What is time of possession in football?

Time of possession in football refers to the amount of game time that an offense has the ball throughout a game. Teams with a higher time of possession are often more likely to win the game.

It is important to remember that time of possession only counts the time that passes on the game clock. If the clock is stopped between plays the time of possession will not be increased until the next play starts.

How time of possession is won

When looking to win the time of possession battle in football a team needs to find a way to keep their offense on the field for a longer period of time than their opponents.

One of the ways teams are able to come out on top in time of possession is via a stout defense.

In order for the offense to stay on the field, they are going to need to pick up first downs. If the defense cannot stop the offense they will allow them to string together long time-consuming drives.

But if the defense is able to create a turnover or force the opponents to punt then the possession of the ball will change hands.

If a team’s defense can stop the opposing team effectively then there is a good chance their team will win the time of possession.

Another way in which a team can attempt to win the possession battle is by putting together long and productive drives.

If the offense is able to move the ball down the field via short passes or runs this can burn a lot of time off the clock.

These sorts of drives can greatly increase a team’s time of possession.

Why do teams want to win time of possession?

One of the key reasons why the statistic time of possession is measured is to see how long each team’s defense has been on the field.

In football, it is more tiring for defensive players if a drive takes a long time. This means if a team is winning the time of possession it is likely they are playing against a tired defense.

Defensive players like pass rushers will noticeably slow down throughout a drive as their role in the defense requires a lot of energy.

This makes it much easier for the offense to operate as the quarterback is often going to have much more time.

Additionally, when winning this statistic your defenders will be able to stay fresh and full of energy. When it is their turn to take the field these players will be able to give full effort on each play.

In short, winning the time of possession can result in facing a tired defense and having an energized defense of your own.

How time of possession can be misleading

Oftentimes when looking at this statistic it is common to look into the winning percentage of teams that have a higher time of possession.

Many fans will see these great winning percentages and believe that time of possession is the key to winning a football game. The trouble is there are a few factors that make this stat misleading.

Bad play means low time of possession

Say a football game takes place and one teams offense plays poorly. They throw interceptions, fail to communicate, and cannot stop the opposing team on defense.

In this game, the opposing team is going to win the possession battle but is that why they won the game? Oftentimes one team is simply going to be better than the other.

Because one team is better they are likely going to have the upper hand in time of possession. This leads many people to believe it is the time of possession that is winning them the game when this isn’t necessarily the case.

Running out the clock

Another reason that this stat can be misleading is that it is often artificially increased to close out a game.

When a team holds a lead late in a game it is in their best interest to run the clock down. Focusing on rushing plays and ultimately kneeling the ball is the best way to do this.

By the end of the game, this team has picked up a few extra minutes in time of possession. Since teams running out the clock are always winning the game it can make win percentage with this stat a little less clear.

People often look at the winning percentage of teams with a higher time of possession to determine how important it is.

The issue is, teams running out the clock are going to be skewing this stat by increasing their time of possession in almost every game they win.

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