Delay-of-game mechanics have an extra second or so built in

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The Broncos believe that the officials missed a delay of game penalty during the Chiefs’ game-winning drive on Monday night. And maybe they did. But the fact that the play clock made it to zero before the snap isn’t conclusive proof of that.

“The back judge is responsible for keeping track of the play clock,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora told PFT via email. “Officiating mechanics dictate that once the back judge sees the play clock expire, he then looks immediately to the ball. If it is being snapped, then there is no foul for delay of game.”

So even if the back judge is locked onto the play clock, the flag doesn’t come out simply because the play clock gets to zero. He still must then look to the center to see if the ball was snapped.

The ESPN broadcast had it lined up perfectly. The play clock was ticking down behind the Chiefs’ offense, and the snap came within that moment after the number reached zero but before the flag could have been thrown.

A super-slow-motion replay from ESPN suggested that maybe the flag should have been thrown. The real-time footage showed the snap within the window created by the mechanics for the foul, a window that necessarily adds another second or so to the process.

It’s a process that applies to every offense, on every team. And if the NFL wants to change it, the NFL should require the back judge to essentially hold the flag in air and insert whistle in mouth as the clock gets under five seconds. Better yet, whether the snap came before the play clock struck zero could be subject to replay review.

The NFL has yet to take it in that direction, which means that the mechanics as crafted by the league were applied as intended on Monday night.

19 responses to “Delay-of-game mechanics have an extra second or so built in

  1. The real-time footage showed the snap within the window created by the mechanics for the foul, a window that necessarily adds another second or so to the process.

    It’s just moving your eyes from the clock to the ball, that adds a 10th of a second max. You’re not moving anything but your eyes.

  2. There are a lot of tears being shed over something each and every person who’s watched two NFL games has seen and understands. This isn’t some controversial rule change that happened this year and is making football look fundamentally different than it has, it’s a rule that’s been the same since I started watching football 25 years ago. We all rejoice when it benefits us and cry when it doesn’t go our way. There’s no reason to be asking for replay, blaming the refs, or anything else. Honestly how many times have we all seen this. Why is it now suddenly getting so much air time?

  3. WOW the NFL is really getting ridicules these days… The clock on the field has always been the official clock, no “second-or-so” built in…. The clock turns to zero, the official looks down, no snap.. out come the flag. The legaleze speak around the NFL is just getting out of control. MAKE EVERYTHING subject to re-play. You don’t have to give extra replay chances but make EVERYTHING available to be reviewed.

  4. Nah. I’m sure the technology simply does not exist yet to eliminate the “second or so” mechanical process. Its far too complex of a scenario for a programmatic solution. The best humankind can do is a “second or so” delay.

  5. Play clock drama notwithstanding, the Broncos had about 5 other opportunities to put that game away and didn’t do it. Play better on any of those opportunities and this play clock issue is a moot point.
    Much like the bad spot of the ball in the Raiders win. Maybe if Mayfield doesn’t commit four turnovers the Browns might have won.

    Whining about one play is just bad sportsmanship.

  6. I knew this was going to be a problem after watching the play. I also know for several years now this has happened and it has always gone in favor of the QB if the ball was snapped virtually a second late because refs are supposed to watch the clock then look at the snap and use their own discretion. Discretion is a big part of the NFL. That is why all coaches before the game even starts up until the game is over are constantly trying to get in the refs head to look at certain players and all the other things.

  7. Well said jjackwagon! Complaining about one call or no call is ridiculous. How many plays did the coach and/or players screw up during the game?

  8. So, does that mean they should start the clock a second before they actually start the clock or does that mean that when the big hand is on the twelve and the little hand is on the two it’s actually 2:01?

  9. Basically, logic dictates the mechanics. The back judge is a human being with two eyes that do not work independent–and until they put a large clock on the center’s helmet the decision making outlined is as good as it is going to get. It isn’t like the nfl hasn’t thought about and determined the mechanics of this.

  10. It’s a process that applies to every offense, on every team. And if the NFL wants to change it, the NFL should require the back judge to essentially hold the flag in air and insert whistle in mouth as the clock gets under five seconds. Better yet, whether the snap came before the play clock struck zero could be subject to replay review.
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    Why would he have to hold it in the air genius, plays have been blown dead before once the ball has been snapped. Or have you not watched football before?

  11. By the way, does anyone wish to reference the fact that the stadium clock often differs from the production clock we see when watching on TV?

  12. I’m more concerned about the two bogus offensive holding calls before that play. You know, meaningful calls.

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