Intervention time: How LA Rams lopsided TOP impacts defense

Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /
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LA Rams News
Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

Theory of relativity

Time of Possession (TOP) is not the actual time of the game. Rather, it’s somewhat of a relative indication of how many plays each team runs on offense. A regulation game is 60 minutes duration, broken into four quarters of 15 minutes duration each. Now, after factoring in halftime, time-outs, stopping the clock for incomplete passes and changes of possession, the average NFL game actually takes approximately three hours.

So why is it important at all if it is only a portion of the true playing time on the football field? Well, it does reflect the amount of time that a defense must stop the opposing offense. Given enough time, any offense can score in a football game against any defense.  And that’s the key. Given enough time.

The game clock will run as long as an offense has snapped the ball and is making a play, or as long as the ball carrier is tackled inside the field of play. Have you ever heard the best defense is a good offense? Well, we know that as long as a team’s offense has the football, the opponent cannot score.  So the likelihood of winning a game improves with the amount of time the team has possession of the football.  It simply makes sense, doesn’t it?

Is it any wonder that the LA Rams played their best in games where they controlled the clock? The two games in which the Rams had the football more than their opponent were against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and against the Seattle Seahawks. The game in which the Rams had the least Time of possession? Against the Arizona Cardinals and the Chicago Bears.

Why didn’t Time of Possession reflect the outcome of the Sunday Night Football game more closely? In that one, the Rams needed one minute, two minutes, and four minutes to drive the length of the football field.