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NFL changes overtime rule for playoff games

Both teams will have a chance to touch the ball, a novel concept.

Green Bay Packers v Arizona Cardinals - Wild Card Round Photo by Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images

On Tuesday, the NFL approved a change to overtime in postseason games that would give each team an opportunity to have possession of the football before the game went final. Prior to 2010, the NFL used sudden-death overtime, meaning that the first team to score a point won the game. Starting with the 2010 postseason, a team that kicked a field goal on the opening possession of overtime would not win the game immediately as the other team would have an opportunity to match or beat the three points put up on the scoreboard in their first possession.

That 2010 postseason rule change was expanded to the regular season in 2012. Aside from shaving down overtime from 15 minutes to 10 minutes, little has changed about overtime over the last decade. This year, there were two proposals to attempt to alter overtime, one, a joint proposal by the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles, would guarantee a possession by each team, and another, a proposal made by the Tennessee Titans, would only end the game after the opening possession if a team scored a touchdown and scored on a two-point conversion.

At the NFL’s annual meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, the Colts-Eagles proposal passed, but only for the postseason. Still, the league could add this rule change to the regular season, as they did with the 2010-2012 rule changes that ended sudden-death overtime.

Overtime in the postseason has been a highly discussed topic on the national level since Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was unable to touch the football in an AFC Championship Game loss to the New England Patriots in 2018. In each of the past three offseasons, the NFL has voted no on changes to overtime that would ensure possession by both teams.

The straw that broke the camel’s back appears to have been the 78-point shootout between the Chiefs and Buffalo Bills in last year’s playoffs, which ended before Bills quarterback Josh Allen was able to gain possession. These certainly aren’t the only games in NFL history that would have been impacted by the new rule change, though, as Green Bay Packers fans will note that the team never saw the ball offensively in the 2014 NFC Championship Game loss to the Seattle Seahawks or the 2015 playoff loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

The good news moving forward is that, at least in the postseason, the coin toss will no longer decide if one team can be run off the field before getting a shot at a possession.