What Is a Delay Of Game In Football?

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Understanding the rules of American football can be tricky. One penalty often called is the delay of game penalty, but what exactly is this penalty, and when is it enforced?

Let’s take a closer look at the delay of game penalty in American football and how it affects a team’s performance. 

What Is A Delay Of Game Penalty? 

This rule was designed to keep the game moving at a steady pace rather than allowing teams to take as much time as they need between plays. Generally speaking, teams have 25 seconds from when the ball is spotted until they snap the ball for the next play. If they don’t snap it within that timeframe, they will be penalized with a delay of game penalty and be pushed back 5 yards from the previous line of scrimmage.

How Is The Penalty Enforced? 

When a team receives a delay of game penalty, the opposing team will be awarded five yards on the field. While the penalty is a relatively minor infraction, it can have a big impact on the game if it occurs at a crucial moment.

When Can Delay Of Game Penalties Be Called? 

Delay of game penalties are most frequently called after plays where there has been significant contact between players or when players are slow to get up off the ground.

They can also be called when teams take too long getting their players into position after substitutions or huddles before snapping the ball. Finally, they can be called when teams line up incorrectly on offense or defense and must adjust their formation before snapping the ball. 

How To Avoid a Delay Of Game Penalty

Keeping The Play Clock Running: The play clock is the amount of time a team has to run a play before it is considered a penalty. If the play clock runs out, the referee will stop the clock and assess a five-yard penalty. To avoid this, keep the play clock running by using quick huddles and keeping players moving between plays.

Avoiding False Starts: A false start is when an offensive player moves before the snap of the ball. This is a delay of game penalty, so it is important to ensure that all players are stationary before the snap.

Getting The Play Off Quickly: Once the ball is snapped, the offense has limited time to run a play. If they do not get the play off in time, it will be considered a delay of game. To avoid this, make sure that the quarterback gets the ball off quickly after the snap.

Calling Timeout Wisely: A team can avoid the penalty by calling a timeout before the play clock expires. However, teams are only allowed three timeouts per half, so this should be used sparingly.


As you can see, understanding and avoiding delay of game penalties in American football requires careful planning and execution by both coaches and players. Teams must ensure that their players are properly lined up before each play and that any substitutions are done quickly, so there isn’t excessive time wasted between plays. With proper preparation and practice, teams should have no problem avoiding these costly penalties and staying out of trouble with referees.