NFL will consider reverting to true sudden-death overtime

NFC Championship: Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints
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When it comes to overtime, the NFL previously has decided not to let perfect be the enemy of good. Now, the league may be reverting to awful.

Buried at the bottom of an item on the league’s official website regarding the possible expansion of replay review to roughing the passer calls and non-calls is a bombshell that merits its own major headline: Overtime could revert to true sudden death.

The league adopted modified sudden-death overtime in 2010, after the Saints advanced to the Super Bowl with a decent kickoff return, a few first downs (two of which were sparked by questionable defensive penalties), and a walk-off field goal. Currently, a field goal on the first drive of overtime gives the other team a chance to match, with sudden death happening on the first drive only if a touchdown is scored. If anything, the league should consider allowing the team that lost the coin toss a chance to match any score (especially in the playoffs), given the manner in which the rules have become skewed toward offense.

So why would the league choose not to make overtime procedures more fair but to turn the clock back to the days when the toss of a coin had a gigantic impact on who won and who lost? Given that the league already has reduced overtime from 15 minutes to 10 minutes in the regular season in order to prevent a team from, for example, playing 75 minutes on Sunday and another 75 minutes four days later, the move to re-embrace true sudden-death overtime could (emphasis, could) be part of laying the foundation for more short-week games.

So why would there by more short-week games? Well, in order to maximize the revenue potential from in-game betting, which will explode once the technology eliminates all latency from the stadium to the living room, the NFL needs more stand-alone games. It will make tremendous sense when in-game betting arrive to get away from having eight or nine games at 1:00 p.m. ET and moving them into as many unique spots as possible.

For now, the windows consist of three on Sunday (a fourth could be added at 9:30 a.m. ET, for London games), one on Monday, and one on Thursday. Some expect that the next wave of TV deals will make more liberal use of doubleheaders on Monday nights, creating another stand-alone game.

Although Fridays and Saturdays are off limits from Labor Day through mid-December as part of the broadcast antitrust exemption (don’t be shocked if the NFL eventually tries to make that go away), Tuesdays and Wednesdays remain available, and were used in 2020 due to the pandemic. It becomes impossible, however, to give every team seven days between games on a regular basis if the schedule hopscotches around from Sunday to Monday to Tuesday to Wednesday to Thursday. Ultimately, there could be a five-day gap or two to go along with the four-day short week that most teams currently endure once per year. Six-day gaps would become much more common, too, if a team plays on (for example) a Wednesday and then a Tuesday (and then a Monday and then a Sunday).

While a full embrace of what would be nine windows per week may be several years away, there’s no better way to clear the deck for any impediments to more short-week games than to adopt now a set of overtime procedures that would lead to shorter games.

Is it fair? Nope. Will it matter if the objective is to maximize revenue arising directly from enhanced gambling opportunities? Nope. Given the money to be made from in-game betting, it’s impossible to rule out a return to the days when, if the game was tied after 60 minutes, they’ll just call it a tie and move on.

81 responses to “NFL will consider reverting to true sudden-death overtime

  1. I never was bothered by sudden death OT. I prefer it to the illogic of allowing the kicking team to answer a field goal but not a touch down.

  2. Absolutely not – It’s better the way it is now. First possession wins with a goal, otherwise the opposing Team gets 4 downs to win with either a field goal or TD as needed.

  3. I am all for more NFL games at unique times but reverting the OT rule is a terrible idea.

  4. Why not just play a full 10 minutes and call it a day? The whole sudden death unless it’s a field goal on the first possession is silly. Just make it 10 or 15 minutes of additional game

  5. I’d rather see them let the regular season games end in a tie and do proper overtime in the playoffs.

  6. Why not just have ties during the regular season and the current play-offs overtime rules.

  7. Maybe they should revert to no reviews. They cause as much controversy and does anything slow down a game more?

  8. Either get rid of overtime and gives teams more incentive to win in regulation or play a full overtime period of 10 or 15 minutes.

  9. Seriously? This is a proposed rule change? How about lets keep working on kick offs. If the kicking team sends a kick off thru the opposite teams upright, the ball is automatically placed on the 5 or 10 yard line. Rewards accurate kickers with huge legs.

  10. NFL is still the only major professional sport that can’t get their overtime right. Sad

  11. I’m with sleonardi1, if OT is a ten minute period, play ten minutes, whoever has more points when it’s over wins, and a tie is a tie. Would have to be different for the playoffs, obviously. Almost ANYTHING would be better than reverting back to the old sudden death, where the team that wins the toss wins the game like 80% of the time. If they’re going to go back to that, and they’re so worried about time, they’d might as well have overtime consist of JUST a coin toss. I’m kidding of course, but that’s about how exciting the old rules were. I do like the way college does it, its a shootout until someone fails. You’d think it would be the other way around, but the college game is ahead of the NFL in many ways, OT rules, replay, 15 yards for PI instead of spot of foul, etc.

  12. 😉 Why even have OT ? At the end of a tie game the team with the most net yards wins , that’s a pretty good estimate of how the game was generally played by each team .

  13. Hope sudden death OT returns, it was fine.

    I know, I know, how dare teams be expected to actually play defense and stop someone!

  14. They are overthinking this. The answer is easy. If you want shorter OT, but not sudden death, change the rule to where if the first team kicks a field goal, the other team still gets the ball but must go for a touchdown. That gives both teams the ball without risking stretching out the game with field goals. Could even make it so that the first team can score a touchdown and second team still gets a chance but must go for two if they score.

  15. Well, if they’re expanding the season to 17 games, I’m ok with this rule. You have 60 minutes to determine a winner. If you don’t like it, get a lead before the clock expires. While they’re at it, move the extra point back to a chip shot. I think kickers should have less impact, not more. I don’t see a bunch of fans attending games wearing the jersey of the teams’ kicker. It was a dumb idea. Belichick liked it when he had the best kicker, so it gave him an advantage. I can’t believe so many people fell for it.

  16. Want to make the game a bit more interesting.
    Why have an additional coin flip?

    Whatever decision the winner of the coin flip decides at the beginning of game applies to overtime. Most teams defer, make them consider the odds of an overtime game and what deferring in overtime means as well…

    If you win the toss, your decision. Applies to opening kickoff, second half, and potentially overtime.

  17. If player safety and reducing time between games is the goal, they should get rid of OT completely. Plus it would be fun watching the strategy play out when coaches are going for a win instead of a tie.

  18. coin toss has even bigger emphasis now.. teams get the ball at higher yard line than in the old days..

  19. Why not just let the game continue, like after the first and 3rd quarters? Just keep playing beyond 60 minutes, so there is no end of possession at the end of the 60 minutes. And then whomever scores post 60 minutes of play wins. With the 5th period capped at 15 minutes.

  20. I don’t see what’s so awful about it, in fact I think it’s an incentive to WIN THE GAME IN REGULATION! I never liked this “you don’t get a chance to win if I score a touch down but if I kick a field goal…”, such nonsense. I hope they do revert, because if a game ends in a tie then so be it, you both had 60 minutes to win.

  21. OT should be cancelled. Just call it a win for the home team so the NFL can speed on to their next money package.

  22. If you’re going to do this, just let it end in a tie and go home. If it has playoff implications, go to tiebreakers. Makes just as much sense.

  23. If anything, the league should consider allowing the team that lost the coin toss a chance to match any score (especially in the playoffs), given the manner in which the rules have become skewed toward offense.


    I’ve long disagreed with you on OT rule changes but this statement has completely changed my mind.

  24. The guiding principle should be to let each team have a possession. By doing so, you prevent the impact of a coin toss into the outcome of a game.
    For that reason, reverting to the ancient mode would be the worst case. We all know there are scheduling, air time, and financial considerations that are in play.
    So the best compromise to me, would be to maintain the actual rules in the regular season,
    and let each team have a possession, in the playoffs.

  25. i say eliminate overtime during the season. make it sudden death with no field goals in playoffs. let the football players win the game.

  26. I’d be fine only if the eliminate field goals in ot. Safety or TD only to win.

  27. The current rule is not fair for the first team if they kick a field goal because the second team will always have four down to advance down the field. If they were to punt they would lose.

  28. Personally I’d like to see an overtime where each team is given a red zone possession and two minutes to score as much as possible.

  29. Finally. They pay both side of the ball folks. Your chance to win started when your defense took the field. Stop them from scoring and you too can win the game. This is a team game, you had 4 quarters to win the game, now you are complaining that you didn’t get a chance because your defense didn’t do what they get PAID TO DO. Bravo, they might finally get a rule change right.

  30. Defense is half the game. If you can’t stop your opponent, then you don’t deserve to win in regulation or in sudden death overtime. And, if you can’t dominate enough to win in regulation time, then you deserve a tie. Better to get half a win than none at all!

    What? You want equality and parity? Then allow only one-year contracts. Or, go straight to the tiebreaker in REAL football [ahem… American “soccer”], just kick the best out of 10 free kicks from the 50 yardline through the goalposts, and be done with overtime in 15 minutes, without further strain on the players. Or, just turn overtime into gambling that will supposedly drive football anyway — a coin toss determines the winner.

    If you want longer games for more TV advert revenue, then go back to stopping the clock ANY time there is an out of bounds.

  31. I never understood these people whining and complaining about how overtime is “unfair”… You literally have the entire game to score and you can plan accordingly to go for the win instead of the tie. Also this is a team game and if you can’t get 1 stop from your D you deserve to lose. How come you same people don’t complain about a team scoring as time expiries in regulation? Sudden death is the best way — anything else is a gimmicky circus, it’s like that one kid no I ever wanted to play with because he would make up a bunch of dumb rules.

  32. I don’t know why this is so hard. Treat OT like a regular quarter, 8 minute quarter, two timeouts.

  33. Overtime the way it is now is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in the NFL. Let them play the full 10 minutes and then go to sudden death if needed.

  34. True sudden death worked for years. There was no need to change it, until the ‘fairness’ culture took over. In fact, two of the greatest games of all time were true sudden death and lasted into a second sudden death quarter – the 1977 Raiders at Colts Divisional playoff won by the Raiders on a Stabler TD pass in the sixth quarter (the “Ghost to the Post’ game, and the 1971 Dolphins vs Chiefs Divisional playoff, won on a Miami FG in the sixth quarter)

  35. Whatever it may be or how perfect or imperfect it is, I’d rather they just pick something and stick with it.

  36. I’m ok with this with one caveat. Make it known ahead of time who will get the first possession in OT. I don’t care how you do it–always the home or away team, whoever won the toss at the start of the game, a secondary toss at the start of the game, whatever.

    That way, a team knows how to strategize at the end of the game, for example, going for the win or tie when choosing to kick an XP or 2-pt. conversion near the end of the game.

    The problem wasn’t a FG could win it on OT. The problem was that it felt random because of whoever won the coin toss. Just somehow eliminate that randomness and it seems fibe.

  37. There is not much I like about NBA rules, but they get overtime right, IMO. Add an extra period and play on. If you’re still tied at the end of it, extend another period and so forth.

    It gives both teams a fighting chance.

  38. daddeeo says:
    March 3, 2021 at 10:11 pm
    Dont forget the new TV deal. They prolly pay derly for abusing the time slot.


    Uh no. The networks paid billions of dollars for the rights to air the games. No way are they doing anything punitive to NFL for the overruns. They know it’s part of the deal and they just deal with it.

  39. No, no, no. This will never stand in today’s world. How dare they lat one team possibly win without the other getting a fair and equal chance. It is not fair!! In fact, we should not be calling it it “win” and “lose” anymore. How offensive is that!!!!?

  40. Reverting back is good – but only if they let defenses play defense again.

  41. mrnoname says:
    March 3, 2021 at 9:34 pm
    I’m with sleonardi1, if OT is a ten minute period, play ten minutes, whoever has more points when it’s over wins, and a tie is a tie. Would have to be different for the playoffs, obviously.
    You’re okay with a tie during the regular season, but don’t let there be a tie during the playoffs? A tie during the playoffs would render the game meaningless. Imagine.

  42. Every fan is for this until their team’s offense is stuck on th sideline, unable to touch the ball in overtime. The rule as it stands isn’t perfect, but it’s fair to both teams.

  43. For those that say defense is 1/2 of the game? GET REAL.

    1) If you’re being a football purist, its 1/3 of the game, you’re forgetting special teams

    2) Have you seen the modern rules? Offense is more than a 1/3 or a 1/2 of the game. Its nearly everything. Defense and Special teams are a distant 2nd and 3rd in important. I’d say its 50% offense, 35% defense, 15% special teams

    3) We’re forgetting the refs. If we’re being honest with any sport, refs play a part in the game actively. Saying you had 4 quarters to win – what if the refs put the finger on the scale for than their fair share? And then after 4 quarters of that you’re tied. You want it to come down to a coinflip?

    To be honest, the current overtime format is fine. Stop Finagling

  44. I like a modified College version. Give each team a possession starting at the opponent 25yd line. Whoever scores the most points wins. Whether it be 3, 6, 7, or 8 pts. If neither team scores, whoever gained the most yards is awarded 1 point, & the win.

  45. Road team gets the ball first. The home team kicks from their 15 yard line (ensuring a return). Road team has opportunity to drive and score.

    Reverse for home team to match or better road teams result. If the home team scores better it’s a win. If they tie, do one more series each. If they can’t do better it’s a loss.

    A)this encourages home teams to play for a win at home and not a tie.
    B) this gives both teams equal chance to let their players make plays

  46. I like the current system, and for everyone arguing “if your defense can’t stop them you don’t deserve to win” that’s a fine sentiment until an offense heaves the ball 50 yards downfield and gets a questionable pass interference call, and is then in field goal range.

    If both teams get a possession in OT then there is at least a chance to make up for any officiating mistakes.

  47. AFW AFW says:
    March 4, 2021 at 8:53 am
    I like the current system, and for everyone arguing “if your defense can’t stop them you don’t deserve to win” that’s a fine sentiment until an offense heaves the ball 50 yards downfield and gets a questionable pass interference call, and is then in field goal range.

    If both teams get a possession in OT then there is at least a chance to make up for any officiating mistakes.

    Can’t PI be reviewed..? Kind of negates that point in my opinion.

  48. Remember when Tom Brady got the ball1st in OT and drove it down the field to beat the Falcons in the SB? Then he did the same thing against Patrick Mahomes in the AFCCG? Contrast that to Drew Brees choking when he got the ball against the Vikings….

    In the 1st two cases, perhaps the Falcons and Chiefs might have tried to play a little defense. In the case with Brees, perhaps Shaun Peyton should have put Taysom Hill in at QB.

  49. I love when teams play for the tie them complain about OT… Go for the TD instead of the FG, go for 2 or instead of 1.

  50. Sudden Death OT is the way to go but how about each team can “bid” on where they would like the ball to start OT? You start at the 50 and then each team says how far back they would be willing to go to start OT. Would you rather have the ball on your own 25, how about your own 5 yard line? Make the teams bid against each other and then see who is willing to start further back. If they both bid for their own 1 yard line, toss a coin to see who gets it.

  51. I’m sorry but when it was true sudden death the winder of the coin toss won 53.4% of the time. I’m not sure I’d call that a “gigantic impact”….does it give an advantage? Sure. But it’s not like the games been decided on a slightly better than a coin flip chance of winning

  52. AMEN!

    Go home crying and sobbing like the wuss you are if your D can’t get off the field.

  53. Remember when Tom Brady got the ball1st in OT and drove it down the field to beat the Falcons in the SB?

    Remember when Patriot fans were irrelevant?

    Man I miss that..

  54. You’ll never fix OT until they acknowledge that football is heavily skewed to the offense. To achieve fairness, no choice but to finagle and get creative. There’s plenty of options for a true, fair sudden death but they’re all herky-jerky. I’d say if you want the ball first, you’d either have to play with 10 players or only 3 downs. If you score anything, you win. If not, normal rules go back into play.

  55. The problem with a lot of these rules is that they are gimmicky and they are so far removed from the actual game in regulation it’s like watching a different sport. Just extend the 4th quarter and whoever is the first scorer takes the win, period.

  56. If regulation time ends with both teams tied, have the team with the fewest penalties win the tie-breaker.

  57. No KO. Each team gets the ball at the opponents 25. No FGs. You must score a TD or Safety to win. It will force coaches to go for it on 4th down. The way the rules are slanted towards the offense there is no reason for FGs in OT.

  58. WOW! I really like the comment about eliminating the coin toss with an objective standard. The best standard is one that compensates for interference by the third team on the field — the officials.
    OT ball goes to team with the most bad officiating calls/no-calls against. And as Belichick advocates, ANYTHING should be reviewable for CLEAR AND CONVINCING ERROR. It’s up to the coach how to use the limited number of red flags.
    Lastly, even special teams is 1/2 offending and 1/2 defending. Try telling JJ Watt and Aaron Donald that their TIME on the field has less value than an offensive lineman. FACT – defensive linemen are paid MORE than offensive linemen, on average.

  59. The Chiefs will be the first team to vote this down after they lost the AFCCG to the Patriots. Even then, with the present rules, they still whined that they never got a chance to possess the ball. No matter which way it goes, someone will be unhappy. There has to be a decent way to avoid games ending in a tie.

  60. NFL should make rules to ENCOURAGE teams to win in regulation instead of go for a tie and finish the business in OT. In so many games the coaches decide to go conservative and try to tie in regulation and win in OT. I say get rid of overtime so they rather win it in regulation. In the playoff, just extend the 4th quarter in sudden death and whoever scores first wins.

  61. Sudden death never made sense in football, but with running QB’s and 50+ yard field goals commonplace it makes less sense now.
    Give each team a possession and be done, if nobody scores it’s a tie.

  62. Play a 10 minute OT and the first team ahead after an equal amount of possessions wins.

  63. Just scrap OT altogether like the pre 1976 days. 1970, the Chargers went 5-6-3, it was awesome.

  64. With modern day NFL kickers able to convert routinely from 60 yards, allowing a sudden death win on a first possession field goal seems rather unfair. All it takes is a decent kick off return and a couple of first downs. I think they should go back to 15-minute overtime and give teams a chance to match either a FG or TD on the first drive. Nobody likes a tie.

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