NFL closes overtime rule loophole

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The NFL has closed an odd loophole in the overtime rules, fixing a problem that had never come up — but would have caused major controversy if it had.

Most fans probably had no idea that this could ever become an issue, but when the NFL tweaked its overtime rules, it didn’t clarify what, exactly, constituted a possession.

Consider this scenario: Team A receives the overtime kickoff, marches down the field and kicks a field goal. On its ensuing possession, Team B throws an interception. But the player on Team A fumbles the ball, and a player on Team B scoops it up and runs for a touchdown. Who wins the game?

Under the old rule, Team A wins the game, because Team B’s possession ended the moment the interception was thrown. But that just feels wrong: How can you lose a game when the game ends with you running into the end zone for a touchdown?

Now the NFL has changed the rule. Under the new rule, Team B will win the game: Every play will be officiated to its finish, and if a team re-takes possession and scores a touchdown on that play, that team will win.

To put it another way: If you score a touchdown in overtime, you win. Always.

16 responses to “NFL closes overtime rule loophole

  1. Doesn’t seem like it would have been a big deal….once you turn the ball over you are no longer in possession of the ball. So now the teams actually have the opportunity to get two possessions each in overtime.

  2. What will happen if instead of running back for a touchdown, Team B is tackled. Do they get to continue the drive or is the game over because of the interception?

  3. So they were willing to close a loophole that literally NEVER came up — yet they won’t look at the ridiculous “fumble through the end zone” rule that HAPPENS EVERY YEAR because it doesn’t happen enough?

  4. sportscommentsblog says:
    March 28, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    What will happen if instead of running back for a touchdown, Team B is tackled. Do they get to continue the drive or is the game over because of the interception?


    I think they’re saying that you let the whole play go to completion now, which would mean in that scenario that Team B does get to continue the drive. But it would be nice to get a clarification.

    What I really want to know, though, is WHO pointed out this scenario and identified it as a problem for this year’s meeting. I don’t know why, but I’m very curious about this.

  5. Nothing like fixing a rule that did not need fixing. If it ended when the turnover happened it ended when the turnover ended–so what! This is no different than the extra point being blocked and the play was simply over. Now the NFL in their no one cares frame of mind changed that and we see a rediculous angle of a players fighting over a ball so that once every three decades a team will get two points for running it back all the way. Guess what…no one’s appreciation of the nfl will be diminished due to that change while two dozen players will blow out ACLs for every time that extra point is returned all the way.

    This is a classic case of over managing the product. Just let the game end on the interception!

  6. And btw, this has grotesque betting implications. New rule allows for overtime to possibly be a 9 point result as the play is extended to conclusion allowing for that defensive score. NFL has raised the bar on the worst of bad beats. Oooooops.

  7. Every player must now be coached to NOT jubilantly throw the ball in the air after what was the game ending pick. After all, the play has not ended. Leon Lett must be rolling eyes.

  8. I would coach my Team A players to take a knee after receiving the interception. I would also coach my entire team (bench included) to go out and tackle the player of Team B if the idiot who intercepted the ball in Team A didn’t take a knee. The game will end with a penalty. But who cares. The turnover happened. There would be no other play. I bet the competition committee didn’t factor in this situation.

  9. In addition to all of the complications everyone else has raised, the defensive player who intercepts the ball would have to run long enough (while all his teammates scream for to fall to the ground) to “prove” he was a runner.

    Otherwise, a potentially historic overtime game would likely be decided by replay officials who cannot agree on what a catch is.

    Something that has never happened would have to happen, and take long enough to unfold that it removes the uncertainty of a replay ruling.

    Kinda falls in the “Love-child of Bigfoot and Elvis abducted by space aliens” probability range.

    On the other hand, it would be funny to see thousands of fans screaming FOR a player to take a knee…

  10. “To put it another way: If you score a touchdown in overtime, you win. Always.”

    Really? The rules state: “Each team must possess, or have the opportunity to possess, the ball.” What constitutes an opportunity — actual possession?

    What about this scenario: Team A receives the ball in OT. They kick a field goal. Team A kicks and recovers an onside kick. Team A repeats this twice, kicking a total of three field goals, with a successful onside kick and recovery. Team B has never had possession of the ball. Team A is leading by 9 points. Once Team B finally has possession and an “opportunity,” they score a touchdown. Team B loses.

    Team B has not had the ball and they haven’t had an “opportunity” until they actually have possession. If Team A’s onside recovery counts as an opportunity for Team B, then wouldn’t the very first pass or run play done by Team A be an opportunity to possess because they could have intercepted or caused and recovered a fumble?

    I’m no lawyer, and don’t play on on TV, but there could still be a loophole.

  11. Now we need a new companion rule to the catch rule, this one titled “what is an interception?”

  12. @ yepbye2 says: … The rule is … No game can end on a defensive penalty. Now you really went and added yet another loophole element that needs closed.

  13. Team A would have been the Steelers and Team B would have been the Browns. Only the Browns could have managed to lose a game in that fashion.

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