How Long is a Football Game? + What Can Slow a Game Down?

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A stadium of fans spectating a Texas A&M football game.

A football game is only 60 minutes long, consisting of four 15-minute quarters. A number of factors, like halftime, for example, can extend the game to over a 3-hour experience.

After hours of research, I’ve gathered how long a football game truly is. I’ve also researched factors that can slow a game down, along with other questions you may have about a football game.

Keep reading if you want to learn:

  • How long halftime is in the NFL?
  • How long does it take to watch an NFL game?
  • How long is an NFL game in person?
  • How long an NFL season lasts?
  • What can slow down a football game?

How Long is an NFL Game?

An NFL game is scheduled to last only 60 minutes but they usually go on for a lot longer. An NFL game on average lasts around 3 hours and 12 minutes due to factors affecting playing time. A college football game has a similar length, with it being 3 hours and 24 minutes long.

How Long is Halftime in the NFL?

Halftime in the NFL is typically 12-13 minutes and varies from game to game. There isn’t a fixed halftime break like soccer, as it depends on the game; however, the average halftime break as listed in the rulebook is 13 minutes long.

The only time where the halftime break significantly exceeds 13 minutes is during the Super Bowl. To put it into perspective, the artist who performs during the halftime show takes 13 minutes up alone, and halftime is typically 25 to 30 minutes when the Super Bowl comes around.

How Long Does it Take to Watch an NFL Game?

An NFL game has four quarters each 15 minutes long, so you’d think NFL games wouldn’t take more than 2 hours to watch from the comfort of your own home, but you’d be wrong.

An NFL game takes more than 3 hours to watch due to commercial breaks and frequent stoppages, as expected in a football game.

How Long is an NFL Game in Person?

Fans conversating with each other after a timeout is called.

You’d spend more time at an NFL game if you attended in person compared to if you were watching at home. If you’d want to truly enjoy an NFL game, you would be there 15-20 minutes before kick off so you have enough time to find your seats and watch players warm up.

After the sound of the referee’s whistle, players walk around the pitch engaging with fans, and of course, as a fan, you would want to stay for that. In total, including kick off and regulation, you’d be attending an NFL game for around 3 hours and 30 minutes in person.

How Long Does an NFL Season Last?

The NFL season is 18 weeks long, and it starts in September and concludes with the Super Bowl in February. Each of the 32 teams in the NFL must play 17 games in order for the regular season to come to an end and the playoffs to begin.

NFL games are often played on Sundays, with only a select number of games being played on other days. Even though most games are played on Sundays, it doesn’t affect the length of the season since the NFL books most teams to play and there are multiple fixtures on Sundays.

What Can Slow an NFL Game Down?

NFL games can be intense and exhilarating, and what seems like 10 minutes is really you sitting through 2 hours of gametime, but have you ever wondered what elements can slow down that temporary excitement? Let’s take a deep dive into the factors that can stretch those thrilling football clashes.

Weather

Lightning can be a contributing factor to a game slowing down, and it leads to long pauses, which can affect gameplay and momentum for the home team. If a storm is too severe for spectators to attend, then games are delayed and played on another day.

Heavy rain or snow can also affect a game since the ball is wet and it would be a lot more difficult to catch the ball. The reason this can slow a game down is because the coach’s challenges are a lot more common during these conditions. 

Replay Reviews

Referees regularly review plays, and it’s normally because of coaching challenges who are arguing against an unfair play that can impact the outcome of the game. Accuracy and a more fair game are argued for these reviews, but referees often favor the wrong team, especially in close games. 

Before the introduction of replay reviews in 1999, the game was actually a lot more cohesive and entertaining, as fewer stoppages for reviews meant a smoother viewing experience for fans and a more fast-paced game for players.

Injuries

It’s always sad to see players get hurt, but it’s inevitable for a couple of players to get hurt during a football season, especially when it’s such a physically violent sport. As miserable as they are, there’s no denying that they slow games down.

Certain injuries, like an ankle sprain or a shoulder impingement, can only take a minute or two of game time before a player is taken off the field.

However, more serious injuries like a serious concussion or a leg fracture would drain a lot of time and can often lead to 10+ minutes added to a football game.

Streakers

Perhaps the most frustrating stoppages are those when games are stopped due to a fan deciding to run on the field naked for no real reason. Fans do this normally for publicity, but these delays can have a significant effect on the game, especially if a team is running a play for a game-winning touchdown.

Streakers were usually just given a light punishment, normally a ban from the arena, but now the repercussions are a lot greater. Fines and jail time of up to 180 days are now handed out to streakers, and there’s been a decline in streakers ever since.

Penalties 

Penalties are the most common way a game can be slowed down. These would slow games down since the head referee would discuss with the referee why a penalty was called, and they would take even more time to come to a decision.

The downside of penalties is that sometimes the head referee decides that a penalty should not be awarded, and therefore the stoppage was a complete waste of time. This can be annoying as a spectator, especially when a rookie referee interferes with the flow of the game and makes false calls.

Final Whistle

Spectators watching on as a team is running an important play.

So, how long is a football game? A football game is only 60 minutes in total, in line with the game clock, with four 15-minute quarters. Other disruptions and stoppages extend a football game to over 3 hours. 

You’re probably reading this article because curiosity got the better of you, but are you curious about how long a basketball game is? Check out how long a basketball game is.

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AUTHOR

Hi, This is Daniel's Sports Blog. I have been a Sports Fan for as long as I can remember and have grown up watching all types of sports including Basketball, Soccer, Football, Wrestling (WWE specifically), amongst many more! I have not only been watching sports but I have also been competing in a range of sports and I bring my skills and experiences to writing this blog so I can help other sports fanatics understand and appreciate the art of sports.

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