The NFL banned Bill Belichick’s dead-ball ‘loophole’ to drain time off the clock

Bill Belichick employed the dead-ball clock maneuver against the Jets in October.
Bill Belichick employed the dead-ball clock maneuver against the Jets in October.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

The NFL announced a series of rule changes for the upcoming season, and Bill Belichick may not be happy about one tweak.

Teams will no longer be able to manipulate the game clock by committing “multiple dead-ball fouls” while time is running – something that Belichick called a “loophole” when he employed it against the Jets in October.

During the Patriots’ 33-0 win over their division rival in Week 7, Belichick took an intentional delay-of-game penalty when New England held onto the ball on fourth down and Jake Bailey was about to punt. Jets coach Adam Gase declined the penalty, but the game clock did not stop. The Patriots let the play clock again trickle down, before Brandon Bolden drew a false-start penalty, that Gase declined again. Still, the game clock didn’t stop.


By the end of the back-and-forth, the Patriots had drained 90 seconds from the clock, and Belichick even cracked a smile.

“It was just the way the rules are set up,” Belichick said after the game. “... That’s probably a loophole that will be closed, and probably should be closed.”

Well, it is now.

Belichick seemed a lot less happy about the rule when it was used against him – in a playoff game, no less.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel tried it out during the Patriots’ wild-card loss in January, burning nearly two minutes of the clock on a couple delay-of-game and false-start penalties.

Belichick was caught on camera ripping off a series of expletives directed at game officials after his ex-player took a page out of the Patriots playbook en route to the win.

Other rule changes

In addition to closing the loophole, the NFL also approved the following:

  • Automatic replay review has been expanded to include scoring plays and turnovers that are negated by a foul.
  • Defenseless player protection has been expanded to include a kickoff or punt returner who is in possession of the ball but hasn’t had time to avoid contact with an opponent.
  • The league is increasing the number of players who can be reinstated from the injured reserve list from two to three.

Katie McInerney can be reached at katie.mcinerney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @k8tmac.