Understanding Challenges In Football

Challenges can be a confusing part of the game of football. With tons of rules and technicalities, it can even be tough for a seasoned football fan to keep up. That’s why this guide is on hand to break down everything you need to know about challenges in football.

What Is a Challenge In Football

Before getting into specifics we have to break down what a challenge is. A challenge occurs when a coach throws a flag to indicate that he wants the refs to review the most recent play.

These challenge flags can only be thrown on reviewable plays and must be thrown before the two-minute warning.

In essence, the coach is “challenging” the call on the field. Meaning the coach does not believe the correct call was made.

The initiation of a challenge allows the refs to watch over a replay and determine if their call was correct or not.

How Do Challenges Work In The NFL?

Each team is awarded two challenges per half.

If a team gets both of their two challenges correct then they are awarded another one in that half. Though challenging three plays in a single half is quite rare so this rule does not come into action often.

challenges of football

Now you may be wondering what happens if you lose a challenge. In the NFL a lost challenge comes with the charge of a timeout.

Challenging the play stops the clock as the refs need to watch replays of the play to make their decision.

Since stopping the clock has a noticeable effect on the game the challenging team must sacrifice a timeout if their challenge is proven incorrect.

Can You Challenge With No Timeouts?

No in the NFL it is illegal to challenge a play if you do not have timeouts remaining. If you do accidentally use a challenge without any timeouts remaining you will be assessed a fifteen yard penalty.

Can You Challenge In College Football?

Yes, college coaches are allowed one challenge a game. To do this challenge they call a timeout with the designation that it is being used to review the most recent play.

The replay official in college football also has the ability to stop the game and challenge a play.

Can You Challenge A Penalty In The NFL?

Though there was a brief stint in which you could challenge pass interference calls in the NFL this rule was changed after the 2019 season.

In a 2018 playoff game, the refs missed a blatant defensive pass interference call that would have given the Saints a first down. This missed called ultimately ended their season. Since you could not challenge penalties many fans around the league were up in arms.

In the following offseason, the NFL added a rule to make pass interference reviewable both for offensive players and defensive players. What followed was a very confusing and frustrating series of reviews and challenges that didn’t make much sense to the fans.

For this reason, the NFL rid itself of this penalty challenge rule after only one season.

What Is A Red Flag In Football?

A red flag in football is simply a flag that the head coach throws to let the refs know he wants to challenge a play. When throwing the red flag the referee will immediately stop the game and begin the replay process.

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