A change is coming to NFL overtimes – for the playoffs.
NFL owners on Tuesday voted to implement a change in the playoffs that will ensure each team will get at least one possession, the league announced.
The rule is a modified version of the proposal set forth by the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles, which would have required one possession for each team in overtime for all games. Regular-season rules for overtime will remain unchanged.
If both teams remained tied after each has had a possession, the game will go to a sudden-death format.
The move comes two months after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Buffalo Bills in the AFC divisional playoffs by scoring a touchdown on the first possession of overtime. After the two teams combined for 25 points in the final two minutes of regular, the Chiefs won the coin toss and strung together an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, denying the Bills an opportunity to respond.
Since 2010, the NFL implemented its previous standard for playoff games, seven of the 12 overtime games have been won on an opening-possession touchdown, and 10 of 12 have been won by the team that won the coin toss.
“That data was compelling to us and to the league,” Falcons president and chairman of the competition committee Rich McKay said. “An amendment was added (to the original proposal by the Colts and Eagles) to not make a change in the regular season, but in the postseason, where our problem mainly lies.”
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Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, a member of the competition committee, said Monday that he was not in favor of any change to the overtime format, adding that he was particularly opposed to any change that would produce a different standard for the regular season and postseason.
“I’m a traditionalist,” Tomlin said at the NFL annual meetings in Palm Beach, Florida. “I don’t want to have to stand in front of my team at the most significant moment of the game and explain to them why it’s different, to remind those guys of the rules. So, the more closely that we can remain to continual football, I’m going to be in alignment with that. When you start talking about rule changes and the way that games are changed structurally, that’s probably when I get quiet and move away from the discussion.”
The Tennessee Titans also proposed a rule change that would have allowed a team to end the game on the opening possession of overtime by scoring a touchdown and converting a two-point conversion. The proposal was ultimately withdrawn.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.