Does the NFL really need To change the rules of overtime?


Am I the only person in America that likes the current overtime format in the NFL?

There has been a lot of talk around the league for years now about changing the current overtime system, especially after the way the Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game. After forcing overtime, the Saints won the coin toss and kicked a game winning field goal to send them to their first Super Bowl in franchise history. Minnesota never got the ball or a chance to respond to the Saints score.

Under one proposal being thrown around the league, both teams would at least get the opportunity to have one offensive possession each. Let’s say Team A wins the coin toss over Team B in overtime. Under the proposed rule changes, if Team A scores a touchdown, then the game is over. If Team B holds Team A to a field goal or no points at all, then they are awarded an offensive possession to either win or tie the game. If the teams are still tied, the same rules go into effect, only with alternate possession. This tie-breaking procedure would be used in playoff games if approved by the NFL’s Competition Committee.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Dispatch offered an interesting proposal in the way overtime should be played. Why not just play an extra ten minute period? This should allow both teams ample enough time for at least one offensive possession and the defenses a chance to make a stop.

But why change try to fix something that is not broken? One of the biggest arguments about the current overtime rules is that both teams don’t have an offensive possession and that 60% of teams that win the overtime coin toss go on to win the football game since 1994. But, how accurate is that statement?

Shouldn’t defense also be part of the overtime equation in an offensive driven league? Of the fifteen overtime games played this season and in the playoffs, only six were won on the first possession of overtime. That’s only 40% if you’re keeping score. This means that in 60% of games last season, the defense stepped up and gave their offense a chance to win the game. Isn’t what defensive players are paid to do? So many of those overtime games came down to critical defensive plays. What do we remember most about the overtime in the wild 51-45 shootout on Wild Card weekend between the Cardinals and the Packers?

Giving both teams possessions would also take away from the drama of overtime. Would you still be sitting at the edge of your seat watching every critical play knowing that the other team’s offense is going to have the ball with a chance to tie or win? Part of what makes a sudden death over time exciting is that every play is crucial and has the potential to end the game.

The Saints magical season would not have been complete without some overtime drama as well. The Saints played in three overtime games this season, winning two and losing to Tampa in late December. Win #12 for the Saints this season came at the expense of the Washington Redskins, who won the overtime coin toss, only to fumble the game away and allow Garrett Hartley to kick his first of many game winners this season. Three weeks later, the Saints lost the overtime coin toss to Tampa, who ran the ball down the Saints’ throats and kicked an easy game winning field goal.

The final overtime game for the Saints this season came in the NFC Championship game, a game many pro-ponents of changing the current system point to as a reason why the system needs tweaking. Late in the fourth quarter, the Vikings drove the ball into Saints territory with what seemed to be the final possession of regulation. The Saints needed a defensive stop just to force overtime and they certainly earned it. As destiny would have it, the Saints won the overtime coin toss and drove the ball into Vikings territory, but not without some trouble along the way. Twice the Vikings could have stopped the Saints, one on a tipped ball that should have been intercepted and the other on a critical fourth down. But they didn’t and the Saints marched on to the Super Bowl.

Simply put, the Saints won in overtime when they executed and lost when they simply could not. Isn’t that how the game works?

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