In the first regular-season overtime game in NFL history, the Steelers and Broncos battled to a 35-35 tie at Mile High Stadium, way back in 1974. (I can actually remember watching that game.)
In the first postseason overtime game under new rules that modify the sudden-death dynamic, the same two teams squared off, also in Denver.
This one took a lot less time to resolve.
On the first play from scrimmage in the extra session, Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow found receiver Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard catch and run, delivering a six-point, 29-23 instant win for the Broncos.
The play capped a remarkably wild wild-card game, including the Steelers cutting a 14-point halftime deficit in half after a bad call on an incomplete pass that was a lateral and erasing a subsequent 10-point gap to force overtime.
Despite the exciting outcome, it’s hard not to think the Steelers should have gotten a chance to match the Denver touchdown. Though the modified rules make even more sense in Denver, where the ball flies a lot farther, which makes it even easier to get into position for a one-possession game-winning field goal, the fact remains that this game was resolved by a coin toss.
Yes, the Steelers failed to stop the Broncos. But what if the Broncos had been unable to stop the Steelers? With the season riding on the outcome of the game, the Steelers should have at least gotten a chance to match the score.
And so while the NFL has removed a significant portion of the inequity of true sudden-death overtime, today’s game shows that the NFL should go even farther, and that no team that has battled to a tie through 60 minutes of playoff football should have the season end without ever actually possession the ball.