NFL owners closed the door on a Bill Belichick loophole during Thursday’s meeting, voting to prevent teams from running chunks of time off the clock by intentionally committing dead ball fouls.
The Patriots secured a 33-0 beatdown of the Jets last season after running out the clock for a minute and 22 seconds in the fourth quarter. After New England took a delay of game penalty with their punt team on the field, the Jets declined the penalty to start the clock again and the Pats’ punt team waited until just before they were about to get another delay of game before purposely false starting.
The Jets, of course, declined the false start penalty again to start the clock before the Patriots finally punted. New England had effectively defeated the entire purpose of the 40-second play clock.
“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 in October after the Jets game.
Belichick was captured on camera smirking on the sideline after that specific series of penalties and said after the game that he expected the league to eliminate the tactic. He was right. The issue was further publicized after Titans coach Mike Vrabel utilized the same loophole in a playoff win over the Patriots.
The change would apply to the fourth quarter and overtime, ensuring the game clock will now start on the next snap rather than when officials set the ball after assessing a penalty.