What Happens at the End of the Quarter in Football?

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Whether it’s a high school football match, a NCAA college football game, or a NFL game, American football games are divided into four even quarters. But although these quarters may have the same amount of game time, what happens at the end of each quarter is not the same. Specific rules govern what happens at the end of each quarter. These rules affect team possessions, position, timing and breaks.

What happens at the end of each quarter?

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Football teams switch ends of the field at the end of each quarter. This makes the game fairer, by evening the conditions. For example, if one endzone is muddy, defensive and offensive players for both teams have to deal with it for half of the game. It can also reduce the likelihood of a team facing unfair weather disadvantages throughout the game, like throwing, having to punt, or having to kick a field goal into an oncoming wind.

How long is the break between football quarters?

Football quarters are fifteen minutes. Each 15-minute quarter is followed by a break. Between the first and second quarter, there is a short, two-minute break in regulation time to allow the teams to change sides. After the first half, or between the second and third quarter, there is a halftime break. This break lasts 12 minutes, giving the teams enough time to discuss strategy and gain some rest. During the Super Bowl, however, this intermission is thirty minutes to allow for the halftime performance. Between the third and fourth quarters, there is another two-minute break, giving the players a chance to switch sides once again.

When do possessions change?

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At the end of the first quarter, the team with possession of the ball retains the possession going into the second quarter. The team retains the same field position, so the ball is placed on the same spot but on the other end of the field. The down indicator box and chains, used to measure the distance to a first down, are also placed at the same yard line on the opposite side of the field. The same thing happens at the end of the third quarter, going into the fourth quarter. Going into the second half however, possession and field possession are not retained; the ball is kicked off in the third quarter by the team that received the ball on the opening kickoff.

What is the Two-Minute Warning?

With two minutes left in the second and fourth quarters, the officials stop the game clock and announce a two-minute warning -- indicating that there are just two minutes left to play in the quarter. This rule dates back to the days when the referee kept the official time on his watch. There is no warning at the end of the first and third quarters, however. This gives both the offensive team and defensive team an extra timeout.

How long are overtime periods?

The National Football League has had a series of rule changes regarding the length of overtime and other overtime rules. In the NFL football regular season, overtime is ten minutes. If the first team with the ball scores a touchdown, the game is over. If they fail to do so, the game will be decided by sudden death. If the score is still tied after ten minutes, that is the end of the game.

Many felt these football rules were unfair, especially since first possession is decided by coin toss. This is why the NFL has changed the overtime rules strictly for postseason play. In the playoffs, if the first team scores a touchdown then the other team is allowed to match. If the two teams are still tied, then there is a two minute stoppage and they play another overtime period.