NFL tested technology to track 1st downs during games including Super Bowl: reports

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The NFL’s use of technology may finally be used to determine first downs. 

Multiple reports out of the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday noted the league tested technology to track first downs during multiple games this past season, including Super Bowl LVIII between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers. 

While the optical technology is reportedly not ready to be used for the 2024 season, it could very well be implemented when it is.


A view of ball boys and the chain crew during an NFL regular season football game between the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019 in Minneapolis. (Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

If approved, one of the more outdated happenings in sports – sideline chain crews being used – would be obsolete. Despite the use of replay technology and more in the NFL, the league continuously uses chain crews. 


Considering how vital first downs are during NFL games, it is fair to say everyone would agree taking the human error part out of determining whether a team picked up a new set of downs would be great. 

What the technology is exactly remains to be seen, but it is a truth that the NFL has had the ability to track the football during games. It is used for their Next Gen Stats, and the league says a tracking system is installed at every stadium. 

Brad Allen and the crew

Referee Brad Allen, center, talks with his referee crew during the second half of the game between the New York Jets and the Houston Texans at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Dec. 10. 2023. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

However, the technology is only used for analytics purposes – not to determine downs or anything else in the game. 

The technology does not, however, determine when a player is down, whether it be by elbow, knee or any other body part. 

Still, players, coaches and everyone involved would likely be open to technology that determines the position of the football instead of going based off an eye test, which can be reviewed by coach’s challenge. 

NFL chain crew runs on field

The chain crew runs onto the field to take a measurement during a regular season NFL football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 24, 2022 at Ford Field in Detroit. (Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)


When the technology could possibly be available for use during regular-season games remains to be seen, but it is certainly something to look out for as the league continues to adapt to modern times. 

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