Clock management

Last updated

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 management 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.

Contents

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 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]

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 may therefore benefit the team, even if it scores no points, 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 nor ruled a fumble, so long as he spikes the ball immediately after the snap from the center.)
  • Use a passing play and/or attempt to get the ball carrier near the sidelines so that the ball carrier can go out of bounds before being tackled. (Taking the ball out of bounds and incomplete passes both stop the clock.)
  • 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, the team using the fair catch kick must be either tied or within three points, and the game must not be played under NCAA rules (the NCAA has no fair catch kick rule).

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).

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:

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

Related Research Articles

Canadian football Canadian team sport

Canadian football is a sport played in Canada in which two teams of 12 players each compete for territorial control of a field of play 110 yards (101 m) long and 65 yards (59 m) wide attempting to advance a pointed oval-shaped ball into the opposing team's scoring area.

Arena football Variant of indoor gridiron football

Arena football is a variety of eight-man gridiron football. The game is played indoors on a smaller field than American or Canadian football, designed to fit in the same surface area as a standard North American ice hockey rink, resulting in a faster and higher-scoring game that can be played on the floors of indoor arenas. The sport was invented in 1981, and patented in 1987, by Jim Foster, a former executive of the National Football League and the United States Football League. The name is trademarked by Gridiron Enterprises and had a proprietary format until its patent expired in 2007.

Gridiron football Sport primarily played in the United States and Canada

Gridiron football, also known as North American football or, in North America, simply football, is a family of football team sports primarily played in the United States and Canada. American football, which uses 11-player teams, is the form played in the United States and the best known form of gridiron football worldwide, while Canadian football, featuring 12-player teams, predominates in Canada. Other derivative varieties include indoor football and Arena football, football for smaller teams, and informal games such as touch and flag football. Football is played at professional, collegiate, high school, semi-professional, and amateur levels.

Down (gridiron football)

A down is a period in which a play transpires in gridiron football. The down is a distinguishing characteristic of the game compared to other codes of football, but is synonymous with a "tackle" in rugby league. The team in possession of the football has a limited number of downs to advance ten yards or more towards their opponent's goal line. If they fail to advance that far, possession of the ball is turned over to the other team. In most situations, if a team reaches their final down they will punt to their opponent, which forces them to begin their drive from further down the field; if they are in range, they might instead attempt to score a field goal.

Comparison of American and Canadian football

American and Canadian football are gridiron codes of football that are very similar; both have their origins in rugby football, but some key differences exist.

United Indoor Football

United Indoor Football (UIF) was an indoor football league in the United States that operated from 2005 to 2008. Ten owners from the National Indoor Football League, including one expansion and two from arenafootball2 (af2) took their franchises and formed their own league. The league was based in Omaha, Nebraska.

In sports, a time-out or timeout is a halt in the play. This allows the coaches of either team to communicate with the team, e.g., to determine strategy or inspire morale, as well as to stop the game clock. Time-outs are usually called by coaches or players, although for some sports, TV timeouts are called to allow media to air commercial breaks. Teams usually call timeouts at strategically important points in the match, or to avoid the team being called for a delay of game-type violation, such as the five-second rule in basketball.

Strategy forms a major part of American football. Both teams plan many aspects of their plays (offense) and response to plays (defense), such as what formations they take, who they put on the field, and the roles and instructions each player are given. Throughout a game, each team adapts to the other's apparent strengths and weaknesses, trying various approaches to outmaneuver or overpower their opponent in order to win the game.

American football rules Rules for American football

Gameplay in American football consists of a series of downs, individual plays of short duration, outside of which the ball is dead or not in play. These can be plays from scrimmage – passes, runs, punts, or field goal attempts – or free kicks such as kickoffs and fair catch kicks. Substitutions can be made between downs, which allows for a great deal of specialization as coaches choose the players best suited for each particular situation. During a play, each team should have no more than 11 players on the field, and each of them has specific tasks assigned for that specific play.

Kickoff (gridiron football)

A kickoff is a method of starting a drive in gridiron football. Typically, a kickoff consists of one team – the "kicking team" – kicking the ball to the opposing team – the "receiving team". The receiving team is then entitled to return the ball, i.e., attempt to advance it towards the kicking team's end zone, until the player with the ball is tackled by the kicking team, goes out of bounds, or scores a touchdown. Kickoffs take place at the start of each half of play, the beginning of overtime in some overtime formats, and after scoring plays.

In sports, running out the clock is the practice of a winning team allowing the clock to expire through a series of pre-selected plays, either to preserve a lead or hasten the end of a one-sided contest. Such measures expend time, but do not otherwise have a tactical purpose. This is usually done by a team that is winning by a slim margin near the end of a game, in order to reduce the time available for the opposing team to score. Generally, it is the opposite strategy of running up the score.

Quarterback kneel American football and Canadin football play to run the clock out or protect a pending victory

In American football and Canadian football, a quarterback kneel, also called taking a knee, genuflect offense, kneel-down offense, or victory formation occurs when the quarterback immediately kneels to the ground, ending the play on contact, after receiving the snap. It is primarily used to run the clock down, either at the end of the first half or the game itself, to preserve a lead. Although it generally results in a loss of a yard and uses up a down, it minimizes the risk of a fumble, which would give the other team a chance at recovering the ball.

In most levels of professional American football, the two-minute warning is a suspension of play that occurs when two minutes remain on the game clock in each half of a game, i.e., near the end of the second and fourth quarters, and overtime. Its effect on play is similar to that of a timeout: the game clock stops and the teams gather to discuss strategy. The suspension of play is two minutes long, the same as the short two-minute intermissions between quarters within each half. Its name reflects its origins as a point in the game where the officials would inform the teams that the half was nearly over, as the official game clock was not displayed in the stadium at the time the two-minute warning was created. With the official game clock being displayed prominently in the stadium in modern times, the original purpose of the two-minute warning is no longer necessary, but it has nevertheless evolved into an important reference point in a game. A number of rules change at the two-minute warning, including several relating to the game clock, and the two-minute warning may be an important factor in a team's clock management strategy.

Comparison of American football and rugby union

A comparison of American football and rugby union is possible because of the games' shared origins, despite their dissimilarities.

The following terms are used in American football, both conventional and indoor. Some of these terms are also in use in Canadian football; for a list of terms unique to that code, see Glossary of Canadian football.

In gridiron football, a turnover on downs occurs when a team's offense has used all their downs but has not progressed downfield enough to earn another set of downs. The resulting turnover gives possession of the ball to the team currently on defense.

Penalty (gridiron football) Penalty in American football

In gridiron football, a penalty is a sanction called against a team for a violation of the rules, called a foul. Officials initially signal penalties by tossing a bright yellow or orange colored penalty flag onto the field toward or at the spot of a foul. Many penalties result in moving the football toward the offending team's end zone, usually either 5, 10, or 15 yards, depending on the penalty. Most penalties against the defensive team also result in giving the offense an automatic first down, while a few penalties against the offensive team cause them to automatically lose a down. In some cases, depending on the spot of the foul, the ball is moved half the distance to the goal line rather than the usual number of yards, or the defense scores an automatic safety.

In gridiron football, replay review is a method of reviewing a play using cameras at various angles to determine the accuracy of the initial call of the officials. An instant replay can take place in the event of a close or otherwise controversial call, either at the request of a team's head coach or the officials themselves.

Punt (gridiron football)

In gridiron football, a punt is a kick performed by dropping the ball from the hands and then kicking the ball before it hits the ground. The most common use of this tactic is to punt the ball downfield to the opposing team, usually on the final down, with the hope of giving the receiving team a field position that is more advantageous to the kicking team when possession changes. The result of a typical punt, barring any penalties or extraordinary circumstances, is a first down for the receiving team. A punt is not to be confused with a drop kick, a kick after the ball hits the ground, now rare in both American and Canadian football.

References

  1. "2016 NFL Rulebook". NFL Football Operations. Rule 4, Sections 3 & 4. Retrieved 2017-03-17.
  2. "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