Both teams assured of a possession in playoff overtime with rules change approved by NFL owners

PALM BEACH, Fla. — NFL owners have approved a modified proposal for overtime that will guarantee each team a possession, but only for postseason games. The vote took place Tuesday afternoon at the annual league meetings.

The current rule, which allows a team to win on the opening possession of overtime if it scores a touchdown, will continue for regular-season games.

The meetings opened with “a lot of momentum” for changing the rules, competition committee chairman Rich McKay said last week. The Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles proposed making it mandatory for each team to have an overtime possession before moving to sudden death. The Tennessee Titans, meanwhile, proposed a tweak that would require mandatory possession for each team unless the team that has the first possession scores a touchdown and converts a successful two-point attempt.

The competition committee did not endorse either proposal, but McKay said that it was because the clubs covered the nature of the discussion well. Ultimately, owners modified the Colts/Eagles proposal and passed it, seeking to avoid outcomes similar to the Kansas City Chiefs’ divisional playoff victory over the Buffalo Bills earlier this year. The Chiefs won the coin toss and chose to receive. They scored a touchdown on their first drive, ultimately leaving Bills quarterback Josh Allen and his offense on the sideline and unable to affect the outcome of the game.

McKay said Tuesday that the proposal wasn’t going to pass unless it got changed to postseason only.

Since the current requirement for an opening-possession touchdown was instituted for the 2012 regular season, teams winning the coin toss have won 50% of the time, according to league data. That number has ticked up a bit to 54% since the league shortened overtime from a maximum of 15 to 10 minutes in 2017, but there has been a big jump in the postseason.

Since the current format was implemented, seven of 12 overtime games have been won on the opening possession, and 10 of those 12 were won by the team that won the coin toss.


Leave a Comment