When Does The Clock Stop In Football

If you are anything like most football fans you probably feel like you have a pretty good grasp on the rules of the game. That is until you watch a player runs out of bounds during a game and the clock keeps running.

The rules of the clock in football can be complicated. But don’t be worried, this guide is going to break down everything you need to know about when the clock stops in football.

Out of Bounds

Going out of bounds seems to be the one rule regarding clock stoppage that has fans confused. Luckily the rule regarding time stoppage when going out of bounds isn’t too confusing.

When a player goes out of bounds the clock is only to come to a stop if there is fewer than two minutes remaining in the first half or fewer than five minutes remaining in the second half.

Yes thats right the clock is not stopped each time a player goes out of bounds. But to be fair there are a few reasons why you likely believed that statement to be true.

First off the referee stops the clock whenever a player runs out of bounds. That is until the ball is reset at the line of scrimmage and the play is whistled to continue. This means you will likely see the clock stop for a few seconds when a player goes out of bounds. Even if it isn’t in the final minutes of a half.

The difference is that once the ball is set, the play clock will start ticking again. The second reason most fans don’t know this rule is because you are mostly only looking at the clock when it matters. It’s easy to not notice a stoppage of the clock in the first quarter. But when time is ticking down in the half it is likely you are keeping a close eye on the clock.

Incomplete Pass

An incomplete pass is another play that is going to stop the clock. It does not matter what time in the game an incomplete pass occurs it will always stop the clock.

It also does not matter the way that the incomplete pass occurs. If it is thrown out of bounds, dropped, or jarred loose by a defender all of these plays stop the clock.

Change Of Possession

Another play in football that is going to stop the clock is a change of possession. A change of possession occurs whenever one team has possession of the ball on offense and then turns it over so the other teams offense now has the ball.

This includes all types of turnovers such as interceptions, fumbles, and turnovers on downs. Regardless of the turnover this will always result in a stop of the clock.


Scores are a rather obvious example of a situation in which the clock would stop. Having the clock run while the team celebrated and the stadium plays the fight song doesn’t make much sense.

That is why you will find the clock is always stopped after each and every score.

Timeouts And Challenges

Timeouts and challenges are two more factors that are going to stop the clock. These are a little trickier because timeouts and challenges both are decisions that are made by the coach.

Timeouts are typically used for the very purpose of stopping the clock. When you make a play inbounds late in the game and need to stop the clock a timeout will come in handy.

A challenge on the other hand is used when the referees make a call that you do not agree with. Since it often takes a while for these plays to be reviewed the clock is stopped in the interim. If the challenge fails the team is charged a timeout for stopping the clock.


The final article on our list of clock stopping actions in football is injuries. This is a fairly obvious clock stoppage as well. Due to the length of time it can take to deal with an injury.

When a player is severly hurt the last thing you want to do is rush his medical process in order to get the game back on. To avoid this the clock comes to a stop when a player is injured on the field.

Though since stopping the clock can be advantageous to your team some rules had to be put in place regarding clock stoppages and injuries.

If a player is injured with fewer than two minutes left in the half then his team is forced to use one of their timeouts.

If a team has a player go down with an injury within fewer than two minutes left they will be charged a penalty if there are no remaining timeouts. The penalty on the defense will come in the form of yards. And when against the offense this penalty will be a ten-second run-off of the clock.

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