Onside kick or muffed punt would count as overtime possession

NFL fans know by now that there’s a new system of overtime in place for the playoffs, and that a field goal on the first possession can’t end the game. But some fans might not realize that a team doesn’t actually have to possess the ball to get its first (and potentially last) possession.

As Competition Committee co-chair Rich McKay explained on NFL Network, each team is only guaranteed the opportunity to possess the ball. Which means that an onside kick recovered by the kicking team would count as a possession for the receiving team. Ditto for a muffed punt, or a fumble on a punt or kickoff return.

“There’s two instances in which that could really come into play,” McKay said. “One would be the onside kick and the other would be if the team receiving a punt muffed the punt. At that point they’re deemed to have possessed the ball.”

McKay also noted that overtime won’t necessarily end with a scoring play, which is a change from every previous overtime in NFL history. But the NFL seems to want to emphasize that the league views this as a minor tweak to the overtime rules, not a major change.

“It’s just like the old rule, it’s still sudden death. The only modification is when the receiving team takes the ball, drives down and kicks a field goal,” McKay said. “When the team receiving the kickoff kicks a field goal on the first possession, that’s really the major change in the rule.”

52 responses to “Onside kick or muffed punt would count as overtime possession

  1. “It’s just like the old rule, it’s still sudden death. The only modification is when the receiving team takes the ball, drives down and kicks a field goal,” McKay said. “When the team receiving the kickoff kicks a field goal on the first possession, that’s really the major change in the rule.”

    Am I the only one that finds this last paragraph confusing? Am I missing something here?

  2. Question: No doubt this is a dumb question, but does that mean if the team receiving the ball scores a touchdown the game is over? Or does the other team still get a chance to score?

  3. So special teams play just became substantially more important in OT then. Muff or fumble on the initial kick return and the player has made a critical mistake no matter what the circumstance.

  4. thank you league for verifying the onside kick part of the rule… It’s what i have been telling all of my friends at work all season and they never believed me.

    Which to me means if you think you can keep their team to a field goal, kick the onside to start overtime. if they score a TD, you lose, but if they punt, kick a fg, or you get the onside kick and score (by either fg or td) you made a smart coaching decision.

  5. What lunatic coach up by 3 points in an elimination game would risk giving the other team the ball on their own 40(or worse) if the onside attempt didn’t work?

  6. Whoa, wait a minute.
    So under that logic, a coach should always defer after winning the coin toss so they can kick off. Then they should always attempt the onside kick.
    If they DO recover the onside kick, the game becomes sudden death (as the receiving team is deemed to already have had their possession).
    If they DON’T recover the onside kick, normal rules will allow the kicking team to still get their full possession after the receiving team has completed theirs.

  7. I don’t know why the league couldn’t leave well enough alone. There was nothing like a game ending on a “walk-away” score, be it a touchdown or a field goal,and now we are going to have a majority of games end on failed fourth down conversions.

    Real exciting stuff there, Goodell. Great job.

    As for teams deserving their own set of downs after their opponent’s succesful field goal drive, how about you do it the old fashioned way: stop the other team and get the ball back?

    The old saying is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, and nothing WAS “broke”.

  8. What he’s saying is that the only thing that will make the game continue is a FG on the first possession ( that’s the one change , it would have been over at that point under the old rule), or, like always, no score at all . Because if a team scores a TD to open OT, it’s over. If a team responds to the first team’s FG with a TD, it’s over. If a team fails on 4th down after the other team has already kicked a FG, it’s over. And if the second team to get possession kicks a FG after the first team kicked a FG, then it reverts exactly to the old rule; first score wins. It’s actually a very fair OT rule, I just wished they had used it in the regular season.

  9. Each team has an opportunity to possess the ball correct? If team A wins the coin toss, receives the ball, drives down the field and scores a TD, is the game over? Was the coin toss team Bs opportunity to possess the ball or does it not matter if a TD is scored? The way I understood it was regardless of TD or FG, the other team would have an opportunity to possess the ball. No?

  10. Only if the receiving team scores a field goal on its INTIAL possession will the other team have one possession to either tie or win the game with a touchdown. If they tie, then the game goes to normal sudden death.
    I guess they are saying if the team starts the overtime with an onside kick and recovers, then that counts as an opportunity for possession for the receiving team, so in essence the next team to score will win. Also, if the inital receiving team scores a field goal and then decides to have an onside kick and recovers it, then the game is over since the team had an opportunity to possess.
    Remember, only a field goal score on itital receiving posession will “alter” the existing overtime rules, which gives the other team a chance to tie to continue (to a “normal sudden death scenario), or win the game with a TD on it’s immediate next possession.

    The thing that is wrong here is that in now way will a muffed punt become a factor whatsoever here. Think about it. If the first team punts, then they didn’t score on their initial posession. Therefore the “expanded overtime rules” would not apply because there was no field goal on the inital posession. The next team to score after the first punt of overtime will always win. Not sure why they are adding a muffed punt into this equation.

  11. I guess they are just telling people that if the intial receiving team ends up punting the football and then recovers a muffed punt that a field goal will then win the game, because the muffed punt acts as a chance at posession.

  12. So if you make an onside kick, recover and drive 20 yards, kick a FG, the game is over.

    If you kickoff, the other team drives 50+ yards, kicks a FG, the game goes on.

    Terrible.

  13. techstar25:

    What you’re missing is that if the other team recovers and scores a TD, the game still ends immediately without the kicking team getting a shot.

  14. @techstar: ‘Defer’ is something you do if there’s going to be a second half. In OT, you would simply choose to kick, if that’s the strategy you want to use. Also, while you’re right that if the kicking team recovers the onside kick, the game becomes sudden death, you’re not right about what happens if the receiving team gets it. If they get it, you only get another shot if they kick a FG, or score no points at all. If they get a TD, (and let’s face it, you gave them great field position) your 10 yard kickoff has cost you the game, and since it’s the playoffs, your season. That’s why I don’t think we’ll be seeing many onside kicks in OT.

  15. techstar25 – the big risk of the onside is that if the receiving team recovers and scores a touchdown the game is immediately over, and giving them the chance to possess the ball at your 40 yard line makes that a lot more likely. In addition, it pretty much puts them automatically in field goal range, forcing you to score on your first possession or go home.

  16. As to the poster stating you should always onside because it gives you the opportunity to win the game via FG, it ain’t gonna happen.

    If the receiving team recovers your onside – even if they don’t advance it -, you are giving them the ball at best midfield, more likely closer to your 40-45.

    A couple plays and they get that FG and your back is against the wall to score.

    Kick deep unless your D is shot and force them to punt.

  17. They better be real clear about this to fans if overtime happens. Any confusion may lead to a lot of fans feeling disappointed/confused/angry/cheated.

  18. I believe that the Muffed Punt should have read Muffed Kick Off. If kicking team scores a safety on the kickoff, the game is over. If the kicking team recovers the muff and scores, the game is over.

  19. The fact that we’re talking about “chance at a possession” underscores how asinine this rule change is. The old way was terrible, but it’s better than this nonsense.

    “The thing that is wrong here is that in now way will a muffed punt become a factor whatsoever here. Think about it. If the first team punts, then they didn’t score on their initial posession. Therefore the “expanded overtime rules” would not apply because there was no field goal on the inital posession. The next team to score after the first punt of overtime will always win. Not sure why they are adding a muffed punt into this equation.”

    You just explained HOW the muffed punt counts as a possession. The NFL agrees with you.

  20. I think some of you are missing the point…

    Both teams don’t always get a possession.

    A touchdown still ends the game, even if one team never gets a possession… So starting off with an onsides kick is incredibly risky, seeing as how the receiving team would simply need to go 40 yards for a game ending touchdown…

  21. I just thought of a question: If nobody scores in the first 15 minute OT, is the second OT period governed by the new rule, or the old rule?

  22. OK, it is close to the previous rule, but it is not sudden death.

    Maybe they should call it “near death”, “sometimes suddenly dead”, “potential sudden death”, or “mostly sudden death” (queue Princess Bride theme).

    You know, rename it, to something descriptive and closer to what it actually is now.

    -DeathSpiral

  23. stanjam says:
    They better be real clear about this to fans if overtime happens. Any confusion may lead to a lot of fans feeling disappointed/confused/angry/cheated.
    ————————————————–

    This, of course, doesn’t apply to Yets fans, who feel this way on a regualar basis.

  24. techstar25 says:
    Jan 6, 2011 11:05 AM
    Whoa, wait a minute.
    So under that logic, a coach should always defer after winning the coin toss so they can kick off. Then they should always attempt the onside kick.
    If they DO recover the onside kick, the game becomes sudden death (as the receiving team is deemed to already have had their possession).
    If they DON’T recover the onside kick, normal rules will allow the kicking team to still get their full possession after the receiving team has completed theirs
    ————————————————–

    Unless, of course, the team kicking the onside kick DOESN’T recover the ball and gives it to their opponent at midfield, who then promptly scores a touchdown without the team kicking off ever having touched the ball on offense.

    Big ol’ hole in that theory of yours.

  25. If Team A opens up with a field goal… Then Team B has an interesting advantage in that they will always have four (4) downs to work with…

    I expect that most teams will continue to play ultra conservative in the Red Zone… Still don’t imagine we will see any game winning TD’s… mostly missed field goals… Yippee…

  26. “The old saying is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, and nothing WAS “broke”.

    @richm2256,

    Agree with you entirely. This has all come about because fans of many losing teams whine endlessly about this sort of thing.

    The 18 game season is for the same reason. Fans whine about paying full price for preseason and rightfully so. Instead of reducing preseason prices by say 20% or 30% to give the fans a bone, the National Greed League wants to wreck the season to keep that portion of the profit.

  27. I’m not sure what the controversy about the muffed kick/punt is all about. If you muff a kick or punt and it leads to a score , the game’s over just like with the old rule.

  28. Mark my words, there will not be one team that will start overtime off with an onside kick in the playoffs. Not a chance in hell.

  29. They only made this cause their beloved Brett farve didn’take the superbowl I hope some of u realize

  30. @rayallen20: I’m not sure if that’s an advantage or not. What it would generally mean is that team A opened with a FG, so you’d HAVE to go for it on 4th and whatever , assuming you’re not in FG range at that point, because you sure as hell can’t punt. But if you are in FG range you’ll probably approach the 3rd down play the way you always do; try to get the 1st down but don’t do something foolish and get sacked out of FG range.

  31. This is dumb and confusing. It should be “first to 6 points wins”. So simple it’s beautiful.

  32. This is Bologny, why bother with this if the games over after the first possession and a TD is scored…how in the name of Betsy does this level the playing field?

    ‘There are people that watch things happen, people who make things happen, and people who wonder, what happened’….that’s the NFL!

  33. How about this?

    1. There is a normall kickoff
    2. Offense comes onto the field and throws an interception.
    3. The person who intercepted the ball fumbles the ball back to the offense on the return.
    4. Offense recovers the fumble, later kicks a field goal on the same drive.

  34. “letmeregister” –
    I believe the answer to your question is: GAME OVER.
    Because both teams had a “chance at possession”.

    Even if the possession on the return was brief. Good question though.

    I hope the refs are ready for all these nuances. Could get pretty heated if it happens and a coach is not aware, and the fans feel their team got robbed!

  35. @jesusjustletmeregister

    I would think a fumbled INT counts as a possession because the recovering team gets a new set of downs. In that case, the field goal wins the game.

    All in all this rule is pretty simple.

  36. @jesusjustletmeregister: Since the offense gave up the ball, threw a pick, and got a new first down when they recovered( as opposed to something like recovering your own fumble where the down is whatever it is), that means it’s a whole new possession, which therefore means the defense HAD a possession and fumbled it away. Offense wins if they go on to kick a FG.

  37. I like the interesting strategy decisions that would be part of the new rule. Say its the first possession, its 4th and 1 from the 20, do you try the easy field goal and give the other team a shot, or go for it and keep trying to win with a TD? There are plenty of scenarios that would come up in the first 2 possessions.

  38. MUFFED PUNT ? um if a team had the opportunity to muff a punt, didnt the other already have 1 possession so that’s a moot point

  39. And as i understand the rule it only prevents the team recieving the ball from just going to the 30 and kicking a field goal to win game some try and kick it on 1st, 2nd, or 3rd down can’t win like that anymore cause the other still get’s a chance. Now score a td game over.

  40. drbob117 says:
    Jan 6, 2011 11:49 AM
    I just thought of a question: If nobody scores in the first 15 minute OT, is the second OT period governed by the new rule, or the old rule?

    ————————————————-Eack team touches the ball 1 time unless 1st team scores a td. So once each team has ball no score who ever scores first wins.
    The real question is do the refs understand the rules? I can already see the ref sayign game over when its not and run off the field!

  41. Sudden death? Should teams both kick field goal on first two possesions a field goal on third possesion will suddenly end the game in an awkward fashion. Once again the competition committee trips over their own brains. Its sudden death or alternating possessions, pick one. 2010 will be known as the year the rules got in the way of playing a football game. A catch is not a catch. A tackle is not a tackle. A sack is not a sack. All the fundementals of the game have been over-legislated. Penalty flags litter the field, he touched the quarterbacks helmet, but the reciever pushed off, can we challange that call, is there indisputable video evidence? This is how a football game is decided in today’s NFL. The rules are the rules, I understand that but the game is a hundred years old and players and fans alike understand the concept and spirit of the game in its pure form, apparently the competition committee can no longer see that. I see this as the breaking point, this offseason the committee should be put on hiatus (do they really need to change the game every offseason anyway), and a special commitee of players, owners, management, coaches, and officials past and present should be convened to fix the mistakes that have been made. Yes, believe it or not the game was better with less rules, certainly a less convoluted rulebook.

  42. Wow “northerncomposure”… you seem to have lost your “composure”.

    Getting a little off track, aren’t we?

    Geez. It really is simple. The NFL just wanted to make it so that both teams at LEAST had a chance to kick a field goal in overtime. That’s all really.

    All this rule does is eliminate making it TOO easy for a team to win in OT simply by kicking a field goal, without the other team ever even having a chance to possess the ball.

    If you look at it that way, it’s really quite simple.

  43. truefan, my apologies for getting off track, I appreciate you being here to reign me in but you can save the simple explanation, I will look at it this way:
    How can you change the rule such that overtime will remain sudden death but not in such case of a first possession score if that score is a field goal?
    Does it not just sound ridiculous?
    In such a case where both teams kick a field goal on the first two possessions and then a game-winning field goal is kicked on the next possession will it not feel ridiculous?
    Are there not simply two options for overtime, sudden death or alternating equal possessions?

    To expand on the issue, if truefan permits, this is the latest in a series of misguided attempts by the competition committee to make changes to the game by adding a muddled mess of a page to the rulebook.

  44. @northerncomposure: I’m afraid I’m with truefan here…If both teams kick FGs on their initial possessions , why would it feel ridiculous if the next FG won it? It would be just like it always was with the old rule where the first score wins. And why label it “sudden death”? Call it ‘Jack Daniels’ if you want to call it something; all truefan is saying is that they wanted to avoid the team that won the coin toss getting an easy shot at winning with say a decent kickoff return and say, one bad PI call, followed by a FG. If you give up a TD, or 2 FGs or commit a turnover that leads to a score, you deserve to lose. It’ll have nothing to do with the luck of the coin toss, and everything to do with being the lesser team in OT.

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