The action of taking a knee as a quarterback has taken a different meaning in recent years. Aside from political movements, taking a knee is an actual football play that is used by almost every football team each season.
Kneeling is a play used in football when a team wants to run out the clock. By taking a knee the player will be considered down by contact meaning the clock will keep running.
This allows the team to run the clock down without the risk of turning the ball over or causing injury.
Why Kneeing The Ball Works
In football, there are plays that stop the clock and those that allow the clock to keep running between plays. In between each play, there is forty seconds of time that is used to get your team ready for the next play.
If the game clock keeps running between plays you can burn almost a minute of the game. If the clock is stopped these forty seconds have no effect on the game clock.
Offensive plays that cause the clock to stop are incomplete passes or players running out of bounds. This means in order to keep the clock running the offensive player needs to be downed in bounds.
Keep in mind when a team is kneeing the ball they do not need to score. They simply need the clock to run out and they will win the game
So instead of running with the ball the offensive team will simply quickly take a knee right as the play starts. This avoids issues such as fumbles or potential injuries occurring to the offensive team.
In most cases, the defense will realize the offense is kneeling and will not play too aggressively. For this reason kneeing the ball is often called the “victory formation”. Because if you are kneeing the ball you have usually won the game.
Kneeling Before A Field Goal
Another situation in which a team might kneel is before kicking a late-game field goal to take the lead. In most cases kneeling is done to close out the game but it can also be done in order to not allow the other team as much time to work with.
Say a team is in field goal range with a minute and a half on the clock. In this situation, they may elect to kneel the ball on the first two downs. This will only slightly change their field goal distance but it will greatly reduce the time left in the game.
This way if the field goal is scored the opposing team will have little to no time to stage a comeback.
Additionally, when kneeling the ball before a field goal you may notice the quarterback will take a few steps towards the center of the field in order to make the kickers job a little bit easier.
How Does Kneeling Show Up In Statistics
When a quarterback kneels the ball he is effectively getting downed behind the line of scrimmage. This sort of play is usually called a sack, but since the quarterback gives himself up this situation is a little different.
Since no defensive player causes the quarterback to be downed this play is not considered a sack. Instead kneeling as a quarterback is considered a negative yardage run.
Whenever a quarterback kneels for a loss of a yard this is reflected in their rushing stats. This can have potentially large effects on a quarterbacks rushing yards.
Non-mobile quarterbacks like Tom Brady have seen a large reduction of rushing yards over the years due to their tendency to kneel the ball to close out games.
This is also a big issue in fantasy sports as these negative rushing yards are show up in your point totals. Over the years many fantasy football matchups have been decided by a quarterback taking a knee for negative yards.