Back in October, we relayed to you an interesting find from the guys at Smart Football, who stumbled upon a page from one of Buddy Ryan’s playbooks from Houston.

Essentially, the play — full diagram and explanation here — purposely called for more than 11 men on the field, essentially meaning that the defense was deliberately taking a too-many-men penalty, but taking valuable time off the clock…time that the offense can’t get back regardless of the penalty.

Ryan’s play was for goal-line situations, but it also makes sense if there are about 10 or 20 seconds left and an opponent with no timeouts remaining is in Hail Mary mode.

Sunday night, the Giants sent 12 men out with 17 seconds left. With that advantage, they successfully defended against the Hail Mary, losing only five yards due to the penalty while taking eight seconds off the clock.

Slate thinks that Justin Tuck is actually trying to get off the field prior to the snap, but it’s tough to tell and NBC didn’t provide a live replay with a wide shot. Regardless, it appears Coughlin used the strategy by accident. Had he been doing it on purpose, he would have used more than 12 men. Why not 13 or 14 or 45? Seriously, there’s nothing in the rules that gives the officials the right to blow the play dead in the instance that the Giants put the entire team on defense for a play like that.

Now we’ll see if the NFL closes an exposed loophole by introducing tweaks to that rule this offseason.

Comments (8)

  1. “Seriously, there’s nothing in the rules that gives the officials the right to blow the play dead in the instance that the Giants put the entire team on defense for a play like that.”


  2. If a team put out a whole bunch of extra people on defense they would probably get flagged for delay of game and possibly unsportsmanlike conduct, as Greg pointed out.. With just 12, it can easily enough just be a mistake.

    One possble fix to the rule would be that within that last 2 minutes of either half, certain defensive penalties reset the game clock to the time before the last play, but it would have to be determined if that should be all penalties or just some. Also, it could have the consequence of a penalty on the “final play” granting 2 more plays instead of just one, depending on how much time was on the clock. Maybe instead of a full reset, add 5 seconds?

    • I think that’s the fix, exactly. Just reset the clock on a defensive penalty in, say, the final two minutes. That might help a team trailing on defense late, but I doubt they’d apply such a deliberate strategy when you consider the yards they’d lose.

  3. Another way to defend against having 45 guys on the field would be to snap the ball and spike it down immediately. It would probably take 0-1 seconds off the clock and give 5 yards down field. The defense probably won’t try that again or you can march down the entire field in like 7 seconds.

    • But then you lose a potentially valuable down. In this case, Brady had spiked it on the previous play. It would’ve become third down, leaving New England with only two plays — which is what they ended up having anyway. If I only get two plays, I’d rather toss up a Hail Mary on a free play against a stacked defense.

      • No. As happened during the game, it would have been “12 men on field, defense. Five yard penalty, REPLAY SECOND DOWN.”

        • You’re right. Assuming the quarterback recognizes there are too many men, the smart play would be a spike. That said, the one risk is that the officials miss it.

  4. We need a new set of rules – should we call them Coughlin rules or Giants rules? There’s intentionally putting 12 men on the field to kill time, and of course the glorious double fall down of week 3 (type fake injury into YouTube and you get the Giants play from week 3 against the Rams, and a bunch of Soccer plays from varuious leagues around the globe.

    How much editting to the rule book will be required to prevent Coughlin and the Giants from making football unwatchable to the fans?

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