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With playoffs here, overtime rules change

Minnesota Vikings v Chicago Bears Getty Images

The first time an NFL playoff game went into overtime, Alan Ameche plunged into the end zone from the 1-yard line to give the Baltimore Colts the 1958 NFL championship. The last time an NFL playoff game went into overtime, the New Orleans Saints won the coin toss, drove 39 yards into field-goal range, and won the NFC Championship on Garrett Hartley’s kick.

Ameche barrelling across the goal line was a much more satisfying ending to a football game than Hartley ending things while the opposing offense could only watch. And that’s why the NFL has changed the rules to ensure that no future playoff game will ever end on a field goal before both teams have had a chance to possess the ball.

A few months after Hartley’s kick, NFL owners voted to change the overtime rules for the postseason so that both teams have the opportunity to possess the ball at least once, unless the team that receives the kickoff scores a touchdown on its first possession. So far that rule has never been put to use, because none of last year’s playoff games went to overtime. But if a playoff game this year ends the fourth quarter tied, we’ll see modified sudden-death for the first time.

The reason for the modified approach is simple: In sudden-death overtime, winning the coin toss becomes a huge advantage, as the team that receives the kick knows it only has to drive into field-goal range to win the game. With the modified sudden-death format, the importance of the coin toss is lessened, and the team that wins the toss has a greater incentive to get more aggressive on offense and try to win the game with a touchdown. If the team that wins the toss kicks a field goal, that team then kicks off, and the other team has a chance to win the game with a touchdown, or to extend the game with a field goal, at which point the game would become pure sudden death, with the victory going to the next team that scores.

The best way to determine the winner when the fourth quarter ends in a tie has long been a debate in football: Some people like sudden death, others like the college format in which teams alternate possessions, and still others say the fairest way would be an auction style in which one team would choose the yard line to kick off from, and then the other team would choose whether to kick or receive.

But what no one disputes is that the modified sudden-death format is going to make things exciting for fans. Now we just need a game to end the fourth quarter tied.

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78 Responses to “With playoffs here, overtime rules change”
  1. snoilog says: Jan 6, 2012 4:13 PM

    This was all because Brett Farve didn’t get a chance so the “Powers hat be” changed it

    WHAT A JOKE

  2. bigdan7885 says: Jan 6, 2012 4:14 PM

    Or….100 yard potato sack races….

  3. trbowman says: Jan 6, 2012 4:15 PM

    The college format is exciting, but it’s also terrible.

    You start with the football in field goal range. You could have a drive that goes for negative or no yards and still be within range to put up points. Where’s the sense in that?

    I am in favor of both offenses getting a chance to possess the ball though, just not like it is in CFB.

  4. lilrob10201 says: Jan 6, 2012 4:16 PM

    LOL…They would put up a picture of McNabb on this artical.

  5. noquickreactionshere says: Jan 6, 2012 4:16 PM

    Love the choice of a McNabb picture for this article… HAHA!!

  6. weepingjebus says: Jan 6, 2012 4:17 PM

    We should make them play until one team gets a safety. It’s the only way to be sure.

  7. snaponrules says: Jan 6, 2012 4:18 PM

    They need to name this farve rule.
    Stupidest thing ever.
    All because a bunch of sniveling cry babies didn’t think it was fair that farves season should end on yet another interception.

  8. boiler72 says: Jan 6, 2012 4:19 PM

    I agree with snoilog. Seriously??? What is this, some stupid Favre love-fest? Poor Favre didn’t a chance to stick it to Ted. Boo-hoo. Here’s what stuck it to Favre …

    Packers 31, Steelers 25

    Any questions?

  9. pattyarbuccholz says: Jan 6, 2012 4:22 PM

    I think it’s a great rule. Who cares about “tradition” when it comes to something like this? iIthink the NFL nailed it. And I also think PFT nailed it with that hilarious McNabb photo above.

  10. raven410 says: Jan 6, 2012 4:22 PM

    I have a feeling that we’ll see an overtime playoff game this season.

  11. giantego says: Jan 6, 2012 4:22 PM

    I’d rather they just removed kickers from the equation and said the first team to score a touchdown wins.

  12. beastofeden says: Jan 6, 2012 4:22 PM

    OK, for everyone that said “Atlanta shouldn’t be mad that Drew Brees & Co. ran up the score because it’s their job to stop them…”

    Doesn’t the same logic apply to overtime? The defense can score too people, Sudden Death is the way to go.

    I don’t understand why everyone wants equal and fair oppurtunitys for the offense. Life isn’t fair. Deal with it. If a team wants to win, STOP THE OTHER TEAM FROM SCORING THEN GO OUT AND SCORE.

    “We want the ball and we’re gonna score”
    -Matt Hasselback

  13. snoilog says: Jan 6, 2012 4:23 PM

    farve rule IT IS

  14. snoilog says: Jan 6, 2012 4:26 PM

    None of the Farve fans will understand this
    Sad

  15. izlez says: Jan 6, 2012 4:27 PM

    The College overtime rule is by far the best and most logial way to go.

    Of course for the NFL you would have to move the starting point to the 40 or 50 so you don’t start in chip shot field goal range

  16. jeffchadwick says: Jan 6, 2012 4:28 PM

    I think overtime would be better if it was more like soccer. Just play another quarter, and the team with more points at the end of that quarter wins. Play another one if there’s still a tie.

    For Lions fans: yesterday was the 20 year anniversary of the Lions last playoff win for those of you looking for some synergy or smething.

  17. ronworthdubbs says: Jan 6, 2012 4:30 PM

    They should just make it sudden death, no fieldgoal kicking.

  18. gdeli says: Jan 6, 2012 4:33 PM

    Little late for the 2009 vikings! but they shouldn’t have done it to themselves! dang that was a bad day.

  19. beastofeden says: Jan 6, 2012 4:34 PM

    Get real people. Do you trly think that Donovan McNabb didn’t know the overtme rules? It was all Shtick. A man doesn’t go threw an entire NFL career not knowing the ovetime rules.

    It was reality TV. And most of you clowns ate it up.

  20. erfoster says: Jan 6, 2012 4:36 PM

    @raven410…yeah @ about 7:45 pm sunday when tebow runs over james harrison for the game winner. (i was tebowing while i typed this.)

  21. rando74 says: Jan 6, 2012 4:36 PM

    Broncos-Steelers best shot at that.

  22. snoilog says: Jan 6, 2012 4:37 PM

    Jeff Chadwick was an AWESOME WR for the Leos
    I was a big fan of his. I only wish great things for him

    BTW That was a long time ago when the Lions were a “bad” Team

    GO LIONS

  23. pixelito says: Jan 6, 2012 4:40 PM

    Over the last 2 seasons, the team kicking off in OT has won more games than the receiving team.

    This is why fans are dumb.

  24. billinva says: Jan 6, 2012 4:40 PM

    If somehow this crap rule is invoked, will the ref’s screw it up and cost someone a legit victory?

    My guess is yes.

  25. worldwidebleater says: Jan 6, 2012 4:42 PM

    If its a better way to do it, why not use it in regular season games?

  26. Dogsweat says: Jan 6, 2012 4:42 PM

    As long as the NFL never copies NCAAF OT rule.

  27. caputop says: Jan 6, 2012 4:45 PM

    I don’t understand why people would be opposed to the college system but moving the ball back to the 40 or 50 yard line.

    Both of Marino’s records are gone now, so worrying about inflated stats should be less of an issue, but if people are still upset just don’t count the stats or only count the winning score or something.

  28. unlost1 says: Jan 6, 2012 4:48 PM

    with this in mind a team that drives down in the redzone of an opponent and doesn’t get a touchdown would be foolish to kick a field goal! That would make them have to kickoff again and the other team would get it at least on the 20 yd line, wheras if they just turned the ball over on downs the opponent would be farther back. (i think they are more likely to get the field goal if it gets kicked off)

  29. snoilog says: Jan 6, 2012 4:48 PM

    farve rule

  30. gadgetdawg says: Jan 6, 2012 4:50 PM

    Personally, I would prefer it be the first team up by 6 pts or highest score at the end of the overtime quarter. I prefer a big TD ending or a bit of back and forth for the win. Winning by a FG after a few minutes of play feels more like a fluke than a win.

  31. rarson says: Jan 6, 2012 4:53 PM

    I like the auction idea. Let one team pick the kickoff yard and the other team whether they want to receive or kick. That way, you don’t necessarily have to let both teams possess the ball, but the outcome is still fair.

  32. addictedtojane says: Jan 6, 2012 4:54 PM

    At the time of my posting this, I count 6 misspellings of “FARVE” and 4 correct spellings of “FAVRE”.

  33. effedinLA says: Jan 6, 2012 4:55 PM

    If everyone is unhappy that they don’t get fair time with the ball and the rules have to be changed because of this.
    Play one 15 min quarter and if it’s still tied at the end of that, continue where the ball and possession are and it becomes sudden death at that point.

  34. freedomispopular says: Jan 6, 2012 4:56 PM

    The most logical solution is to just win in regulation. Do that and the overtime coin toss becomes moot.

  35. phatsuo says: Jan 6, 2012 4:56 PM

    Before OT starts, the refs announce all the OT rules over the loud speaker.

    I can’t wait to hear how stupid they sound explaining the OT rules this new addition.

  36. trbowman says: Jan 6, 2012 4:57 PM

    While we’re talking about McNabb, can I just mention how sad it is that the guy was cut and nobody had interest in picking him up?

    If I told you two years ago that would happen, you’d of scoffed at me.

  37. 7ransponder says: Jan 6, 2012 5:00 PM

    “The last time an NFL playoff game went into overtime, the New Orleans Saints won the coin toss, drove 39 yards into field-goal range.”

    They didn’t “drive” 39 yards, they were handed most of the 39 yards on one of the most bogus phantom PI calls of all time.

  38. blaz0037 says: Jan 6, 2012 5:02 PM

    This was all because Brett Farve didn’t get a chance so the “Powers hat be” changed it

    WHAT A JOKE

    ————————————

    Get a clue buddy. Any Championship decided like that would have caused the change. For god’s sake, get over your Favre obsession

  39. stairwayto7 says: Jan 6, 2012 5:02 PM

    Please tell me Jeff Tripplett will not be doing any games in the playoffs! This guy is the worse ref!

  40. JSpicoli says: Jan 6, 2012 5:02 PM

    pixelito says:
    Jan 6, 2012 4:40 PM
    Over the last 2 seasons, the team kicking off in OT has won more games than the receiving team.

    This is why fans are dumb.

    _____________________________

    No, they are dumb because they take stats from sample sizes the size of a pea and make judgements that way.

    Are your ears burning?

  41. lemmam says: Jan 6, 2012 5:02 PM

    my guess is NO the refs will not screw it up. these officials are far more knowledgeable on the rules then you or me. they also will have two extra officials at each playoff game. these alternate officials are there on the sideline to ensure all rules are applied correctly. And those alternate officials will also be wired up to talk to the NFL officials in NY. They make calls you don’t like or agree with, but I can damn well guarantee you that they will not mis-apply a rule

  42. squared80 says: Jan 6, 2012 5:04 PM

    Another rule change where Minnesota was on the s*** end of the stick.

  43. db105 says: Jan 6, 2012 5:11 PM

    College OT rules are retarded. No kick coverage or kick returns. That’s not football.

  44. pattyarbuccholz says: Jan 6, 2012 5:20 PM

    Hey beastofeden, I’ve seen dumber athletes do dumber things before so it’s not shocking McNabb didn’t know the rules. Watch the interview again and tell me if you think he’s joking. He knew that the first team to score wins, but he didn’t know if the clock ran out, the game would end in a tie. You’re the clown here.

  45. Zebra Blog says: Jan 6, 2012 5:21 PM

    In 50+ years there were 27 overtime games in the playoffs. Three ended in a one-possession FG. Just three. The other 88% of overtimes would have been standard sudden death under the new rule anyway. It was a solution looking for a problem.

    The reasoning fed to us was the change in kickoff location made this necessary, and the league cited stats of the overtimes before and after the kickoff change (a *slight* advantage to the receiving team in the 30-yd line era). Now we are back to the original kickoff spot, so those numbers should revert back to the virtual 50/50 that existed prior to the moving of the kick. Further, the league was so concerned about this disparity that they left the regular season overtime format UNCHANGED!

    There were two ways to settle this without resorting to the crazy eBay format you suggest: (1) give the coin toss option to the team that was last in the lead, or (2) start the overtime at the fourth quarter dead-ball spot. In both situations, an on-field determination settles the so-called disparity. Yes, those proposals have their drawbacks, but it doesn’t resort to this extra-innings stuff that separates football from baseball, as George Carlin so eloquently stated.

  46. piazzajordan2 says: Jan 6, 2012 5:25 PM

    Stupidest rule ever. It’s called sudden death for a reason.

  47. Zebra Blog says: Jan 6, 2012 5:31 PM

    Just to clarify … Option #1 above would do away with the coin toss entirely. The team last in the lead would get the options at the start of overtime as if they won the coin flip.

  48. jakek2 says: Jan 6, 2012 5:34 PM

    The college OT rule is awful. If Det-NO goes into OT, they might trade touchdowns until the divisional round is about to start. Keep it pure sudden death and deal with it.

  49. dannyabramowitz says: Jan 6, 2012 5:38 PM

    Team that wins toss starts possession at its own 20. No kickoff. Team must now drive 55 yards to be in FG range. Problem solved.

  50. jeepin08 says: Jan 6, 2012 5:39 PM

    Like some have said above, it still can end the same way as if one team “got the shot”. The second possession team could start within field goal range and would have to get the t.d. If both teams are high scoring, the game could go on for hours.

    Oh, and glad they use the Alan Ameche example, lets the stealer clowns know that baltimore had many more Championship tropies than they care to acknowlegde.

  51. snoilog says: Jan 6, 2012 5:48 PM

    addictedtojane says:
    Jan 6, 2012 4:54 PM
    At the time of my posting this, I count 6 misspellings of “FARVE” and 4 correct spellings of “FAVRE”.
    ____________________________________

    Nobody cares

  52. bleed4philly says: Jan 6, 2012 5:53 PM

    Love the pic

  53. effedinLA says: Jan 6, 2012 5:54 PM

    Change the name to sudden life support. If they score a FG we get one more shot! and can win!
    WTF?

  54. hwatt says: Jan 6, 2012 6:06 PM

    ok so make sure McNabb knows this time…oh right…

  55. nickster31 says: Jan 6, 2012 6:09 PM

    I’m just wondering, if the team that kicks to start OT kicks the ball onside, and then kicks a field goal, does the other team still get another chance?

  56. shlort says: Jan 6, 2012 6:12 PM

    Here is the only logical way to do it. Coin toss winner starts at their own 20 yard line. There is no punting the ball or kicking field goals. 4 downs to get a first down. If you fail on 4th down, the opposing team gets the ball on their own 20 yard line. Keep that up until someone wins.

  57. mattolikesthevikes says: Jan 6, 2012 6:15 PM

    Dumb rule change. Pretty sure the wilfs voted against it too.

  58. laeaglefan says: Jan 6, 2012 6:30 PM

    With the range and accuracy that NFL kickers have today, a team only need drive to the opponent’s 40 yard line to be in realistic field goal range. You’re only talking one or two first downs to get there if the receiving team gets a decent kickoff return. If I were making the rules, I’d stay that both teams have to have at least one possession even if the first possession of overtime results in a touchdown. After each team has had the ball once, then sudden death would apply.

  59. th56 says: Jan 6, 2012 6:43 PM

    7ransponder good video. Proof the NFL predestined NO to be the SuperBowl champ. This was worse than the Pittsburgh Seattle Superbowl debacle.

  60. dirtmcgirt24 says: Jan 6, 2012 7:06 PM

    nickster31 says:
    Jan 6, 2012 6:09 PM
    I’m just wondering, if the team that kicks to start OT kicks the ball onside, and then kicks a field goal, does the other team still get another chance?

    ——–

    Yes, as they never had a possession.

  61. blackholiday says: Jan 6, 2012 7:20 PM

    Michael David Smith has something against McNabb. Every time I see a negative article about McNabb on PFT, I always say, I bet Smith wrote it and I’ve been 100% right so far. N I’m no McNabb fan. Its just something I noticed. Don’t get the anti McNabb bias from this guy, but it’s just laughable.

  62. johnnycash19 says: Jan 6, 2012 7:47 PM

    db105 says: Jan 6, 2012 5:11 PM

    College OT rules are retarded. No kick coverage or kick returns. That’s not football.
    ————–

    Eh the NFL is trying to get rid of the kickoff anyway. I’ve seen more touchbacks this year than I have in the last 5. I HATE the kickoff at the 35

  63. xx4zu1 says: Jan 6, 2012 7:51 PM

    I can see it now Denver-Pittsburg 10-10 after 4 quarters. Each team scores a FG in first OT and the game continuing for 3 hours and 4 OT periods until a PR muffs a punt in FG range of the other teams kicker.

  64. eojtrid says: Jan 6, 2012 7:53 PM

    What’s next participation trophies, juice boxes and graham crackers?

  65. FinFan68 says: Jan 6, 2012 8:18 PM

    Why is it that the proponents of this rule change cite both teams getting the ball once is the fair thing to do? That is not really the case. It is just a way of eliminating the initial (only) field goal drive. If the kickoff is returned for a TD that’s game over. If the first possession nets a TD that’s game over also. How is that any more “fair” than the old way?

    Does anyone know what happens if the OT kickoff is an onsides kick recovered by the kicking team? Will a FG win the game at that point?

    I think the only real change might be a strong defensive team might actually choose to kick off and put the other team in a hole (since they can’t win with a 40 yard drive and a FG anyway).

  66. AlanSaysYo says: Jan 6, 2012 8:45 PM

    Get rid of the coin toss and and do the XFL style “run to the ball at the 50 yard line and whoever gets to it first gets possession.”

    But seriously, sudden death is overrated. Play the game in OT by the same rules you use in regulation. One extra period. None of this “if they score a FG first” or “trading possession” nonsense. Reward good defensive teams instead of putting their backs against the wall. If the union cries about injuries, make it 10 minutes instead of 15. Men play this game.

  67. cmgww says: Jan 6, 2012 9:08 PM

    the56…dead on. In SB 44, the Colts had that ball on the onside kick…you can hear the players yelling “blue ball!!” repeatedly. The refs took WAY too long to unpile the players, and in the scrum the Saints got the ball. Most fumbles/ball on ground plays, the refs unpile everyone in maybe 15 seconds tops. It took them nearly a minute to do it in SB 44…along with the officiating in the NO/Vikings game, I’ll always wonder if the NFL didn’t play a hand in the Saints winning that SB

  68. binarybulge says: Jan 6, 2012 9:22 PM

    snaponrules says:
    Jan 6, 2012 4:18 PM
    They need to name this farve rule.
    Stupidest thing ever.
    All because a bunch of sniveling cry babies didn’t think it was fair that farves season should end on yet another interception.

    What are you, 12? 1) It’s FaVRe. 2) You’re obviously not a Vikings fan, but imagine your team is in the Super Bowl, and loses it on an O/T field goal by the other team. How do you feel?

    (Ugh, what am I doing? My ’12 New Years resolution should have been to not respond to people like him…)

  69. gb4mn0 says: Jan 6, 2012 9:26 PM

    If there’s one thing we can agree on from this thread is the vikequeen rubes are the biggest bunch of immature whiners that have ever trod the sod.

    Can’t you just picture them immediately after posting they lay their heads in their mommy’s lap and whimper how unfair it is that GB has 4 Lombardi’s.

  70. binarybulge says: Jan 6, 2012 9:34 PM

    I hate to say it, but I’m with Vikes fans on this one. This isn’t the “Brett Favre” rule. Watch the Youtube video above. So many questionable calls. The Vikes did everything they could to stop the Saints in O/T but were denied, big time, by the refs.

    I don’t think there was some kind of conspiracy by the refs in this instance, but they still screwed up. And I’m normally a “bad calls are part of the game” kind of guy, but when the other team doesn’t have any ability to overcome those bad calls within the time limits of the game, it’s a potential problem.

    That said, the playoff overtime rules still suck. Why not simply let the teams play out the full 15 extra minutes? Whoever thought up the whole “score a TD, it’s over, score a FG, the other team gets a chance, if they score a FG, it continues, if they score a TD, it’s over” business should be locked in a room with a male gorilla in heat.

  71. binarybulge says: Jan 6, 2012 9:36 PM

    th56 says:
    Jan 6, 2012 6:43 PM
    7ransponder good video. Proof the NFL predestined NO to be the SuperBowl champ. This was worse than the Pittsburgh Seattle Superbowl debacle.

    I’m sure they also predestined Favre to throw those back-breaking interceptions and the Vikes to turn the ball over 6 times. Get out of here with that.

  72. suresk says: Jan 6, 2012 10:56 PM

    @cmgww

    I don’t really care for either of those teams, and I will agree that there were some highly questionable calls in the Saints/Vikings game, but I just watched the replay and can’t see anything to back up your assertion that the Colts got jobbed by the refs on that play.

    1) Players yelling “blue ball” is hardly evidence of anything. Since that was obviously the first and only time seeing a pileup over a loose ball, let me share something with you – players frequently use vocal and/or hand signals to indicate that their team has the ball, when in fact, they do not.

    2) I’ve seen piles cleaned up pretty quickly, and others take a while to sort out. It all depends on how many players are involved and how cooperative they are in getting up.

    At the end of the day, in situations like that, it is really difficult to tell who rightfully recovered the ball – it’s part of the game.

    NFL conspiracy theories crack me up…

  73. gb4mn0 says: Jan 6, 2012 11:18 PM

    binarybulge says:
    Jan 6, 2012 9:22 PM
    What are you, 12? 1) It’s FaVRe. 2) You’re obviously not a Vikings fan, but imagine your team is in the Super Bowl, and loses it on an O/T field goal by the other team. How do you feel?

    (Ugh, what am I doing? My ’12 New Years resolution should have been to not respond to people like him…)

    ——————————————–
    In typical and predictable lavender Larry fashion you’ve embellished (it wasn’t a SB) and over-dramatized the situation in hopes of gaining sympathy. How childish is that. It’s a game! Get over it!

    The answer to the question you pose to yourself (Ugh, what am I doing?) is you’re dumb. Plain and simple.

    If binarybulge is a reference to you having huevos, what a joke. We all know the only huevos you’ve ever had are in your mouth when you tea bag……..twit.

  74. warhawk04 says: Jan 7, 2012 1:47 AM

    “this ain’t Detroit man this is for the super bowl” will be how I always remember the ’09 NFC championship game. It will never get old. Nice work Brent.

  75. lightningblast says: Jan 7, 2012 4:24 AM

    I assume that if the team on offense throws an INT that is returned for a TD, game over?

  76. staffordsyear says: Jan 7, 2012 5:37 AM

    I like the overtime change…the nfl has gotten something right.

  77. darthhitman77 says: Jan 7, 2012 7:44 AM

    warhawk04 says: Jan 7, 2012 1:47 AM

    “this ain’t Detroit man this is for the super bowl” will be how I always remember the ’09 NFC championship game. It will never get old. Nice work Brent.

    Let me know the next time the Vikes beat Detroit seeing as they’ve won their last 3 against you

  78. binarybulge says: Jan 7, 2012 9:20 AM

    gb4mn0 says:
    Jan 6, 2012 11:18 PM
    In typical and predictable lavender Larry fashion you’ve embellished (it wasn’t a SB) and over-dramatized the situation in hopes of gaining sympathy. How childish is that. It’s a game! Get over it!

    The answer to the question you pose to yourself (Ugh, what am I doing?) is you’re dumb. Plain and simple.

    Your humor… it’s so WITTY! You should be a Conan writer or something.

    I’m NOT a Vikes fan, but I actually have the ability to think in an unbiased manner. Who would have thought such a thing was possible as an NFL fan?

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