NFL Playoffs - Time to Change the Rules: Overtime's Playoff Modification

ARLINGTON TX - FEBRUARY 06: The Vince Lombardi Trophy is help up after the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium on February 6 2011 in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The NFL released a reminder this week about the modified post season rules. The league changed the rules before the start of last season, trying to prevent a first possession field goal from ending a playoff game. However, the rule was not needed last year. This year, it could be.

Essentially, the rule prevents a team from winning the game on the first possession, unless they score a touchdown. A touchdown will always end overtime. However, if a team kicks a field goal on that first possession, they then have to kick off and allow the opponent an opportunity to possess the ball. At this point, the team to get the ball second will either lose by not scoring, tie the game and continue playing, or win the game with a touchdown.

If both teams have had a chance to possess the ball on offense, the game will end on the first score. And, just to throw this one in there, any defensive score (interception return, fumble return, safety) ends the game as well.

Does that all make sense? I hope so. If not, maybe the NFL will explain it better. The full press release is below.

POSTSEASON OVERTIME

Prior to the 2010 season, NFL owners voted to amend overtime rules for the postseason to a MODIFIED SUDDEN DEATH format. Teams have the opportunity to possess the ball at least once in the extra period unless the team that receives the overtime kickoff scores a touchdown on its first possession.

A look at the NFL's overtime procedures for the postseason:

POSTSEASON - MODIFIED SUDDEN DEATH

The modified sudden death system of determining the winner shall prevail when the score is tied at the end of regulation for postseason NFL games. The system guarantees each team a possession or the opportunity to possess, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on its initial possession.

  • At the end of regulation time, the Referee will immediately toss a coin at the center of the field in accordance with rules pertaining to the usual pregame toss. The captain of the visiting team will call the toss prior to the coin being flipped.
  • Following a three-minute intermission after the end of the regulation game, play will be continued in 15-minute periods until a winner is declared. Each team must possess or have the opportunity to possess the ball unless the team that has the ball first scores a touchdown on its initial possession. Play continues in sudden death until a winner is determined, and the game automatically ends upon any score (by safety, field goal, or touchdown) or when a score is awarded by the Referee for a palpably unfair act. Each team has three timeouts per half and all general timing provisions apply as during a regular-season game. The try is not attempted if a touchdown is scored. Disqualified players are not allowed to return.
  • Instant Replay: No challenges are allowed. All reviews are initiated by the replay official.

Key Definitions:

  • Possession: Actual possession of the ball with complete control. The defense gains possession when it catches, intercepts, or recovers a loose ball.
  • Opportunity to possess: The opportunity to possess occurs only during kicking plays. A kickoff is an opportunity to possess for the receiving team. If the kicking team legally recovers the kick, the receiving team is considered to have had its opportunity. A punt or a field goal that crosses the line of scrimmage and is muffed by the receiving team is considered to be an opportunity to possess for the receivers. Normal touching rules by the kicking team apply.

There have been 27 overtime postseason games, starting with the 1958 NFL Championship.

POSTSEASON OVERTIME HISTORY - CHRONOLOGICAL

(Home team in CAPS)

DATE

SEASON

PLAYOFF ROUND

GAME

LENGTH

Dec. 28, 1958

1958

NFL Championship

Baltimore 23, N.Y. GIANTS 17

68:15

Dec. 23, 1962

1962

AFL Championship

Dallas Texans 20, HOUSTON 17

77:54

Dec. 26, 1965

1965

Divisional

GREEN BAY 13, Baltimore 10

73:39

Dec. 25, 1971

1971

Divisional

Miami 27, KANSAS CITY 24

82:40

Dec. 24, 1977

1977

Divisional

Oakland 37, BALTIMORE 31

75:43

Jan 2, 1982

1981

Divisional

San Diego 41, MIAMI 38

73:52

Jan. 3, 1987

1986

Divisional

CLEVELAND 23, N.Y. Jets 20

77:02

Jan. 11, 1987

1986

AFC Championship

Denver 23, CLEVELAND 20

65:38

Jan. 3, 1988

1987

Wild Card

HOUSTON 23, Seattle 20

68:05

Dec. 31, 1989

1989

Wild Card

Pittsburgh 26, HOUSTON 23

63:26

Jan. 7, 1990

1989

Divisional

L.A. Rams 19, N.Y. GIANTS 13

61:06

Jan. 3, 1993

1992

Wild Card

BUFFALO 41, Houston 38

63:06

Jan. 8, 1994

1993

Wild Card

KANSAS CITY 27, Pittsburgh 24

71:03

Jan 17, 1999

1998

NFC Championship

Atlanta 30, MINNESOTA 27

71:52

Dec. 30, 2000

2000

Wild Card

MIAMI 23, Indianapolis 17

71:16

Jan. 19, 2002

2001

AFC Divisional

NEW ENGLAND 16, Oakland 13

68:29

Jan. 11, 2003

2002

AFC Divisional

TENNESSEE 34, Pittsburgh 31

62:15

Jan. 4, 2004

2003

Wild Card

GREEN BAY 33, Seattle 27

64:25

Jan. 10, 2004

2003

Divisional

Carolina 29, ST. LOUIS 23

75:10

Jan. 11, 2004

2003

Divisional

PHILADELPHIA 20, Green Bay 17

64:48

Jan. 8, 2005

2004

Wild Card

N.Y. Jets 20, SAN DIEGO 17

74:55

Jan. 15, 2005

2004

Divisional

PITTSBURGH 20, N.Y. Jets 17

71:04

Jan. 14, 2007

2006

Divisional

CHICAGO 27, Seattle 24

64:53

Jan. 20, 2008

2007

NFC Championship

N.Y. Giants 23, GREEN BAY 20

62:35

Jan. 3, 2009

2008

AFC Wild Card

SAN DIEGO 23, Indianapolis 17

66:12

Jan. 10, 2010

2009

Wild Card

ARIZONA 51, Green Bay 45

61:18

Jan. 24, 2010

2009

NFC Championship

NEW ORLEANS 31, Minnesota 28

64:45

The playoffs have featured at least one overtime game in nine of the past 11 postseasons. A look at NFL overtime playoff games since 2000:

SEASON

ROUND

TEAMS

GAME-WINNING SCORE

2000

WC

Miami 23, Indianapolis 17

RB Lamar Smith scores on 17-yard TD run.

2001

Div.

New England 16, Oakland 13

K Adam Vinatieri connects on 23-yard FG.

2002

Div.

Tennessee 34, Pittsburgh 31

K Joe Nedney wins it with 26-yard FG.

2003

WC

Green Bay 33, Seattle 27

CB Al Harris returns INT 52 yards for TD.

2003

Div.

Carolina 29, St. Louis 23 (2 OT)

QB Jake Delhomme connects with WR Steve Smith on 69-yd TD.

2003

Div.

Philadelphia 20, Green Bay 17

K David Akers wins game with 31-yard FG.

2004

WC

NY Jets 20, San Diego 17

K Doug Brien converts 28-yard FG.

2004

Div.

Pittsburgh 20, NY Jets 17

K Jeff Reed connects on 33-yard game-winner.

2006

Div.

Chicago 27, Seattle 24

K Robbie Gould converts game-winning FG from 49 yards out.

2007

Champ.

NY Giants 23, Green Bay 20

K Lawrence Tynes wins it with 47-yard FG.

2008

WC

San Diego 23, Indianapolis 17

RB Darren Sproles scores on 22-yard TD run.

2009

WC

Arizona 51, Green Bay 45

LB Karlos Dansby scores on 17-yard FR-TD.

2009

Champ.

New Orleans 31, Minnesota 28

K Garrett Hartley converts 40-yard game-winning FG.


An overtime history of the 2011 playoff participants:

TEAM

2011 OT RECORD

ALL-TIME REGULAR-SEASON OT RECORD

PLAYOFF OT RECORD

Atlanta Falcons

0-1

13-20-2 (.400)

1-0

Baltimore Ravens

0-0

9-7-1 (.559)

0-0

Cincinnati Bengals

0-0

15-11-1 (.574)

0-0

Denver Broncos

3-0

25-15-2 (.619)

1-0

Detroit Lions

1-0

14-16-1 (.468)

0-0

Green Bay Packers

0-0

11-15-4 (.433)

2-3

Houston Texans

0-0

1-7-0 (.125)

0-0

New England Patriots

0-0

17-20-0 (.459)

1-0

New Orleans Saints

1-0

9-11-0 (.450)

1-0

New York Giants

0-0

18-14-2 (.559)

1-2

Pittsburgh Steelers

0-0

20-14-2 (.583)

2-2

San Francisco 49ers

0-1

19-14-1 (.574)

0-0

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