Watching the final minutes of Saturday night’s latest NFL postseason game for the ages, I wanted it all to last a little longer. And but for the still-unfair overtime rules of the NFL, it would have.
Six years ago, after the Saints advanced to the Super Bowl following a first-possession field goal in sudden-death overtime against the Vikings, the NFL finally realized the unfairness of allowing so much to hinge on a coin toss. After Saturday night’s overtime session, launched by a coin-toss misfire, it should be more clear than ever that the team that loses the toss in overtime should get a chance to match any score that the receiving team musters.
Spare me the “if you want to win the game stop them” nonsense. The question of whether a team goes to the next level of the postseason shouldn’t hinge, ultimately, on the outcome of a coin toss. Both teams should have a chance to possess the ball, and the kicking team should have a chance to match any score mustered, field goal or touchdown, by the team that receives the kickoff.
It would be a postseason change only. Sure, some will insist that any adjustment to playoff rules also must apply to the regular season, but there’s already a big difference that needs to be taken into account. After 15 minutes in the postseason, the game continues. After 15 minutes over overtime in the regular season, the game ends.
The possibility that a touchdown drive to start overtime could result in a matching touchdown drive could leave insufficient time for another score, resulting in more ties. For that reason alone, if should be a playoffs-only modification.
Another caveat to postseason overtime should be added. If the team that wins the toss chooses to kick, the receiving team wins with any score. That’s the way it already should be; the team winning the toss has the chance to possess the ball. If that team chooses not to, anything that happens after that should fair game.
Apart from the equity of giving the team that loses the toss a chance to match a touchdown drive, a significant business reality should prompt the NFL to consider making this change. Moments like last night’s are too fleeting; no one wanted that game to end.
For the Packers, who displayed an uncanny ability to get down the field with the game on the line late in regulation, it shouldn’t have ended after a quick-strike score from a Cardinals team that won both the coin toss and the coin drop. For the rest of us, it shouldn’t have ended at that point, either.