It’s time to go the rest of the way with the overtime rule

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Seven years ago, after the Saints beat the Vikings in the NFC championship with a first-possession field goal in overtime, I argued that the postseason overtime rule should guarantee the team that kicks off a chance to match or beat the score — field goal or touchdown. The NFL opted for a half-measure, allowing the team that loses the toss a chance to extend the game only if a field goal is scored.

It’s now time to go the rest of the way. In the euphoria arising from a 25-point comeback and eventual victory by the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, the victory feels incomplete because, ultimately, the Patriots won the game in part due to winning the flip of a coin.

I know it won’t be a popular viewpoint in some corners of the country, but I’d be making this argument no matter which team had won the toss and scored a touchdown on the first drive.

Frankly, I doubt the Falcons could have gotten down the field and scored. But the outcome would be more clear and satisfying if they’d at least had a chance to try. While that shouldn’t be the rule for the regular season, in playoff games the only fair thing to do is to give each team at least one possession in overtime.

78 responses to “It’s time to go the rest of the way with the overtime rule

  1. Falcons Defense was on the field for 80% of the snaps in the 2nd half. No way they were stopping them.

    Congrats to the Pats. Great game and never gave up.

    That being said, the rule should be changed so both teams get a chance. Don’t think it would have mattered but it’s not right one team is given a possession with a coin toss, and the other team has to earn it with a defensive stop. I think Pats would have won either way though.

  2. They should just play OT like it’s a 2nd 4th quarter and winner at end wins. Although maybe only in playoffs.

  3. Really, is this your point. fairness, Atlanta had the game wrapped up and all they needed to do was to stop any one of the drives by the Pats. The Pat’s even missed an extra point and the Falcons could not capitalize. Overtime rules are not about “Fairness” the rules are about “Winning”

  4. I felt bad for Atlanta fans — until I remembered the 98 NFC Championship game. Then again, I do know exactly how they feel right now.

  5. The last drive of regulation looked like preseason gsme #4. Zero intensity from Atlanta and Brady violated them.
    Wouldn’t have mattered in OT.

    The sack and penalty to take ATL out of Fg range wasted thst incredible catch and was it.

  6. Overtime rules in the regular season games are a little different than the overtime rules in the post-season.

    This idea might be worth considering for the post-season, but not for the regular season

  7. As a Packers fan and someone who has gone through OT losses in the playoffs in the past several years, I don’t understand why this continues to be a topic of contention. Isn’t each team given 60 minutes to beat the other team? One team is given the first possession of the game and the other team is given the first possession of the 2nd half. Why is this structure not fair? If your fate comes down to a coin-toss, I guarantee you there are other things your team didn’t do in the preceding 60 minutes that led to that situation.

  8. 5 sacks, 2 turnovers by Atlanta’s D and a 25 pt lead blown. (Largest in super bowl history) and you think they deserve a ‘fair chance’ in overtime?

    This is the super bowl, they aren’t handing out participation trophies.

    They had 4 quarters to put the game away and couldn’t, no need to soften and water down the product by changing OT rules again.

  9. I completely disagree, the defense has a chance to stop the offense from scoring a TD. If they cant the game should be over. Its already “unfair” to the first team that the second team gets to try to tie after an FG. The second team can play knowing that they will use all 4 downs without punting.

    Plus it would just lead to more ties.

  10. I agree with Mike this time. Especially in a championship game. I doubt it would have changed the outcome this time, and it was a story book game for the ages – but each team should get a chance to field both halves of their teams, their defense AND their offense. The strength of Atlanta, the part that got them there, was left out of overtime by the chance of a coin flip.

  11. The Falcons had plenty of chances to stop them in regulation and in OT. How but not blow a 25 point lead and figure out how to close a game?
    Everybody doesn’t get a trophy, Florio.

  12. They could have taken a knee 3 tomes and kicked a FG and won the game, you think they deserve MORE chances?

  13. Whatever. That was the greatest end of a game most will ever see. don’t give up 25 points and you won’t need overtime.

  14. No way Mike. This game should never have gone to OT. Atl lost this game in regular time when they didn’t run a couple of times, then kick the FG. They had every chance to win this game and gave it away. I’m a Pats fan, and I appreciate what Bill and Tom did, but if Bill was coaching the Falcons at that point in the game, there’s no way the Birds lose.

  15. “The ball touched the ground. ”

    Lol. Nope. It touched the leg of one of the Falcons players and therefore was not a dead ball as it would have been if it hit the ground.

    That was a great catch and simply a great catch. The concentration involved is almost otherworldly.

  16. Was waiting for Matty Ice to wake up the whole playoffs. I figured it would be a lot quicker than the 4th quartet of the Super Bowl.,but it was inivetible and the Pats buried quick once it happened. Incredibly dumb game management by the Falcons in the 4th

  17. gofor2with3pointlead says:
    Feb 5, 2017 10:47 PM
    The ball touched the ground. The the TD to allow the two point conversion should never have been attempted much less allowed. Game over period. I’ll never watch the NFL again.


    The ball didn’t touch the ground.

  18. Yes, but that would mean having a fair game and not giving NE every advantage, including calling the coin toss. All Atlanta could do was stand there.

    Still for me, Ryan lost this SB himself by taking a sack and not preserving a 11 point lead at Atlanta’s 30 yard line with a field goal and less than 3 minutes to go. Ryan, you blew it big time.

  19. And here come all the Pats fans complaining about this article because it doesn’t prop them up or have everyone kneeling down in praise of them and their team for the next 365 days.

  20. The victory feels incomplete ?!?!?
    No, sir, the victory feels spectacular.

    The outcome would be more clear and satisfying ?!?!?
    The outcome was crystal clear and thoroughly satisfying.

    The Pats overcame a 19 point deficit in the 4th quarter, then drove 75 yards on eight plays to win the game. QUITE impressive, complete, clear, and satisfying.

    Found this on Reddit:

    The NFL has had 325 overtime games since the rule was adopted in 1974. The results:

    235 times both teams got a possession (72.3%).
    223 games were decided by a field goal (68.6%)
    169 times the team that won the toss, won (52.0%).
    141 times the team that lost the coin toss has won (43.4%).
    86 games were decided by a TD (26.5%)
    15 games ended in a tie (4.6%)
    1 game was decided by a safety (0.3%).

    Seems that getting the ball first isn’t really much of an advantage at all

  21. Back when it was sudden death, the winner of the coin flip won the game something like 60 or 62% of the time. That is a VERY significant advantage for a coin flip, yet I remember some people arguing the same tired “if you want to win, have your defense stop them.” I hated that argument then and even as a Pats fan, I hate it now. Both teams’ offenses and defenses should play a factor in overtime, period.

  22. The huge problem with Florio’s idea is that most OT games would end on an incomplete pass or a run that was too short etc, whereas now many end on a scoring play. That’s more fun.

  23. I love the current rule. It eliminates the cheap feeling that often came with 1st possession field goals but preserves the essence of sudden death.

    While FG’s seem too easy, especially when accompanied by cheap and sometimes controversial penalties that moved the ball within field goal range….its much a harder to score a TD. That makes defense important.

    Its a team game. Its all about complimentary football….Offense, defense, and special teams. They all have to do their job.

  24. There’s no guarantee of equal offensive opportunities in regulation so why make that a rule in overtime? Game management is a strategy.

  25. seriously, florio? The game is already heavily balanced to the offensive side of the ball. Your suggestion just lessens the need to build a good defense.

    Unfortunately, that’s still part of the game. If a defense just needs to prevent a TD, the bare minimum goal of a defense any time it takes the field, to ensure the offense gets a chance to win the game then why reward them for failing entirely?

  26. ctiggs says:
    Feb 5, 2017 10:46 PM

    No way atlanta lays down like that no way the fix was in and atlanta was a part of it


    Easily one of the dumbest comments ever. You’re saying that a team beat itself to a pulp all season long just to make the spread.

    Please step away from the computer for a while. You might hurt yourself.

  27. Matt Ryan made a great throw to almost put the game on ice, and then for some reason they don’t run the ball.

    Run the ball, kick a GG, and get out of dodge. Gave Brady too many opportunities in the 2nd half

  28. The rest of the way? I would prefer they go back to sudden death. I’m ok with the recent compromise to appease you fairness crybabies, but now that’s not good enough for you. I respect your opinion, but your opinion sucks so bad it’s laughable.

  29. Actually what’s really unfair is that the team that kicks off for the overtime isn’t allowed to play defense.

    I mean, they should really change the rule that says only the offense can take the field for overtime, the other team isn’t allowed to do anything to stop them. I suppose it would be actual football if there were an offense and defense on the field, but Florio’s right, it’s just unfair that one team isn’t allowed to even play football if they lose the overtime coin toss.

    I suppose that’s why teams that win the coin toss win overtime 100% of the time. I mean — huh? What’s that? It’s actually pretty close to 50%?

    Well that’s strange.

  30. I think it only fair that both teams get the opportunity, as you suggest.
    But the rules are the rules, and I do not believe the Patriots feel their victory is tainted or has a question mark next to it.

    Why would they? There was no effort to circumvent the rules. Thet were just the better team when it mattered most.

  31. Nah. The rule was fixed once they made it so you couldn’t win on a cheap FG on the first possession.

    TD is a different story. Allow a TD- you deserve to lose.

  32. No. Its not time to change the format. Its time to look at what your D was doing during that drive. Teams know what to expect. If your team cant drive the length of the field and score a TD, you get to try and hang your hopes on a FG if you can get that. If your teams D cannot get up to stop the opposing O, then shame on you. Game over.

  33. The Falcons were up 28-3 in the fourth quarter. They were up 16 points with 9:44 left. They were up 8 with first and 10 at the Patriots 22 with 4:47 left.

    They did not lose because of the OT rule.

    They lost because of bad situation football and play calling. They lost because they got gassed. They lost because they doubted. They lost because they played the greatest quarterback ever. They lost because the Patriots never gave up.

  34. Couldn’t disagree more. New OT rule is fine. If you win toss, get a few first downs and bomb a field goal, to me that’s a fluky win.

    If you drive 75 yards and punch it in for a TD you deserve to win period. Atlanta’s defense couldn’t make a play when it counted, that’s on them.

  35. sorry but the rule is a perfect system. the field goal to win on first drive was not fair as they are relatively “easy” i get that. scoring a touchdown wins the game end of discussion. say the other team gets a chance than score, now what? where does it stop? say its tied after 15 minute over time. than what keep going? football is too punishing of a sport to do that. if you allow the other team to have a chance after a touch down it completely minimizes the importance of defense.

  36. Didn’t matter who won the toss. The Falcons hadn’t done anything since the 2nd quarter and if they would have gotten the ball, they would have been 3 and out and the Patriots would have won anyway. What part of scoring 25 straight points without an answer do people not get. The Falcons were spent after the first half, the length between halves had totally caused them to cool off and they were done. stick a fork in them.

  37. The current system is perfect because it gives both teams a chance.

    The team that receives the kickoff has an advantage in the sense that if they score a TD it’s over. On the other hand, they’re also under a lot of pressure because if they go three-and-out, their opponent is likely to get the ball in good field position, needing only FG to win.

    And if heaven forbid, they turn the ball over, the game is pretty much over.

    Also, the team that kicks off has an edge in that even if they just hold the other team to a FG, then they get the ball back knowing that they have four downs every series.

    It’s a great system. Leave it alone.

  38. Somehow I think that all Patriots fans saying the rule is fine would be singing a different tune if the roles had been reversed. What if Atlanta had won the toss in OT and scored a first possession touchdown? After watching the amazing 25 point comeback, seeing Brady standing on the sidelines and not even getting on the field in OT would have been a terrible finish to a championship game.
    You can say what you want, but having a coin toss have such a large influence on the outcome of a game seems wrong.

  39. Falcons fan…

    I lean towards the fairness of the current rule. We went into the second half having just completely trucked over the pats in the first half. Even going into the 4th quarter all they had to do was basically get any points in any way at any point or stop any possession the Pats had even once, and there wouldn’t have been enough time for them to recover. You only had to have one of your teams to something right once.

    If the falcons played great offense and defense the whole time and then it tied and went into OT? Maybe I would feel somewhat differently, but then again, if the Falcons had just played the second half the way they played the first half, all we’d be talking about today is how Brady is getting old and just couldn’t keep up. Oh well. Here’s to next year.

  40. I agree that Atlanta had a huge lead starting 4th quarter and did nothing to keep Patriots from great comeback. That being said it is unfair for a team that wins coin flip has a chance to win game if they score a touchdown without giving other team an opportunity to match. Doing what college football has done I think is a great idea for NFL. It is a fair way to handle overtime and keeps overtime exciting. Instead of just seeing one team move down field score a touchdown and game over.

  41. If you can’t stop a team from going straight down the field for a touchdown then you don’t deserve to win.

  42. Don’t get me wrong Pats deserved that win. BUT I wasn’t satisfied. I have no pull for either team but I too feel
    ATL should have their shot.
    Let me put it this way, if you had the #1 vs #2 Offense but both were #32 and #31 on Defense. Crazy high scoring game, say 58-58 with 12 lead changes. Would you want the game to end simply by the team that wins the coin toss. If so, we could have just started the game this way and not had the 4hr drama.
    For me it only makes sense to implement college rules. However, make teams drive the full length of the field. If you score a TD, I have a shot to score a TD. If you score a FG, I have a shot to tie with a FG or win with a TD. If I stop you I can win with a FG or TD. And just like college if both teams score the same amount of points we go on to another OT. Maybe add in the 2pt try every TD score also.

  43. Supposed to be about the rules, not the game. If a team scores on the opening drive of overtime, 7 points or three, the other team should have a chance to match that. Period. It’s ridiculous to have it any other way, in the post season or regular season.

    After the team that lost the coin toss has their chance to match points, then it’s overtime like normal.

  44. Then the XP becomes the issue. You go for 1 or 2. You go for 1 then the other team goes down and goes for 2-they win. Do you really want the XP to be like the soccer penalty shot???

  45. Overtime (in the PROS) meant sudden death. Whoever scores 1st, wins. All this that this writer is saying will water down the game even more. If that’s the case why not go all the way & have both teams share the Lombardi trophy? #DumbIdea

  46. OK, THIS is the place where the “good ol’ days” people should be out in force.

    Let’s be serious, cries for changes in OT rules are always by fans of the losing team. So let’s give the other team a chance in OT, then, if they score the other team gets another chance, then back, then another, ad infinitum.

    Or is there a place in the continuum of the game where people think the other team has had enough chances?

    Yes there is, and the answer depends on who won.

  47. peterhng21 says:
    Feb 6, 2017 5:22 PM
    Don’t get me wrong Pats deserved that win. BUT I wasn’t satisfied. I have no pull for either team but I too feel
    ATL should have their shot.

    And they would have had one. All they had to do was stop NE.

  48. The way it is is just fine. Marching a few yards to boot a field goal is weak, but taking it the distance for a TD is worthy of a victory. Atlanta was done after that miserable sack. They had zero energy left and Pats were not losing that game that point forward.

  49. To me it seemed like Atlanta thought they had the game won. Their strategy was to kill clock… bad move. The Patriots had to win every play… and they pretty much did that. I’m not a Pats fan by any means, but their execution was perfect.

    Now, that being said… relying on a stupid coin flip that in this particular game, determined the winner is outrageous. When you are playing one dimensionally (trying to get 6 points) many decisions and play calls are nearly made for the team with the ball. You are willing to take chances you would not ordinarily take since you only can win on the initial possession. So with that said, EACH TEAM, not just the one lucky enough to “Win” the first (in this case ONLY) possession of the ball should get a chance too.

    I’m not a Falcons fan either, but I believe the falcons, with their offense had a reasonable chance in answering the Pats TD.

    One more thought… if you do implement the above change… then you can keep the option of the 2 point play on the touch down or go for 1. Assuming the Pats would go for 2 a third time, imagine the pressure of the Falcons to score the 2 point conversion. This brings a lot of excitement to the overtime.

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