In 2011, the NFL decided it was time to change overtime in the postseason. Overtime in the NFL playoffs had been sudden-death since the very first overtime game in 1958, when the Colts beat the Giants in what some call the Greatest Game Ever Played. But starting in 2011, the league decided that a field goal on the opening possession couldn’t end the game.
Most people were expecting the new rule to result in both offenses getting a shot in most overtime games, but that hasn’t happened. Since the new rules came into being, there have been eight postseason overtimes, and five of them have ended with a touchdown on the opening drive.
Those five were the Patriots over the Chiefs on Sunday, the Patriots over the Falcons in the Super Bowl two years ago, the Cardinals over the Packers in 2016, the Seahawks over the Packers in 2015 and the Broncos over the Steelers in 2012. The three games where both offenses saw the field were the Rams over the Saints on Sunday, the Ravens over the Broncos in 2013 and the Giants over the 49ers in 2012. Those games all ended with field goals.
Just because five postseason games have ended with first-drive touchdowns, that doesn’t necessarily mean the rule isn’t working as intended: What really drove the rule change was concern that teams were getting the overtime kickoff, driving into field goal range and then playing it safe and winning with an opening-drive field goal. The rule was intended to incentivize teams to try to score touchdowns, and on that front it has succeeded.
But there seems to be a groundswell of support for changing the overtime rule again. The next rule may simply be that a team cannot win on its first possession, whether scoring a touchdown or a field goal.