changes affecting the play and game clocks in 2022. These changes were designed to close timing loopholes which, arguably, allowed teams to gain an advantage by fouling in late game scenarios.

 In one change, Rule 3-4-7 was modified to provide that any foul committed in the last 2 minutes of either half results in the offended team having the option to start the game clock on the snap, rather than as dictated by the result of the play. This prevents a team from fouling to gain an advantage when they’re trying to run out the clock. Here’s an example:

Team B trails by 2 pts. in the last minute of the game. Team A has the ball deep in their own territory on 3rd and 10. A1 is sacked on the play, but A2 was flagged for being illegally in motion at the snap. Of course, B wants to decline the penalty since that would make it 4th down and A would have to punt. But by declining the penalty, the rule dictates that the game clock would run on the Referee’s ready signal, and A could run another 25 seconds off the game clock. Now, with this rule change, Team B can decline the penalty and exercise the option to have the game clock started on the snap.

The second change is to the play clock. A new Exception 2 was added to Rule 3-6-1a(1)e. Previously, whenever the game clocked was stopped due to a penalty, the play clock was set to 25 sec. following administration. This allowed the defense, when trailing, to trade fouls for time by making the offense run its play in 25 sec., rather than 40. Under the new exception, if the clock is stopped for penalty administration of a defensive foul, the play clock will automatically reset to 40 sec., regardless of the result of the play.  Here’s an illustration:

Same scenario as the example above. As Team A is at the LOS, B1 encroaches. Because the clock was stopped as a result of a defensive penalty, the play clock will be reset to 40 sec. Team A, as the offended team, has the option of electing for the game clock to not start until the ball is snapped. Obviously, they won’t do that. Instead, the game clock will start on the ready signal, and A will be able to run off an “extra” 15 sec. due to B’s foul.

Coaches need to understand these changes, since they may well affect end of half or game strategy and clock management. These changes also make it more important than ever for officials to (a) know and understand the nuances of the timing rules, and (b) communicate with crew members in these end of half or end of game scenarios.

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