Football Zebras
2018 rule changesThe replay timing rule change that’s not in the rulebook

The replay timing rule change that’s not in the rulebook

In the process of updating the rulebook, there are the major rule changes approved by the owners and additional language updates to other parts of the rules related to those changes. Occasionally, there are other wording changes that clear up an ambiguity or use different language that better describes the current enforcement of the rule. Very infrequently, there will be other changes in the rules that are minor, but still substantive, without owner approval.

This rule change, however, is in a category never seen before. It is a rule change that doesn’t even appear in the rulebook, and it could affect the timing of a game related to a replay challenge.

When replay reviews a play, there is a clock adjustment that is made that would be consistent with the call on the field. So, a completed pass that is reversed to incomplete would restore the game clock to the time of the incomplete pass. Past practice was that an adjustment was not made, however, if the clock is in a running state under both the initial call and the reversed call. In that situation, the game and play clocks resume at the point where they were frozen to initiate the replay, as if the replay stoppage never happened. In practice, the time that would have ordinarily been consumed is not changed.

When there are special timing rules after the 2-minute warning of each half, there is an added complication of a 10-second runoff. Here is Rule 4-7-4 on this situation:

If a replay review after the two-minute warning of either half results in the on-field ruling being reversed and the correct ruling would not have stopped the game clock, then the officials will run 10 seconds off the game clock before permitting the ball to be put in play on the ready-for-play signal. The defense cannot decline the runoff, but either team can use a remaining timeout to prevent it.

Although the wording leaves something to be desired, the rule has been that a reversal after the 2-minute warning would trigger a 10-second runoff only if the clock was reversed from stopped to running. In other words, if the clock was stopped at the end of the play, but the reversal changes it to a running clock, an adjustment of 10 seconds is made, and the clock restarts when the ball is ready. This wording has not changed during the offseason.

This procedure lead to a painful ruling in Week 3 last year when Lions receiver Golden Tate scored a touchdown, which was reversed. From our liveblog that day:

After review, Tate is ruled down in the field of play. When a replay reversal changes a ruling from a stopped clock (touchdown) to a running clock (down in field of play), there is a 10-second runoff to offset the advantage gained by the offense. Had the call been made short on the field, the Lions would not be at the line of scrimmage at 8 seconds. A replay runoff can only be offset by a timeout by either team, and the Lions had none remaining.

Entering 2018, the rulebook remains the same with all of the above procedures in place. However, the following appears in the replay casebook, with the underlined representing new text:

The game clock will be reset to the time at the end of the play when a ruling is changed in replay, and the status of the clock will be determined by the final ruling after replay. The clock will not be reset following a replay review when the on-field ruling is not changed.

For any play that starts after the two-minute warning of either half and the correct ruling would not have stopped the clock, there will be a 10-second runoff from the time the play should have ended. This applies regardless of whether the original ruling resulted in a stopped clock or a running clock. The defense cannot decline the runoff, but either team can use a remaining timeout to save the 10 seconds.

This is pretty consequential information to be buried on page 19 of the replay casebook with nary a mention in the rulebook. And in the case of the Golden Tate play, the Lions could have had the game clock reset to 11, with a run-10 that brings it down to 1 second, and the ability to quickly snap to run a play.

Replay timing rule summary

So here is how the rule shakes down when there is a replay review.

If the call is confirmed or stands:

  • There is no adjustment made to the clock.
  • The play clock will be:
    • reset to 25 if a team is charged a timeout for a failed challenge, or
    • resumed from the time it was at the replay stoppage, minimum of 10 seconds.
  • The game clock will also run if it wasn’t already stopped for another reason between downs.

If the call is reversed:

  • The clock will be reset to the time when the play is dead.
  • The play clock will be reset to 40, and run on the ready-for-play, unless it was reset to 25 for another reason.
  • The game clock will also run if it wasn’t already stopped for another reason between downs.
  • If it is after the 2-minute warning, run 10 from the adjusted clock time only if the clock is running by the reversal call. Either team may call timeout to avoid the run-10.
  • If a timeout was called to stop the clock at the end of the play, then the team gets the timeout back if the reversal results in a stopped clock.

 

Ben Austro
Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

One thought on “The replay timing rule change that’s not in the rulebook

Post a comment using Wordpress.com, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ account:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Top