What Is Running Out The Clock In Football?

Running out the clock in football refers to the offensive strategy of purposefully allowing the clock to expire. Teams run out the clock so that the opposing team has a lower probability of tieing or winning the game.

There are a few different situations that will lead to a team running out the clock. When a team is up by a few possessions late in the game they will start to eat up as much clock as possible.

Even if the team cannot end the game on their next possession they are going to burn off as much time as they can. They will do this via play selection and making sure that the clock stays running between each play.

Additionally, teams will run out the clock at the end of the game if they have a lead. When a team has the lead and can end the game in the next few plays they will always run out the clock.

In between each play, there is a maximum of fourty seconds that can transpire before the next play starts. During these fourty seconds, the game clock will continue to run if the player has been tackled in bounds.

This gives the team with the ball the ability to kill off at least two minutes of the game clock by downing the ball three times.

How Do Teams Kill The Clock In Football

Now that you know what killing the clock is it’s time to break down how exactly teams kill the clock in football.


Kneeling is one of the most common ways a team will kill the clock in football. Taking a knee in football occurs when a team is able to end the game in the next three plays.

Kneeling itself only takes a second or two but it is a risk-free way to allow a player to be tackled in bounds. When kneeling the ball there is virtually no chance of a turnover occurring.

Since the player downs himself inbounds by kneeling, the clock will continue to run between plays. If the opposing team does not have any timeouts a team can burn two minutes off the clock by kneeling the football for three plays.

Kneeling the ball is often referred to as the victory formation. This is because when kneeling the ball you are sure of winning game.

Running The Ball

player running the ball in football

Rushing the football is another way an offense can kill the clock. When rushing it is much more likely that the running back is tackled in bounds.

This way the offense can guarantee the clock will continue running between plays.

When teams are leading late into a game they will often start to incorporate more rushing plays into their offense.

Rushing plays have a lower chance of turnovers than passing plays. This makes them less risky when leading a game. Rushing plays also tend to have a lower average of yards gained.

This gives the offense an opportunity to put together a long drive that can kill a ton of clock.

During A Play

football player extending the play by not being tackled

On some very rare occasions, football teams will kill time by extending the plays themselves.

Say there’s a game with ten seconds remaining the offense is lining up to punt and the offensive team is leading by six points. The offensive team may decide to run the punter backwards into his endzone to kill as much of the ten seconds as they can.

If the punter is tackled in the end zone the opponents will now be down four points but will still need a touchdown to score.

By running backwards the punter will be able to kill off a large chunk of the time. This means the opposing team will have to return the kickoff for a touchdown or down the ball and throw a hail mary.

These sorts of plays rarely happen but they go to show you how creative football coaches can get when it comes to killing the clock.

That’s all on running out the clock in football to learn more see our article explaining what on the clock means in football.

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