Untimed Down in Colts/Chargers Game Brings Little Known NFL Rule to Light

If you happened to be watching the conclusion of Sunday afternoon’s game between the San Diego Chargers and Indianapolis Colts, you might have been a little bit confused at the end. For those that didn’t see it – here’s what happened.

With 00:07 seconds remaining in the game, and the Colts leading by four, Indianapolis faced a fourth down and the prospect of having to punt it away. With such a small amount of time remaining, all that was needed was a good snap and a decent kick, after which the clock would hit double zeroes and the contest would surely end… Or would it?

By the time the punt landed, the time on the clock had run out for San Diego – but the Colts had downed the punt – something that happens multiple times in every football game. But what many don’t realize is that any time the kicking team is the first to make contact with the ball after a punt, it is an illegal touching penalty.  This penalty comes with no yardage, and is not an off-settable penalty (meaning it won’t negate a block in the back by the receiving team), but it is still a penalty.  And since a game cannot end on a defensive penalty, the Chargers were awarded one final play.  Ultimately it amounted to nothing, but it did bring to light a little known football rule.

About Aaron Garcia

Aaron is an avid sports fan who passionately follows the NFL, NBA and MLB, in addition to NCAA Sports. He is an Arizona State University grad who loves the Dodgers and the Patriots.