The NFL's competition committee has proposed a rule change that appears aimed at eliminating a strategy used by the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens last season to drain time from the game clock by committing multiple fouls on the same play.
The proposal, which will be debated and possibly voted on next week by NFL owners, prohibits teams for committing "multiple fouls during the same down in an attempt to manipulate the game clock." The offending team would be penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct and the game clock would be reset, thwarting the intent of the strategy.
The 49ers had four defensive backs intentionally hold the New Orleans Saints receivers they were covering in Week 9 of last season, leaving no receivers for quarterback Drew Brees to throw to and forcing a field goal attempt. The 49ers were penalized five yards for defensive holding, but the play left the Saints with only eight seconds before halftime and thus not enough time to try another play.
In Week 12, meanwhile, the Ravens had their punt protectors intentionally hold all nine of the Cincinnati Bengals' rushers late in the fourth quarter. Punter Sam Koch simply stood his ground and finally stepped out of the end zone as the final 12 seconds of the game expired, sealing a 19-14 victory.
At the moment, NFL rules instruct referees to warn teams on the first instance of multiple players committing intentional fouls. On the second instance, referees can issue a penalty for a "palpably unfair act." Any time lost is restored after that second instance, explaining why the 49ers and Ravens jumped at the opportunity last season.
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