NFL changes regular-season overtime to match postseason overtime

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Starting in 2012, regular-season overtime will be the same as postseason overtime, and a field goal on the first possession does not end the game.

After seeing it work in overtime of the playoffs in January, the league’s owners voted to change overtime for the regular season as well. Now overtime is not purely sudden death, as the team that receives the overtime kickoff cannot win the game simply by kicking a field goal on its first possession.

As is the case in the playoffs, regular-season overtime will now end immediately if a team scores a touchdown or safety, but the game will not end if a field goal is scored on the opening possession. In those cases, the team kicking the field goal will then kick off, and the other team can either win the game by scoring a touchdown on the ensuing possession or extend the game by kicking a field goal. If that team doesn’t score, the team that kicked the field goal on the opening possession would win.

The reason for the modified approach is that 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.

That’s how it worked in the playoffs last season, and that’s how it will work going forward in the regular season.

37 responses to “NFL changes regular-season overtime to match postseason overtime

  1. Thank you!

    As a season ticket holder, it’s painful to watch a referee walk 80 yards to get to the review screen, spend two minutes in there, then stroll back down to the other end, only to get it wrong much of the time anyway.

    GET IT OUT OF HOCCULI’S HANDS!

  2. This sucks. They should have changed to playoffs back to match the regular season. There is nothing in sports that compares to the excitement of NFL sudden death overtime, and it sucks that they are trying to eliminate that.

  3. I don’t like the change! Didn’t like it last year for the playoffs either. I prefer the old way. First team to score whether by a touchdown, Field goal or safety wins the game! If the other team did not get a chance to touch the ball; Too damn bad!

  4. The coin toss was never a huge advantage. How many times has that been discussed in the last couple of years? Saying it was a big advantage after the fact doesn’t make it so.

    The new rules are too convoluted for their own good. They essentially prolong the start of sudden death, apparently because of a non-existent coin toss advantage, at the expense of the health of the players. More extra time played allows more time for injury, and a greater risk of injury. If the players are willing to take on that risk, a fixed extra period makes a lot more sense than the new rule. The rules for winning in overtime should be kept in line with the way the first 60 minutes of the game is played.

  5. Great, now we get gimmick overtime all year. I know I’m probably in the minority of people who liked sudden death, but either do sudden death, an abbreviated quarter, or something. This new overtime is just stupid.

  6. Even if the winner of the coin toss only gets a field goal, it’s still a huge advantage. The other team is now forced into getting first downs or the game ends. The coin toss winner knows they can punt on their first possession and the game continues.

  7. I definitely feel this is a step in the right direction. However, I would like to see them take the coin toss almost completely out of the equation, and use the system that the CFL and NCAA use; where each team gets a possession, and the second team gets the chance to match what the first team did. If there is no clear winner, go to 2OT etc.

    I just think this would make it fairer for the team who loses the toss.

  8. While I like the change, I hate the reasoning behind it.

    “The reason for the modified approach is that 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. ”

    If it were that easy to just drive into field goal range wouldn’t every team just do it on every series?

  9. Michael David Smith,

    You do realize you said basically the same thing in back to back paragraphs right? Were you just trying to lengthen the article?

  10. In those cases, the team kicking the field goal will then kick off, and the other team can either win the game by scoring a touchdown on the ensuing possession or extend the game by kicking a field goal

    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

  11. This is still a terrible rule. It’s basically the NFL completely devaluing defense since Sudden Death has been taken away. Now instead of relying on your defense to do what they get paid for and get a stop in OT to get the ball back for your offense, the NFL has adopted what I consider a pee wee league rule so “everybody gets a chance”. Pathetic.

    The guys on D get paid too, let their jobs mean something.

  12. This is a problem that didn’t need to be fixed. Last year during the regular season teams winning the coin toss were 4-9, with only 2 of those 13 games resulting in a single possession FG. So could somebody please explain to me how winning the coin toss constitutes some sort of tremendous, unfair advantage?

  13. “It’s basically the NFL completely devaluing defense since Sudden Death has been taken away. Now instead of relying on your defense to do what they get paid for and get a stop in OT to get the ball back for your offense,”

    You have a point, but the NFL has so many rules set up to favor the offense, that it does give an unfair advantage to the winner of the coin toss. Even if statistically, it was pretty close to 50-50 as to whether or not the coin toss winner won on that first possession, failing to take advantage of a stacked deck does not render the deck any less stacked. If for example, they got rid of the spot foul pass interference call (in OT or overall), then things become a bit more fair.

  14. I love it. No more cheapo Pass Interference calls that set up a team in FG range for an easy win. You want to win on the first drive? Go the length of the field and punch it in the end zone.

    It also sets up some interesting game ending scenarios where which a turnover ends the game after a made FG. Kick returners better hold on tight on ensuing kickoffs! The game will literally be in their hands.

  15. The rules for winning in overtime should be kept in line with the way the first 60 minutes of the game is played.
    The only way to do that is set a specific time period and use the score at that time. That’s another bad idea.
    The college approach is reasonable or the NFL could disallow field goals altogether in overtime.

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