How long is a quarter in football? NFL game time explained

How long is a quarter in football? NFL game time explained

The NFL, of course, is the domestic football of the US, and it is one of the most-watched sports worldwide, with over 400 million fans. One of the most eagerly anticipated times on the sports calendar is the Super Bowl of football, which sees a national audience of millions. If you are new to the sport, you might find yourself asking, how long is a quarter in football?

A photo collage of American football field and players
Bank of America Stadium (L). Sen'Derrick Marks (99) of the Jacksonville Jaguars (R). Akeem Davis-Gaither on 13 June 2024 (C). Photos: Charlotte Observer, Rob Foldy, Ian Johnson (modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The article, researched from factual sources, is about how long a quarter is in football. It also explains the elements that sum up the whole game duration.

How long is a quarter in football?

As per ESPN, each quarter of an American football match lasts for about 15 minutes. The whole game consists of four quarters, hence 60 minutes of action.

How long is a football game?

Though the game lasts 60 minutes, the average running time of an NFL game is usually longer, over three hours. A bigger part of this period consists of timeouts, commercial breaks, halftime, and sporadic stoppages in play.

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Philadelphia Eagles offensive line in AT&T Stadium
The Philadelphia Eagles offensive line waits during a timeout during the game against the Dallas Cowboys on December 10, 2023, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Photo: Matthew Pearce
Source: Getty Images

Timeouts, commercial breaks, halftime, and various stoppages in play

Each NFL team is granted three timeouts in the two halves, thus, six timeouts per team for the entire game. A timeout of two minutes is taken in the NFL games.

The duration of commercial breaks is the main factor affecting the overall duration of an NFL game. There are mostly around twenty commercial breaks throughout a game. Each takes about 2 minutes.

Halftime at an NFL game is just 12 minutes. Football matches' halftime starts just after the second quarter, and it is the time when teams cool down and prepare for the second half. There are also two-minute breaks at the end of the first and third quarters.

Aside from scheduled timeouts and commercial breaks, a typical NFL game has various stoppages. These include injury timeouts, referee reviews, clock stoppages for incomplete passes, players going out of bounds, penalties, and more.

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What is the average duration of a football match?

The average NFL game, according to reports, takes 3 hours and 12 minutes to end. In contrast, the average time for a college football game is 3 hours and 24 minutes.

Some bigger stage plays cause the game to be longer. For example, CBS News stated that the average Super Bowl broadcast during the last twenty years has been approximately three and a half hours.

M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland
A general view of M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, during an AFC Championship NFL football game on January 28, 2024. Photo: Kara Durrette (modified by author)
Source: Getty Images

What is 4 quarters in football?

In football, four quarters equal the full duration of the match, which is split into four 15-minute periods. These four quarters mark the standard game structure, giving a framework for the teams to carry on. The following table contains more details on the various periods in a football match:

PeriodDurationDescription
Quarter15 minutes (actual)Divided into four quarters in the NFL
Halftime12-15 minutesBreak between the second and third quarters
OvertimeVariableAdditional periods if the game is tied after the normal time

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How long is the ball in play in football?

It is remarkable that out of 60 minutes in total, the time that the actual play prevails is much less. Research says that the ball is really in play in only about 11 minutes.

The Wall Street Journal found that in a study over a decade ago. The research states that the duration of other activities, such as huddles, play calling, and other non-playing activities that are significant to the game occupy the rest of the time.

The study discovered that the average NFL telecast dedicated more time to the replays (17 minutes) than to the live play. About 75 minutes of the game vanish while players, coaches, and referees walk around the pitch.

Christian McCaffrey at Levi's Stadium on January 28, 2024
Christian McCaffrey (23) of the San Francisco 49ers during a game against the Detroit Lions at Levi's Stadium on January 28, 2024 in Santa Clara, California. Photo: Michael Zagaris
Source: Getty Images

How long is overtime in football?

If the game is tied at the end of the regulation, it goes into overtime. Overtime in football is an extra period used to define a winner.

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According to Fox Sports, the NFL's regular-season overtime is 10 minutes long. On the other hand, the extra time in the playoffs is 15 minutes long.

The outcome of a tie game is also possible if neither team scores a goal. Nevertheless, the playoff game environment continues until a champion is determined through overtime.

What is the longest overtime game in NFL playoff history?

Miami and KC met on Christmas Day of 1971, and they had the longest period of play, which was a double overtime game after 82 minutes and 40 seconds, per The Athletic.

According to the NFL's website, only six NFL playoff games in history have gone into multiple overtimes. The most recent was Baltimore's 2012 AFC Divisional game win over Denver.

Is football 3 or 4 quarters?

Football has four quarters. This scheme is the mainstay of the game simply because it keeps the competition well-balanced and fair. The four divisions into which the match is split help a player think logically.

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San Francisco 49ers' players at Levi's Stadium
George Kittle (85), Deebo Samuel (19), Arik Armstead (91), Trent Williams (71) and Fred Warner (54) of the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on January 28, 2024. Photo: Michael Zagaris
Source: Getty Images

Why does American football take so long?

American football is designed with breaks like timeouts, commercial breaks, and halftime, which consume a lot of time.

What is the shortest American football game?

The shortest NFL match on record happened on November 3, 1996, and it took only 2 hours and 29 minutes between the San Diego Chargers and the Indianapolis Colts.

How long does the NFL season last?

Every year, the NFL season opens in September and ends with the Super Bowl in February. In between, the teams play a total of 17 games in the regular NFL fun period.

This will be followed by a series of 14 teams' playoff matches, each of which will be a knockout game. The two finalists are to participate in the latter-mentioned Super Bowl.

How many teams are in the NFL?

The National Football League, popularly known as the NFL, comprises 32 teams from Western and Eastern conferences.

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How much do NFL players make?

The average salary of an NFL player was $2.8 million in 2023, as stated by AS. In 2017, the NFL Players Association came to the table with a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which said it would grow in numbers with time.

With an estimated net worth ranging between $3 million and $5 million, Brandon Siler is among the most affluent players. Meanwhile, superstar Patrick Mahomes is brought to the limelight with an impressive estimated net worth of $90 million.

How much is an NFL referee's salary?

The average salary for NFL referees is $205,000 annually. However, more experienced officials make more, unlike the junior and entry refs. In addition to salaries, these officials usually get around $18,000 annually deposited into their pension fund.

Understanding the periods and how long is a quarter in football is one of the main things that helps the person get to know the match's flow and structure. Every period is essential in deciding the outcome of the match.

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Authors:
Kenneth Mwenda avatar

Kenneth Mwenda (Lifestyle writer) Kenneth Mwenda is a business and sports writer with over five years of experience. He graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce (Finance) from The Cooperative University of Kenya in February 2022. Kenneth was a news and features writer for Constructionreviewonline.com. At Sportsbrief, he contributed to writing sports biographies and listicles. He joined Briefly in 2024. In 2023, Kenneth finished the AFP course on Digital Investigation Techniques. Email: kelliesmwenda@gmail.com