What Are the New NFL Overtime Rules For the Playoffs?
NFL overtime rules have long been a divisive topic, even with all the changes the league has made over the years.
In years past, all it took was a score of any kind to get a win. So if a team won the coin toss, got just enough yardage to set up a field goal, and made it, the game was over without the other team getting a chance to touch the ball.
But for the postseason following the 2010 campaign, the NFL overtime rules were changed on a trial basis to say that if the team that initially received the ball scored a field goal, the game would no longer end automatically. Instead, the other team would get a chance to also possess the ball.
That team could then win the game with a touchdown, tie the game with a field goal of their own, which would create a sudden-death situation, or lose the game if they failed to score at all.
However, if the team that initially received the ball scored a touchdown on their first possession or the defense scored a touchdown on a turnover on that same possession, the game would end. But if the initial receiving team failed to score, the other team could win the game with a score of any kind.
These rules were officially adopted for all games ahead of the 2012 regular season and have essentially been the same since, the only real change being in 2017 when the length of the overtime period decreased from 15 minutes to 10.
But while these rules remained the same for the 2022 regular season, a significant change is in effect for the NFL Playoffs.
Several significant games have been decided in overtime in recent years
The NFL overtime rules have come under heavy fire on several occasions. Many didn’t like that Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons’ offense didn’t get to touch the ball in overtime of Super Bowl 51. Tom Brady, of course, led the New England Patriots to a touchdown on their first possession of the extra frame to complete the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.
A few years later, Brady was again on the winning end of the rule as he led the Pats to a touchdown on the first possession of overtime in the AFC title game against the Kansas City Chiefs following the 2018 season. Naturally, folks weren’t pleased that NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes never touched the ball.
However, the rules benefitted Mahomes in the Divisional Round of the postseason following the 2021 campaign as he led the Chiefs to an opening-possession touchdown in extra time against the Buffalo Bills, giving Josh Allen no shot to touch the ball.
And it was that game that prompted the league to make a big change to the NFL Playoffs.
The new NFL overtime rules for the postseason state that both teams now get a chance to possess the ball
Under the new NFL overtime rules for the postseason, which were voted on and approved by at least 24 of the 32 clubs (the full voting numbers weren’t revealed), both teams now get a chance to possess the ball. And that’s even if the initial receiving team scores a touchdown on their first drive, which changes everything.
For starters, the new rule obviously devalues the coin toss. Whereas coaches would certainly always want to receive the ball first in the extra period for a shot at an opening touchdown and an automatic win, it really doesn’t matter now.
In fact, it would actually be wiser to defer for several reasons.
First, you could automatically end the game on the first possession with a defensive score. That’s the only way the game can end on the opening possession, by the way.
Secondly, if the other team does score on their first drive, you know exactly what you need in order to tie or win the game.
And thirdly, you’re likely to have better field position if you can get a defensive stop and force a punt.
It should be interesting to see how these new NFL overtime rules play out. One would guess they won’t please everyone — but what else is new?