Last updated on October 28th, 2023 at 09:10 am
A defensive delay of a game occurs when a defensive player prevents the ball from being placed or an offensive player from getting back to the line of scrimmage so they can run the next play. To call or not call this penalty is ultimately up to the referee’s judgment on a player’s actions. It is not a common penalty in the NFL like a facemask or roughing call, but it is in the rulebook and occasionally occurs during the regular season.
So, what are some examples of a defensive delay of a game? What is the difference between an offensive and defensive delay of game penalty? How many yards is the penalty? How does the referee signal a defensive delay of the game, and how often does this penalty occur in games?
Below we will discuss the defensive delay of the game and its significance on the game.
What are Some Examples of Defensive Delay of Game?
One example of when a defensive delay of the game occurs is when a defensive player remains on top of an offensive player for an excessive amount of time after a play. The defensive player will do that to prevent the offense from getting back together to run the next play. The hope of pinning down an offensive player is to increase the chance of a false start for the offense, which is why this penalty will stop players from doing that.
Another is when a defensive player throws a ball out of the field of play, like tossing it in the crowd or simply throwing the ball away after the play is over. A defensive player might throw the ball out of frustration without intending to delay the game, but the penalty will still ensue.
Finally, another example is if a defensive player takes the ball away from an offensive player after the play and purposefully takes their time in giving the ball back to the ref to start the next play. Again, this idea is to take unnecessary time off the clock for the offense to run their next play. A defensive player might do this when there isn’t much time left on the clock, so they will take a bit longer to return the ball, which helps shed some time off the clock.
What is the Difference Between an Offensive and Defensive Delay of Game Penalty?
The offensive and defensive sides can get called for delay of game penalties, but the instances for which a team gets a delay of game penalty are different.
In the case of the offensive side, they have a play clock to adhere to. So if the offense were to not call a play by the time the play clock reaches zero, the ref would call them for a penalty.
While on the defensive side, they do not have a play clock to abide by, but they are to hand the ball over to the ref or allow the offensive player to get back to their side of the field. If they delay the process for either of these scenarios, they prevent the other side from formulating their next plan. With that delay, they attempt to delay the game’s action, which results in this penalty.
How Many Yards is the Penalty?
The amount of yardage the offensive team gains due to a defensive delay of game is the same in high school, NCAA, and the NFL, five yards. However, if the offense is 5 yards less to the end zone, the penalty will be half the distance to the end zone.
How Often Does this Penalty Occur During a Regular NFL Season?
According to NFLpenalties.com, a defensive delay of a game occurred .09 times per team during the 2023 season.
How Does the Referee Signal a Defensive Delay of Game?
The referee signals delay of game penalties by placing both arms on top of each other with their hands touching opposite elbows. After signaling which side is getting called for the penalty, the ref will point to the defensive side.
Conclusion: What is a Defensive Delay of Game in Football?
In summary, a defensive delay of game in football is a rare penalty. During the 2021 NFL season, only a handful of teams even got this call. The penalty when a defensive player prevents the offense from running their next play promptly, whether holding up a lineman or the passer from returning to their team. It carries with a five-yard penalty that could be exactly what the offensive side needed to get a fresh first down.
Greg Kristan, owner of The Stadium Reviews, LLC and TM Blast, LLC, brings his extensive experience visiting over half of the MLB ballparks, along with numerous MLS, NHL, NBA, and NFL venues, to provide in-depth coverage on the bag policy, food options, and parking. He has also been interviewed about his experiences on several sports podcasts.