The “fourth-and-15” alternative to the onside kick has been tweaked in advance of tomorrow’s vote by NFL owners.
The biggest change to the rules proposal is that it will now be an untimed down. The initial proposal put forward was for the clock to start on the snap and run as it would on a normal play. But as we’ve previously noted, that would give a team that takes a lead with a few seconds remaining an easy way to run the last few seconds off the clock: Have the quarterback scramble around and then throw the ball deep, like Patrick Mahomes did on the last play of the Super Bowl. As an untimed down, that’s no longer an option.
Changing the play to an untimed down makes it more exciting regardless of who’s winning: It both prevents leading teams from using it to run the rest of the time off the clock, and also gives trailing teams more time to mount a comeback. Under the current rules, a team that scores a touchdown to make it a one-possession game with 0:01 remaining on the clock has no chance, because an onside kick would use that last second. With the untimed onside kick alternative, that team would have a chance.
Other tweaks to the rules proposal include a clarification that the fourth-and-15 play can be used in regulation only, not in overtime. And a team that initially declares its intention to use the onside kick alternative can change its mind and kick off, but only if it calls timeout first.
Owners will vote on the onside kick alternative and other rules changes in a virtual meeting on Thursday.
Onside kick alternative changed, now an untimed down originally appeared on Pro Football Talk