Cowboys vs. Lions: Declined penalty stops clock, helps Detroit to win

Gregory Shamus

Detroit didn't have any timeouts left and Dallas was tackled inbounds with less than two minutes to go, so why did the clock stop? The official NFL rules state the reason pretty clearly.

The Lions pulled off an incredible comeback victory against the Cowboys on Sunday, winning 31-30 after a last-second Matthew Stafford keeper at the goal line, but none of it would have been possible if not for a rare call on the previous drive. Dallas had the ball and a 27-24 lead with just over a minute on the game clock when Phillip Tanner ran it for a 9-yard gain. The refs called a holding penalty on Dallas, which the Lions declined, and the Cowboys kicked a field goal.

Despite Tanner staying inbounds and being tackled, and the Lions not having any timeouts left, the clock did not reset and start to run again. Instead of having just over 20 seconds left in the game, the Lions got the ball back with 1:02 to drive 80 yards and no timeouts. They took 50 seconds to drive down the field for the game-winning score.

Which the rules state is as it should be.

According to the official NFL rules, the clock will only reset and begin to run after a declined penalty with the exception of the last two minutes of the first half and the final five minutes of the second half. That's why the clock didn't begin to run after the penalty, because there was less than five minutes to go in the game.

If the Cowboys had not been called for holding, then the clock would've run. So, their mistakes still cost them dearly, even if it was declined.

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