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Clock Management

What is Clock Management?

An important strategy in football that emphasizes intelligent plays toward the end of a half or a game when a team is either in the lead or attempting to come from behind. 

Sporting Charts explains Clock Management

Throughout the course of a football game, most possessions by either team on the offense rely on schemes and plays called from the playbook without regards to how much time is left on the clock. In close games, typically those where there score differential is anywhere from 1 to 8 points (8 being the most that can be scored in a single possession), both offenses are attempting to use the clock to their advantage.

Because the clock only stops after an incomplete pass, when a player goes out of bounds or when the ball changes possession, offenses that have the lead will typically call running plays with the intention of taking as much time off of the clock as possible. This always depends, however, on exactly how much time is left and how many timeouts the opposing team has left. Teams with the lead will often do their best to score, if possible, but the primary goal is to take time off the clock with running plays.

For teams that are playing from behind, a lot of emphasis is put on the “two-minute drill,” which is a strategy offenses employ to score from wherever they start with the ball within a two minute time window. This window is bounded by the end of a half or game, and the “two minute warning,” a special timeout that occurs when there is only two minutes remaining on the game clock. Offenses who want to save as much time is possible with usually exclusively pass rather than run, and attempt out routes or other passes toward the sideline to give a receiver the opportunity to get out of bounds and stop the clock.

Almost equally important as how teams run plays when there is little time left on the game clock is how they manage their timeouts. Each team receives three timeouts per half that they can use to stop the game clock. Many games are often decided by how wisely coaches and players use timeouts earlier on in the game, as they are useful (mostly for those teams playing from behind) when the final seconds begin to tick off the clock.

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