How Long Does An American Football Game Last?

American football is a game broken up into four different quarters, based on the constant attacking and defending of each team, games can last a while, but why is this exactly?

And just how long do American football games last altogether? In this article we’ll be answering this question. So without further ado let’s get started.

American football as a game consists of 4 quarters.

How Long Does An American Football Game Last?

Between the 1st and 2nd, and the 3rd and 4th, there is a 2 minute break between quarters, in order for teams to get their formations in order, and refresh themselves.

Between the 2nd and 3rd quarter, there’s a 12 minute halftime break. As well as this there’s 10 minutes of overtime allotted if it’s needed at the end of the game.

Quarters last 15 minutes altogether, so surely you can expect American football games to last roughly 1 hour altogether?

There’s quite a few different things that extend the game’s run time.

Longest NFL Game In History

The longest NFL game in history lasted 82 minutes and 40 seconds, this was in the 1971 AFC divisional round, where the Miami dolphins played off against the Kansas City chiefs.

During a normal game during the NFL league, the longest that a match can go on for is 75 minutes, meaning that usually games like this would have ended in a draw.

But playoff games can’t be drawn, meaning that they can go on for much longer in overtime.

In overtime, a touchdown wins the game, and a field goal does too if the first possession doesn’t result in any points.

After passing the two-minute and 54-second mark in double overtime, the game broke the record for the longest game time in NFL history.

The game would then continue to go on for about another five minutes before Garo Yepremian kicked a 37-yard field goal to give the Dolphins the win in the end.

Time Stoppage

American football has always been so much more than just the sport though, with halftime shows, and various events that surround the games, you’re never going to watch an hour’s worth of American football all at once.

This means that whilst you’ll be watching roughly an hour’s worth of American football playtime, seeing the entire match go through will take you something more like 3+ hours.

We know, that’s an enormous amount of time. Especially considering only a third of that is actual playtime. So what makes up that extra 2 hours?

American football differs from other sports with when there’s time for stopping the game, instead of keeping the clock running and adding on extra time at the end of the match, the clock stops regardless of whatever stoppage there might be.

This might be retrieving the ball after a touchdown, seeking medical aid for an injury, or just because the game needs to be paused for whatever reason.

However, there is an exception to this rule, where plays which players have been tackled within bounds, the game time will continue to tick down.

This is a strategy that teams wanting to run out of time will use often in games of American Football.

Altogether though, this can mean that instead of watching 15 minutes of a quarter, you’ll end up watching 30 to see that quarter out.

These time stoppages are frequent in American football too, teams need to get into formations and discuss strategy between attacks and defenses.

So don’t expect to watch a quick quarter of football! Then there’s adverts, which also take up a huge amount of time.

There’s roughly 20 ad breaks through an average NFL game, so overall they’re going to take up a huge chunk of the overall time.

Football Play Clock

Football Play Clock

The play clock keeps track of time in between downs and is used all throughout regulation time.

Instead of the play clock taking time off of the game it instead informs players and viewers how much time the offensive side will have to run a play before they run out of time.

If the play clock runs out before the offense calls a timeout or runs a play, then they are charged with delaying the game and will be issued a penalty for NFL football play clock is 40 seconds long which begins from the end of each play.

Between plays a 25 second clock is used to make sure too much time isn’t being wasted.

The Super Bowl

The super bowl is the biggest sporting event in America every year, and even though they have the same playtime as any other game of American football, super bowls will usually last much longer than your average NFL game.

This is because of the increased amount of stoppages required during this massive event.

Every super bowl will have a halftime show, and this alone will take up at least 30 minutes. Adding to the total runtime of around 4 hours for every super bowl.

The super bowl isn’t just about football though, it’s the cumulation of everything American that’s all in one place.

Adverts make up a huge part, and for many people, without the adverts then the super bowl simply wouldn’t be the same.

Final Thoughts

So there it is, whilst most NFL games will only go for a maximum of 70 minutes, if you plan on watching an entire game from start to finish, you’ll be spending at least 2 hours of your day doing so.

This isn’t such a bad thing though, the length of American football games are a part of making them so special, so make sure you’ve got snacks, and great people to watch with!

Steven Anderson