How Long Does a Football Game Last? (NFL)

logo by Editorial Staff | Updated on December 18th, 2022

NFL (National Football League) football is American television’s most popular sports entertainment. In this essay, I’ll look at how long football games last in the NFL and what factors contribute to their length. You may schedule an event before or after the game if you know how long it will last.

How long do NFL football games last? An average football game lasts three and twelve hours in the NFL season. Football games in the NFL are broken into four 15-minute quarters. A 12-minute halftime break separates each quarter. There is also a 2-minute pause at the end of each quarter for the teams to switch ends of the field.

NFL logo

Even though the average NFL football game lasts more than three hours, people continue to tune in. Despite the extended period, NFL games remain the most popular American sports. Few football fans know that in real-time, the ball is in play in any NFL game for approximately 11 minutes.

Continue reading to understand better how long football games last in the NFL and what factors contribute to the total time.

How Long Does a Football Game Last?

According to NFL data, the time spent when the ball is in play is just about 11 minutes. But that’s not a good enough justification to skip the NFL games, especially when it’s the championship game. An average NFL game lasts around three and twelve hours when all factors are included.

However, if you want to see it live, you’ll need to set up more time. If you have a pre-purchased ticket, you may be able to struggle for parking and then stroll into the stadium. If you don’t, you’ll still have to wait in line at the ticket counter.

After receiving your ticket, you must locate the location of your seat number. All of these actions should take about 15 minutes to complete. Do you want some food? It’s available at a refreshment stand within the stadium. You’ll need more time for this as well.

There might be a lot going on in the game, which could lengthen the game time. Then there’s halftime, which practically everyone looks forward to because of the halftime performance. These activities will take at least half an hour.

Like the hundreds of others who watched the game, you return to your car after the game. This will most likely take another 15 minutes. So, how long does a football game last if you attend the stadium in person? Attending a live NFL game at the stadium may take up to four hours.

How long are football games?

A typical football game lasts three hours and twelve minutes. Football games in the NFL are broken into four 15-minute quarters. A 12-minute halftime break separates each quarter.

How many quarters are in a football game, and how long do they last?

Understanding the basic game format will help you appreciate your time watching an NFL football game.

Every NFL game consists of four quarters. Between the second and third quarters, there is a halftime break. If the score is tied at the end of regulation, sudden death overtime will be played. The game will be won by the first side to score in overtime.

Each quarter is 15 minutes long. The first half is divided into two quarters. Following the first quarter, there will be a 3-minute break. The second quarter will then continue for another 15 minutes. As a result, the first half lasts 33 minutes.

Then there’s a 13-minute, 30-second break, which corresponds to the NFL’s 2017 standard.

Every NFL title game, however, has live entertainment, as is typical. In the NFL, how long is halftime? Halftime, like the intervals between the other quarters, is 12 minutes long; however, during the NFL Superbowl, halftime is substantially longer.

Because well-known celebrities will appear in the performance, the Superbowl halftime show will likely last longer than 30 minutes.

After the halftime break, the game resumes with the third quarter. After then, a 15-minute countdown begins. Following the completion of the third quarter, there will be a 3-minute break. The final 15 minutes are spent in the fourth quarter.

So the first half lasts 33 minutes, the halfway break lasts 30 minutes, and the second half lasts 33 minutes. As a result, you spend a minimum of 96 minutes, or one hour and 36 minutes, playing the game.

If the final score remains tied after the fourth quarter, sudden death overtime will begin immediately. Previously, the NFL’s planned overtime period was 15 minutes. However, this regulation was amended in 2017 and was reduced to 10 minutes. The game is won by the first side to score within 10 minutes.

The First Quarter

Every NFL game consists of four 15-minute quarters. A break separates the second and third quarters. If the score is tied at the end of regulation, the game will be decided by sudden death. The game is won by the side which scores first in overtime.

A quarter is 15 minutes long. The first half is divided into two quarters. After the first round, there will be a 3-minute break. The second inning will then be extended for another 15 minutes. So the first half lasted 33 minutes.

The Second Quarter

It was followed by a 13-minute, 30-second break, which matched the NFL’s 2017 record. It is, nevertheless, typical for every NFL championship game to have live entertainment.

In the NFL, how long is the halftime break? The halftime break lasts 12 minutes, much as the pause between sets. On the other hand, the halftime break in the NFL Super Bowl is significantly longer. Because well-known celebrities will be watching the game, expect the Superbowl’s halftime breaks to stretch longer than 30 minutes.

Third Quarter

After a brief pause, the game resumes with the third round. Start the 15-minute countdown after that. Following the conclusion of the third round, there will be a 3-minute pause. The fourth quarter began in the final 15 minutes.

So the first half is 33 minutes long, the halfway break is 30 minutes long, and the second half is 33 minutes long. As a result, you spend a minimum of 96 minutes, or an hour and 36 minutes, gaming.

Fourth Quarter

If the final score at the end of the previous quarter had stayed the same, sudden overtime death would have occurred instantly. Previously, the NFL’s official game time was set at 15 minutes. However, in 2017, this regulation was amended and decreased to 10 minutes. The game is won by the first side to score within 10 minutes.

How Long Do Football Games Last on TV?

How long does a football game last on TV? An NFL game on TV is a very another story. It entails far more than simply watching a football game. When you watch an NFL game on TV, you will be subjected to around 20 commercial breaks, including more than 100 advertising.

According to estimates, these TV ads account for around one-third of the game, or approximately one hour of showtime.

As a result, NFL games on TV may stretch up to three hours and thirty minutes. The longest NFL game ever played is seven hours long. Imagine spending nearly your entire waking hour watching an NFL game.

Discussion Before the Game

Typically, a TV broadcast of an NFL game begins with a brief introduction from the presenter. He’ll start with a pregame conversation with some commentators and retired NFL players about what they anticipate seeing in the game. Typically, one or two ads will be played before the game begins.

Postgame Analysis

Following the game, the host will begin a postgame review. More emphasis will be placed on displaying videos rehashing the recently ended game during this time. Typically, a host will be dispatched to the arena to interview the game’s MVP and winning coach and the best-losing player and coach.

In Person at the stadium, How Long Is an NFL Game?

If you attend an NFL game in person, the game (from kickoff to the end of regulation) will normally last more than 3 hours. However, if you want to be in the stands for player introductions, the national anthem, and the coin toss before the game, your total time at the stadium will be closer to 3 hours and 15 minutes.

There are several exceptions to this time range, and each game is distinct. The next portion of the post will discuss what elements might slow down NFL games and make them linger longer.

However, it’s crucial to realize that if you’re going to a game in person, additional factors will lengthen your journey. It is possible that parking and going into the stadium will take 15-30 minutes. Finding your seat and proceeding to the refreshment stand may take 15-20 minutes.

Then, after the game, you’ll have to walk to your car for another 10-15 minutes. Attending an NFL game can easily become a 4-6 hour event if you want to tailgate before the game.

What Factors Influence the Length of Football Games?

The game clock stops running during an NFL football game for various reasons. The following are some of the most prevalent causes of clock stops during an ordinary NFL season game.

  • The kickoff generally follows a brief commercial break for one team.
  • The quarterback’s pass to their intended recipient was incomplete.
  • A score or field goal permits the team to celebrate in the end zone for a short time.
  • Taking a break
  • When a team commits a penalty (such as offsides, pass interference, or having too many players on the field), the referee must halt the play.
  • Instant replay evaluations
  • There are halftime intervals between the first and second halves.
  • Punts bring the clock to a halt after the receiving team has either run out of bounds, been tackled, or scored a touchdown.
  • The two-minute warning pauses the clock during a football game’s second and fourth quarters. The two-minute warning pauses the clock, which usually results in a commercial break.
  • One team refuses to snap the ball until the very last second. For example, a winning team with the ball in the fourth quarter will strive to take as much time between snaps as possible to bring the remaining time in a game. Because each play clock is 40 seconds long, you can imagine how much time is lost when teams hold on to the ball and nothing happens.
  • An injury that occurs on the field

Several factors determine the length of each NFL game.

Among these elements are the following:

1. Gameplay Flow

The contest will take longer than normal if the football game is intense and there is frequent back-and-forth action between the two sides. When the score is tight in the last minutes of a game, the side trailing will usually call a timeout.

The coach will strive to keep the game clock running so that his team has more time to get the ball to equal or beat the opposing team’s score. If his men are on offense, they will also attempt to spike or get the ball out of bounds to keep the game clock running. This tactic will result in a sluggish game flow, easily adding 30 minutes to the final game length.

2. Playing Methodology

If the opposition side utilizes an offensive plan solely to pass the ball, the game will go longer than normal. However, if a team employs the offensive strategy of rushing the ball, it will result in quick plays and shorter game duration.

The clock will stop numerous times when there are more passes than runs in a game. On the other hand, running plays will result in a more flowing game with fewer clock stoppages. Running games are frequently significantly shorter than passing games.

If both teams exhaust all of their game clocks before attempting to score, an NFL game may get much longer. However, if both teams strive to score as soon as they obtain the ball, the game will be over sooner.

3. The Number of Penalties

Every penalty in an NFL game adds significant time to the game. It takes a long time for the referees to examine and declare a call. According to statistics, the longest NFL games were played in 2015. It was also in 2015 when the league’s average number of penalties per game was the greatest.

When a referee raises the penalty flag, a whistle is blasted, and the game abruptly ends. The referees will then gather. The call is taken up by the head referee, who announces the penalty for the benefit of the players and the audience. The penalty then shifts the ball. This occurrence might take a minute or more to complete.

If the officials disagree on penalty calls, it will take time to resolve their disagreements. There have also been instances where two fouls were called on the same play. Coaches can also lengthen the game by fighting with the officials and disagreeing with their decisions.

While penalties and fouls protect the integrity of an NFL football game, they can disrupt the flow of the game and annoy the fans. These inescapable outcomes might make the game linger for hours.

4. Replay Evaluations

The quality and integrity of NFL football games have increased due to replay reviews. Referees and game officials use these evaluations to guarantee that the correct calls are made every time. While they significantly enhanced the games and contributed to longer game periods.

Replay reviews were first used in the NFL in 1999. There were previously no possibilities to replay and review controversial calls made by referees. Football games used to be significantly shorter and played with less delay than now.

5. Severe Weather

One thing that game organizers have no control over is the weather. It might be bright one minute and raining the next. Lighting strikes near the football field may delay and lengthen the game.

Rainstorms and heavy snow can also cause the game to be extended. Moisture makes it difficult for players to grasp and throw the ball. Players are also obliged to run the ball rather than pass it.

6. broadcast

When a stand-alone primetime game is planned on Sunday, Monday, or Thursday, the game time is likely longer than the normal NFL game scheduled on a Sunday. Pregame activities are sometimes included as bonus features in such games.

Some of these games may also include a ceremony in which a veteran player’s jersey is retired. Halftime entertainment, such as Super Bowl games, might also be included. Long halftime intervals and a slew of commercial breaks are not uncommon in Super Bowl games.

What is the record for the longest NFL football game ever played?

Miami Dolphins vs. Tennessee Titans

Would you believe that an NFL game once lasted more than seven hours? This was the longest NFL game ever played. On September 9, 2018, the Tennessee Titans played the Miami Dolphins.

Miami triumphed after seven hours and eight minutes of passing and rushing the ball. The game ended with a score of 27-20. The extra-long time extensions were caused by lightning. The game was delayed by thunderous lightning that struck at 1:11 p.m. in the second quarter. It was the very first.

The lightning display lasted nearly two hours. When it came to a halt, the game restarted. The lightning then returned at 6:47 of the third quarter. It has now been operating for two hours and two minutes.

Surprisingly, the crowd stayed patient and continued to cheer for their sides. It was estimated that 7,000-10,000 fans stayed and withstood the lightning storm. The Dolphins applauded their supporters for sticking around to the finish and “becoming a part of history.”

Chicago Bears vs. Baltimore Ravens

The game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Chicago Bears was also recorded as one of the longest NFL games. This game lasted five hours and sixteen minutes on November 17, 2013.

Surprising Statistics Reveal the Length of NFL Football Games

No matter how long an NFL game lasts, it is impossible to deny that the actual time the ball is in play is just 11 minutes. The Wall Street Journal corroborated this number in 2010 when it tracked the real football activity in an NFL game.

That implies that most of the time, viewers were treated to 75 minutes of non-action, comprised of players, coaches, and officials simply standing about. However, these acts appeared to have little effect on the spectators’ enthusiasm for the game. They will continue to watch the Super Bowl whenever it is shown.

What are some of the ways the NFL is speeding up the game?

NFL fans’ thoughts on how to speed up the game have become a popular topic among friends. It remains to be seen whether or if the NFL incorporates any of these, although speeding up the action is a hot topic of discussion. Here are some fan suggestions on how to speed up the pace during games.

  • Instant replays can be sped up with the help of reviews.
  • Changing the snap clock from 40 seconds to anything different. Reducing the 40-second timer to 30 seconds may result in more activity throughout the game.
  • Incomplete passes and plays that continue to run the play clock
  • Get rid of the 2-minute warnings.
  • Limit the number of challenges and timeouts a team can use.
  • Limiting the number of ads that run between games. Another alternative is to employ a double box, which allows the action to take place on one screen while a commercial plays on the other.
  • How many advertisements are there?
  • Commercials account for around 25% of the NFL broadcast on average. That’s a lot of advertisements in a 50-ish-minute period in three hours. There are around 15-25 advertisements every quarter for 100+ commercials during a football game!

Finally, how long do football games last?

To summarize, how long do NFL football games last? A typical NFL football game lasts three hours and twelve minutes. This lengthy period does not deter fans from watching.

Despite its lengthy history, it remains the most popular American sport. Surprisingly, few spectators know that the ball is only in play for 11 minutes during the whole game.


Editorial Staff

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