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Running Out the Clock

What is Running Out the Clock?

A tactic used by teams that are leading late in games in order to preserve a lead. A team will run plays that are low-risk and keep the clock moving to minimize the amount of time an opposing team would have to come back from their deficit. Typically, teams will use running plays in the middle of the field while running out the clock. Passing plays are rare in these situations, since an incompletion stops the clock.

Sporting Charts explains Running Out the Clock

Teams ahead late in games will often attempt to run out the clock to preserve their victory. Running plays between the tackles are most common since teams want to avoid going out of bounds and stopping the clock. The defending team will use their timeouts to stop the clock, and hope to stop the offense and force a punt to get the ball back and try to score. Passing plays are very rarely used, but teams may occasionally attempt to throw on a third down play if the benefit to getting a first down feels greater than running more time off of the clock. Any first down is devastating to the defense since it allows the offense another set of plays to run more time off of the clock.

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