Onside kick alternative changed, now an untimed down

Getty Images

The “fourth-and-15” alternative to the onside kick has been tweaked in advance of tomorrow’s vote by NFL owners.

The biggest change to the rules proposal is that it will now be an untimed down. The initial proposal put forward was for the clock to start on the snap and run as it would on a normal play. But as we’ve previously noted, that would give a team that takes a lead with a few seconds remaining an easy way to run the last few seconds off the clock: Have the quarterback scramble around and then throw the ball deep, like Patrick Mahomes did on the last play of the Super Bowl. As an untimed down, that’s no longer an option.

Changing the play to an untimed down makes it more exciting regardless of who’s winning: It both prevents leading teams from using it to run the rest of the time off the clock, and also gives trailing teams more time to mount a comeback. Under the current rules, a team that scores a touchdown to make it a one-possession game with 0:01 remaining on the clock has no chance, because an onside kick would use that last second. With the untimed onside kick alternative, that team would have a chance.

Other tweaks to the rules proposal include a clarification that the fourth-and-15 play can be used in regulation only, not in overtime. And a team that initially declares its intention to use the onside kick alternative can change its mind and kick off, but only if it calls timeout first.

Owners will vote on the onside kick alternative and other rules changes in a virtual meeting on Thursday.

40 responses to “Onside kick alternative changed, now an untimed down

  1. tweek here, tweek there, and soon football will look like tennis. I dont watch tennis.

  2. If it’s an untimed down, and they score a touchdown on the play… does that mean they could try it again and again (if they were to keep scoring touchdowns)?

    Essentially you could be down by 21 and still come back and win?

  3. Will be interesting to see how the Pats decide to cheat by manipulating the rule.

  4. The team scoring a TD with one second left should have NO time, for any reason. Stop messing around. While I can understand changes for safety purposes, favoring the projected “loser” is utter nonsense. Winners need to be winners and the same goes for losers. Put a value on the entire games efforts by both teams. Gimmicks are nothing but a silly distraction.

  5. What difference does it make to time or not in the real world? If you are leading and risk the play, then it makes no difference if you have time taken off or not. You are not guaranteed success. Now you give the team that is trailing and who has done nothing in the game a free chance to steal a game!

    The only fair way is to do it as we do now or to put the onus on the offense to score a touchdown and a 2 point conversion and then get the ball from a kickoff and then to possess the ball immediately from the received kick. Since the opposing defense did not do its job to stop the offense, the offense max’d its job and should possess the ball – leading or not.

  6. If it’s an untimed down, and they score a touchdown on the play… does that mean they could try it again and again (if they were to keep scoring touchdowns)?

    Essentially you could be down by 21 and still come back and win?
    —————————————————————————–
    Aren’t you forgettig one small detail? As in.. like you have to sort of kick the ball to the other team when you score a touchdown.

  7. DFWHawkGuy says:
    May 27, 2020 at 9:53 am
    Will be interesting to see how the Pats decide to cheat by manipulating the rule
    ………..
    Manipulating a rule is not cheating, it’s brains something obviously lost on you

  8. Better than their first or ? iteration.

    They throw this stuff out in the wind, wait for intelligent minds to give feedback and then change their decision. It just goes to show most of these ‘Daddy Boys’ aren’t the brightest bulbs.

    No wonder the NFL is a roller coaster ride of blunders and back-peddles.

  9. “does that mean they could try it again and again(if they were to keep scoring touchdowns)?”

    =========

    Teams would only be able to use 4th and 15 alternative twice in a game.

    I have very strong doubts this will rule change will get voted thumbs up by a majority of owners.

  10. It seems as though the NFL is making Changes for the sake of making Changes.
    Just like the PI replay rule from last year.
    There was nothing more disappointing than implementing the PI replay rule,… you saw the infraction on replay yet the officiating and replay folks did nothing.
    I don’t mind changes that make a positive difference in the game,… but if you make changes try to use some COMMON SENSE !!! This 4th and 15 rule stinks. So did the PI replay rule.

  11. Just a reminder, all kicks are untimed unless the receiving team decides to return it.

    Nothing to see here, again…

  12. Isn’t that the point of the squib kick? I don’t like how this isn’t a timed down. However, the clock should stop regardless whether you get out of bounds or not (successful or unsuccessful just like a kickoff). I have no issue with 3 seconds left a team doing this alternative and throwing it deep to end the game. if they get sacked or don’t make it, the opposing team would take over at the 35 or even closer. It’s no different than why a team would attempt a squib kick, OR why a team on 4th and 15 facing a punt would do this with 5 seconds left either (so we don’t care about those scenarios that are the exact same I guess). This would only come into play for the last about 5 seconds of the game, at which point, just don’t get why that team that has essentially lost the game should have a chance to get an untimed play to get into FG range for free and then win. We all like crazy endings, but you don’t want teams to feel cheated from a victory on completely ridiculous shenanigans.

  13. Maybe we should ban the kneel-down too. It’s really unfair to the losing team! Lets give them a free 40 yard play to get into FG range AND kick the FG, all with 1 second left when they were just down by 9 points with 5 seconds left in the game. It will definitely feel like a great victory, and now you don’t even have to hope for the PI flag or roughing the passer because the QB was breathed on to extend the game!

  14. For all the griping from the “Get Off My Lawn” contingent, this rule will make games more exciting, which is why it is being enacted.

  15. This is nothing but a reward to the lousy owners who refuse to spend enough to put winners on the field.

    There are at least a dozen owners who have zero interest in winning a Super Bowl, only in the huge TV checks they get no matter if they’re 0-16 or 12-4. This rule allows a little bit more hope for fans of those bad teams, and is a slap in the face to the good ones.

  16. A team could, theoretically, score 24 points, then convert an onsides kick, and score again

  17. This is a perfect example of why it’s a very bad idea to come up with rule changes ideas on the fly and then almost immediately vote on them. Nobody initially thought about the team that is ahead running out the clock. How many other potential problems haven’t been considered?

  18. I read this on another NFL site:
    “That should help increase the success odds for the offenses; onside kicks had a 16.3 percent success rate from 2013 to 2017, while plays in which an offense needed 15 yards for a first down succeeded 15.9 percent of the time during the same period.”

    So, isn’t 15.9 a LOWER number than 16.3?? So, the success rate here would be decreased instead of increased?? Plus, I haven’t totally understood how it’s done. Rather than kicking the ball on an onside attempt from the 35, the offense comes back on the field and has one untimed play to get to the 50 yard line. If they succeed, they get to go from there on a normal drive to get to the position to score? I think it’s ridiculous! Play the game as it is!!

  19. Here is a question; suppose the offense comes back on the field at the 35 yard line to try to get 15 yards on an untimed play. Then, they DON’T make the first down. Where is the ball placed for the offense, where the play ended or where?

  20. marmac2768 says:
    May 27, 2020 at 11:29 am
    I read this on another NFL site:
    “That should help increase the success odds for the offenses; onside kicks had a 16.3 percent success rate from 2013 to 2017, while plays in which an offense needed 15 yards for a first down succeeded 15.9 percent of the time during the same period.”


    Kickoff rules have since changed, and the odds of recovery are infinitesimally smaller. Kicking team can’t get a running start or overload a side.

  21. We can debate about this forever, I suppose. I’d be interested to see this as a preseason-only tryout.

  22. So, down 24-7. The defense slowly gives way to eat up time. score with 3 seconds left; 24-14. Try the play, defender trips on a churned up field; score again, 24-21 and still 3 seconds left.
    Try it again, missed coverage and score. 24-28; STILL with 3 seconds left? Kick off and laugh?
    Yeah, I know, the defense should hold them. But one trip on a churned up field; one missed coverage, one missed pick play or missed offensive hold or missed offensive pass interference and the other team gets two scores with NO TIME OFF THE CLOCK?
    I still say they’ve got the Nike uniform designers coming up with this crap.

  23. DFWHawkGuy says:
    May 27, 2020 at 9:53 am
    Will be interesting to see how the Pats decide to cheat by manipulating the rule.
    —————————————————————–
    Still bitter about getting stuffed at the two yard line I see. Shoulda coulda woulda but in the end the Patriots made the play and the Hawks didn’t. Let it go man, let it go.

  24. What about a penalty on the defense like holding or illegal contact? Is it a automatic first down?

  25. NFL is going down the same road Nascar is going down. Tweak a rule here. Tweak a rule there. Tweak the fans right on out. Leave the rules alone. They have worked for how many years?

  26. > Just drop this totally.

    Exactly. Bring back the old onside kick rules and if player safety is a concern, invest in better equipment. It’s not like the $$$ these guys command to play in the first place doesn’t compensate them for risk of injury. Soldiers, police, firemen and armored car drivers accept risk as part of their employment and don’t make anything close to NFL players.

  27. The NFL should either (a) allow teams to load one side of the kick formation like previously, or (b) reduce the distance the ball must travel to 5 yards.

    In (a), the kicking team must declare its intention to use the onside formation, and once the kicking team is set, they can only move forward so as to not confuse the receiving team with a shift. The receiving team could adjust accordingly by placing linemen on their restraining line to allow the hands team room. There’s no risk to having linemen out there because the kicking team can’t advance a kickoff unless a returner fumbles, and there’s little to no chance of that happening on an onside kick.

    (b) would only be applicable in the last five minutes of the second half when the team kicking off is trailing.

  28. Its time to do away with the kickoff entirely. The science of the danger is plain to see, and the cool thing about science is that it’s real whether you believe it or not. It’s a dangerous play and it’s well past time for the game to adapt, or it will continue to decay and lose popularity.

  29. Busy worrying about this but can’t get the catch ruling right. How is it that every single person that watches games knows what a catch is but the NFL rules committee does not?

  30. Next they can replace the kickoff with a “throw off” like in the backyard because nobody can kick the ball a damn.

    *smh*

  31. This is stupid. Rule changes like this diminish the importance of the first 59 minutes of the game.

    Maybe the NBA will make a rule change that half-court shots in the last 2 minutes will be worth 10 points so the losing team can catch up. Exciting.

  32. Just call it “extra time” and change the spelling to futball.

  33. What’s wrong with most of the commenters? Who cares if the league does this? What a bunch of grumpy people. Jeez.

  34. If the NFL actually doing stupid things like this I will stop watching because it will turn into a joke. Why would the very successful NFL even consider this ridiculousness? Maybe listening to too many idiotic sports radio hosts?

  35. Like someone said earlier,Kneeling down should automatically stop the clock, losing team should have a chance for a comeback, fair is fair, #no more kneel down

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

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