How Long is a Football Game? NFL Game Length

The NFL (National Football League) has millions of spectators around the world. On any given Sunday, stadiums would be brimming with enthusiastic football supporters where we often get to watch our favorite teams go up against each other on the field. Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught in the action, forgetting the time that lapses between the moment in which a particular play begins and ends. However, has anybody stopped to ask: “How long is a football game?” Well, this is not an improbable question to come into your mind – let us explain!


How Long is a Football Game
How Long is a Football Game

The game lasts an average of 3 hours and 12 minutes, consisting of four sections—each section lasting 15 minutes with a 4-minute break in between. However, again this only tells half the story!

There used to be a rule in the NFL that limited games to 60 minutes. For example, if the game wasn’t decided after 60 minutes were played, there was no overtime. But now, games that aren’t determined when there are 3 minutes left on the clock will go into overtime until one of two teams scores.

The game always lasts more than 60 minutes due to the action being interrupted by the penalties, the assessment, and other intervals that lengthen the time because when it’s all over there are four 15-minute quarters that make up just one-half of the game!

This sports game I went to last week lasted more than an hour. Games like this can sometimes last a bit longer depending on whether or not the game goes into overtime, how much injury time there is, and media and halftime breaks put together. Research shows that on average NFL games need about three hours of your time in totality.

So, we have just helped clarify the question “how long is a football game?” or “how long do football games last for?”.

How Many Minutes of Game Time is a Football Game?

NFL games last for 60 minutes, but that time is split into four quarters. Each quarter lasts for 15 minutes of actual game time but the clock does stop multiple times during the course of a game so it’s quite possible for two teams to get together for almost four hours and only play about 45 complete minutes of actual football!

How Long are NFL Games?

How Long are NFL Games
How Long are NFL Games

There seems to be a lot of confusion over the length of NFL games. A tweet by a sports journalist Joe Pompliano based in San Antonio made a rather interesting observation: “3 hours in and we’ve had 8 minutes of play.” The numbers mentioned would suggest that viewers are being subjected to an extreme level of padding. To do some investigation, we’re going to try and calculate exactly how much time is required for what to be considered by fans as actual playing time for NFL games.

What Adds to the Time of Regular American Football Games?

 Throughout any given NFL season, referees will call many time outs to ensure that the game is being run properly. Below are some of the common reasons why time-outs will be called during the average NFL game.

  • Kickoff is a genre of commercial television programming in the United States. Each episode follows a tournament format.
  • A quarterback throwing a ball to his target and hitting the ground
  • A touchdown and or field goal that allows a team to celebrate in the end zone
  • Calling a time out to catch your breath and reassess the situation
  • When a team commits a penalty (like offsides, pass interference, too many players on the field) that needs the referee to stop a play – the game comes to a screeching halt and the head coach is tapped with a hefty penalty.
  • Instant replay reviews
  • Halftime breaks between the first half and the second half
  • Punts that stop the clock after the receiving team either runs out of bounds, is tackled or scores a touchdown.
  • The two-minute warning stops the clock, which takes place during the second and fourth quarters of a football game. The two-minute warning stops the clock, which leads to a commercial break most of the time.
  • One team refused to snap the ball till the last possible second. For example, a winning team in the fourth quarter with the ball will try and take as much time between snaps to bring the remaining time in a game. Since each play clock is 40-seconds, you can imagine how much time is wasted when teams hold on to the ball where nothing is happening.
  • An injury that takes place on the field

What are Ways the NFL is Speeding up the Game?

Football fan theories are often thought-provoking and engaging, however, they can also be a great source of wasted time. While not all fans come up with football related discussion in mind, many do when they want to watch the game. Many football fans have ideas about how to speed up the action during games and here are some common ones you’ll hear from fans around the world.

  • Speed up instant replays via reviews
  • Reducing the 40-second snap clock to something else. Reducing the 40 seconds to something like 30 seconds could result in more action throughout the game
  • Keeping the play clock running on incomplete passes and or plays
  • Remove the 2-minute warnings
  • Reduce the number of challenges and or timeouts a team can call
  • Limiting the number of commercials between plays. Another option is to use a double box, which allows the action to be on one screen while a commercial 

What is the Longest National Football League Game?

The longest game of American Football took place in 1971 against the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins. Over the course of more than seven hours and eight minutes, the teams exchanged several touchdowns, field goals, and fumbles. The Marlins eventually won the game 28 to 24.


football game
football game

If you know about football, such as the different positions and rules, you will be able to gain a greater understanding of the sport. Certain words are easier to remember if there is some kind of context or background knowledge in place beforehand. The following ways to incorporate context into vocabulary learning are helpful in this sense:


Every NFL game consists of four 15-minute quarters, with a brief break in between the second and third quarters. If a game is tied by the final whistle, overtime will go into sudden-death mode, which means the first team to score in overtime wins the game.

A quarter is a unit of time equal to 15 minutes. A quarter has two 15-minute sections called halves. After the first fifteen minutes is up, a three minute break will happen in between the sides. When play resumes after that, the second half will continue for another 15 minutes. Therefore, a total of 33 minutes for the first half and 30 for the second.


It was followed by a 12-minute 30-second break, matching the figure set in 2017. However, it is standard for NFL Super Bowl dates for entertainment to be provided throughout the game. 

How long is the halftime break at a regular season NFL game? The halftime break, when the teams are changing ends, is 12 minutes. However, during the Super Bowl, which happens at the end of the season, there may be longer changes as famous celebrities have been invited to watch the game and this time lets you have time for networking if you happen to run into any VIPs from Hollywood.


The game continues with the third round after a stoppage in between. Then start the 15 minute countdown. Next, there will be a 3-minute break after the end of the third round. Then the fourth quarter is followed by a final period at full-time in the last 15 minutes.

So that’s 1 hour and 18 minutes, or one hour and 6 minutes if you are quite fast. The average half lasts an hour and the game is split up into two halves with a short break in between. Therefore, the average match time is 2 hours and 6 minutes.


In the event that a game’s final score remained tied at the final whistle of regulation time, sudden death rules applied. Previously, even if both teams scored an equal number of points throughout their games (such as with a tie), the official game time in regular season play was fifteen minutes in length. But this rule was changed in 2017 and reduced to ten minutes. The first team with a touchdown during those ten minutes wins the match.


The NFL’s popularity is all the more impressive when you take a look at the broadcast schedules for its games. On average, an NFL game lasts about 3 hours and 12 minutes viewable in a stadium or on TV but when you factor in standing on the sidelines for practice, halftime, and everything else that goes into simply getting to kickoff, fans are usually only watching 11 minutes of action per game.

Football has some rules that set it apart from hockey or basketball. Unlike those two games, the 60-minute clock in football can keep running even when the ball is not in play. That means a lot of game time is spent standing around or gathering on the field before each new playthrough starts.

According to a few years ago in the Wall Street Journal, 11 minutes of action was calculated to be wealthy. Its analysis indicates that the average NFL broadcast can spend more time on replays (17 minutes) than it does live.

The NFL is a business. The average game lasts about four seconds, according to the Journal. In addition to the football, there are also long commercials that take up a third of the time in each football game. The Journal’s analysis shows that advertising consumes more than an hour of a typical football game – one-third of the actual action.

Football advertisements run during the games are not shown so often or as long because the game is constantly ongoing. In contrast, many European countries show very few in-game ads during American football because they don’t have a break in play.


It’s a long game when you’re dealing with competitors who are trying everything in their power to make your proposal weaker. This can take days or even weeks if you’re under the gun and trying to manage a tight timeline that just won’t let up.

When there’s a trade in ownership, a brand new playbook needs to be coded up. One of the main concerns that need addressing is which smoke screen gets deployed when, where, and how.

It’s not surprising that the NFL has a global audience. With millions of fans around the world, it is one of the most popular sports in the world.

Factor in two reviews of controversial calls, penalties, three timeouts for each team, where they can choose to stop the clock and take a break with two minutes remaining at the end of each round, and obviously to see the number of ads – it significantly increases the time to complete the game.


As mentioned, the average NFL game takes three hours and 12 minutes to complete, but this timing can also vary significantly.

In 2008, a game between the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans broke the 12-year record for the fastest NFL game by finishing in 2 hours and 33 minutes. Football games last anywhere from three to four hours on average. So why is it that some games take less time than others? We’re sure you’ve probably ever wondered about it…

Clock stoppage takes place when a player is tackled or goes out of bounds. The clock will stop moving as long as it takes the man with the ball to reach the sidelines, where he is set down by a defender, and the ref signals that time has resumed.

If as players a few incomplete passes or plays have been made where the ball carrier has gone out of bounds, this will inevitably consume a large amount of the 60 minutes of playing time as well as less time for rest.

Teams are not required to use all of their timeouts. If there are any changes to the team roster, less time will be taken for the game than if it were played by a full team that hasn’t changed at all.


While commercial breaks have become an important part of American football, they are only inserted into the game stages when there has been a stoppage in the game. They are not used for according to the British sports market accustomed to watching continuous games in rugby or football where play continues until the buzzer goes off.

Many sports events are overkill, with matches that take three hours plus to complete. And considering there are only around 11 minutes of gameplay, one couldn’t help but wonder why companies have to stretch things out so long! It would seem that the most exciting parts of a match are those four seconds full of action and drama, not the duller moments before or after.

Rugby players are like snowballs. They can roll around for 80 minutes, but when they are up against the wall and forced to think quick, those four seconds of every rugby match can be carefully planned, deliberate, and crushing in their execution.

The sport has a lot in common with the physical game of chess. Each side rests between turns – the players have 40 seconds from the end of one turn to the start of the next – to make their next tactical move in order to try to expand their points-scoring territory or stop their opponents from widening theirs.


An NFL game at the stadium is a completely different game. It’s not just about watching an American football game in person. In fact, attending an NFL game at the stadium will put you through about 20 ad breaks, which can contain over 100 ads! And this doesn’t even count the pre-game festivities or halftime show. There are some analysts who believe these TV commercials make up about a third of the game itself or about an hour of screen time!

As a result, NFL games can last up to three hours and 30 minutes. Because the games can go on so long, they often run over and are broadcast late in the evening during the week or on Sundays. The longest NFL game that was ever played actually lasted seven hours! Imagine, spending all of your day watching an NFL game?


Typically the TV broadcast of an NFL game starts with the moderator introducing to the audience a discussion between several analysts and players about what to expect in the upcoming match. After that, one or two commercials normally run before the start of the match.


After the game is over, the hosts will conduct post-game assessments. It’s important to watch footage of the game when reviewing their work. Typically, coaches participate in this portion of the program with their teams and referees often have a chance to interview select players from both sides such as the best losing player and coach.


College football games last a lot longer than NFL games, mainly because there are more advertising breaks during college football. On the other hand, Super Bowl games tend to last about three hours, as game time is only an hour and a half. They also have TV timeouts in between quarters, unlike college football games. Here’s what you should do if you want to learn about “how long does it take for a football game to end”: ask someone who regularly attends these kinds of contests!

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