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New replay rules for the clock



As alluded to earlier, the league has placed a new rule for replay regarding the clock. Up until now, only a reversal of an on-field call would allow the clock to be changed via replay.

The new rules, which are only in effect for the playoffs and the Super Bowl, summarized:

  • Only the last play of a half or overtime period would be subject to this review.
  • Replay can determine if the clock should have or should not have expired.
  • For the end of the first half, the clock won’t be adjusted following a scoring play. For the end of the second half, the clock may be adjusted to allow for a kickoff as long as neither team leads by more than eight points.
  • For the end of the second half, the clock can be reviewed to allow for a snap if a team is trailing by eight points or less, or the game is tied. In overtime, it would be automatic, as both teams are tied.

For the overtime session, there has never existed a situation in the history of the NFL postseason where the clock was ever a factor. That is because the conclusion of the first overtime period is treated as a change in quarter: teams just switch sides of the field, and the next play is from the succeeding spot. I suppose there could be an advantage in an outdoor stadium to allow one play before a switch because of field conditions or wind, but that is highly unlikely.

In a USFL postseason game, however, the clock was a factor. In the 1984 Quarterfinal Playoff, the Michigan Panthers and the Los Angeles Express played to a 21–21 tie through two overtime periods. The third overtime period begins with a kickoff, so the team in possession at the end of the sixth quarter might lose the ball to start the seventh quarter. This is really the only situation where the clock review will come into play in overtime.

(The longest NFL game was Christmas Day, 1972, when the Dolphins and Chiefs had 7:20 remaining in the second overtime period. In NFL/AFL history, only five games went in the second overtime.)

All of that said, there is a strong possibility that this is all moot and there will not be any review of the clock in any of the 11 postseason games. (Glad I could waste your time reading this!) The rule automatically expires at the end of the Super Bowl, and then is placed on the Competition Committee’s agenda for review.

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)

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