Belichick exploited “loophole” in NFL rules to run extra time off the clock

Michael David Smith

With the Patriots leading 33-0 in the fourth quarter on Monday night, they took a delay of game penalty with their punt team on the field. After the Jets declined the penalty, the clock started again, and the Patriots’ punt team waited until they were about to get another delay of game, then false started. The Jets declined the false start penalty, too, the clock started again, and then the Patriots finally punted.

When the Patriots’ third-down play ended, 11:05 remained in the fourth quarter. By the time the Patriots actually punted on fourth down, 9:43 remained. The whole point of the play clock is that teams can’t take more than 40 seconds between plays, but the Patriots, thanks to that running clock after their penalties, took 1 minute, 22 seconds.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was shown on television smirking on the sideline after that series of penalties, and he acknowledged after the game that the penalties allowed him to take plenty of extra time off the clock. He added that league rules probably shouldn’t allow that.

“No, it was just the way the rules are set up. We were able to run quite a bit of time off the clock without really having to do anything. That’s probably a loophole that will be closed and probably should be closed but right now it’s open,” Belichick said.

The Patriots were so far ahead in the fourth quarter that it really didn’t matter, but Belichick is right that this loophole should be closed. Teams shouldn’t be able to take more than 40 seconds off the clock between plays. Perhaps this is a rule Belichick wants to see changed, and he was waiting until just the right time to demonstrate that it needs to change.