How Long Does An American Football Last? In-depth Explanation!)

Last Updated on March 16, 2022 by

The average NFL game has lasted around 3 hours and nine minutes. But if you’re watching a college football game (or a high school football one), then they tend to last much longer; up to forty-five minutes longer on average!

Football is a fast game, but not when there’s a delay. When was the longest game? The longest NFL football game of all time took place on December 20, 1962, and lasted 7 hours and 40 minutes to be exact! Football lovers really like getting locked in but they weren’t happy with the long game. It ended up being played over 3 days because the defending champion Green Bay Packer players (Washington Redskins) kept missing their last field goal until finally just barely getting it in before the time expired. 

The Table Below Contains The Level Of Play And Their Average Game Length. 

LevelAvg. Game Length
NFL3+ hours
NCAA3.5 hours
High School2-2.5 hours
Youth1-1.5 hours

NFL Game Length

NFL Game Length

The NFL is arguably one of the most popular sports leagues in the world. Fans from all over will buy tickets to the games or make plans to host watch parties, often arranging with friends and family to come and eat food, drink beer, and encourage their team on. If you are wondering just how long these entertaining football matches last then take a look at our handy guide below!

How Long Are NFL Games?

NFL games last roughly three hours and consist of four quarters separated by halftime. The sport itself hasn’t changed all that much since its inception in the late 1800s, but like all great cultural traditions, it’s continuously evolving with each new season. In recent years, the longest average has been around three hours and nine minutes.

How Long Is An NFL Quarter?

In normal game time, NFL quarters are 15 minutes. The time it takes to play a 15-minute quarter is slightly over 40 minutes real-time on average since the NFL game clock does not run continuously. 

How Long Is A College Football Game?

College football games are a full 60 minutes in length. The average time of a game was three hours, 24 minutes in 2016. This is 17 minutes longer than the average NFL game that same year, which lasted a bit under three and a half hours. Other fans think this isn’t an issue at all and that it’s more about the quality of each individual game rather than how long they last as you can still enjoy the same amount of entertainment value regardless of how many plays there happen to be!

How Many Quarters In College Football?

A typical college football game consists of four quarters. Half-time occurs when the score of a quarter is tied with another. The NFL also has two halves, but instead breaks it down into quarters consisting of 15 minutes of play.

How Long Is College Football Halftime?

A college football halftime lasts for 20 minutes. College football halftime periods have been an issue that has come to light recently. Fans are getting fed up with the amount of time it’s taking for each team to regain their strength after the break and they do not feel as engaged as they would otherwise be in the game because most people tend to look at their phones during this time.

How Long Is A High School Football Game?

How Long Is A High School Football Game

The average length of a Saturday high school football game is 120 minutes and consists of 4 12-minute quarters, with a 10 – minute halftime break. Many states are required to have 11-minute quarters during the regular season and 10-minute quarters in the playoffs. 

In other words, most states abide by the standard quarter length: 12 minutes. However, Massachusetts has an exception to this rule as they use 11- minute quarters (instead of 12) during their regular season whereas they use 10-minute quarters in the playoffs. If you’re attending a high school game, although it usually lasts somewhere around two hours or so, because of a mercy rule not everyone will make it to the last quarter and your evening could be over quickly.

How Long Is A Youth Football Game?

Youth football games are typically played for under 2 hours. They usually consist of four ten-minute quarters separated with a short halftime. Some advanced leagues can play quarter lengths at 10 minutes long instead of the typical 8 minute quarters. You may have a brief break between each quarter and halftime which can last up to 2 minutes per break. Rules vary across leagues, though most youth leagues implement a “mercy rule” which exists to discourage lopsided scores that become burdensome to players, families, and fans alike. Most youth leagues allow each team 3 timeouts per half.

What Factors Slow Down American Football Games?

There is a lot of dissension between how long the play clock is used in the NFL versus the length of an individual game. Some factors that influence how long it takes to complete an NFL game include:

1. Penalties

2. Style of Play

3. Weather

To highlight how these factors affect the length of a game, let’s discuss each of them in detail. 

Penalties

In the National Football League, penalties add some extra time to the duration of a game. One thing that drives up the length is how long it takes to announce the penalty and to write down the new scenario. We have talked about this throughout this article, but it’s worth noting that 2015 was the longest average game length in recent years since so many more penalties were called. As we have discussed, however, that must not get us too worked up about all of this because it also means more fumbles and turnovers which adds excitement!

Whenever a referee throws a penalty flag, the play is stopped and the ref blows the whistle to signal it’s time to confer. The head referee on the field turns on their microphone and can declare the penalty to their opposing team. After this, they move their index fingers back and forth to communicate what exactly they called, then they complete the call with their hands by slapping both hands over both sides of it.

Style Of Play

Some professional sports games, like football or basketball, will last longer than others because they involve teams that prefer to pass often. For instance, in a game of American football, the total number of passes made per game can affect the duration of each match since the official recording of the time intervals will only continue when there is a change of possession and not necessarily when a pass is made. This can have an effect on how long games for these types of sports may last.

Game time takes on a completely different meaning when you’re watching NFL football. Teams run a variety of styles and some players prefer to keep the ball in their hands more often than others as they play. For some teams, they want to take their time before snapping the ball so that they shorten the clock by wasting it. 

Other teams, however, want to get after the opposition and snap the ball as quickly as possible so that they can make moves with it before calling a timeout or throwing an incomplete pass because then the losing team will have seconds left to try and score again. Either way, no matter what style of play that players or teams adopt, overall you can expect games in this sport to be longer than average length if compared to other sports like hockey for example.

Weather

Occasionally, games experience a not widely understood phenomenon called an in-game delay due to imminent weather threats. When this occurs the storm is usually low enough on the horizon that the rain will not be falling at the stadium, indicating it’s too late to cancel or postpone the game. 

Other delays are caused by lightning which can affect whether or not the game is canceled. Because strikes of lightning create a high amount of electromagnetic abnormalities (EAs) which have a permanent effect on radios used in stadiums games with lightning nearby have a small chance of experiencing a significantly delayed kickoff. It’s unlikely but possible for such problems to go even further than that and force postponement of an entire game that was scheduled to play out during peak seasons.

Extreme rain or snow-related weather conditions often cause the football to become slippery, resulting in receivers running around and causing long-term damage to the actual ground. The impact usually causes a lot of slipping and sliding which means players and even spectators may potentially get injured on their way to the game.

Final Words

As you may have already known, an NFL game normally lasts for about 3 hours. In recent years, the average length of a game is slightly over 3 hours as we discussed earlier. An NFL game is made up of 4 quarters, with halftime taking place between the 2nd quarter and the 3rd quarter. 

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