New NFL overtime rule: Both teams get ball in playoff games

Kansas City Chiefs win a coin toss in AFC divisional playoff game against the  Buffalo Bills.
The Kansas City Chiefs won this coin toss and AFC divisional playoff game against the Buffalo Bills on the first possession of overtime.
(Reed Hoffmann / Associated Press)

It was Patrick Mahomes versus Josh Allen, two of the NFL’s top young quarterbacks going throw for throw in one of the most thrilling playoff games in league history.

As exciting as the game was, the abrupt ending left millions of viewers wanting more, igniting the argument that the nation’s No. 1 sports league needed to rework its overtime rules.

Tuesday, it happened. At the annual league meetings, team owners voted to amend the overtime rules in the postseason to ensure both teams would have an opportunity to possess the ball in the extra period.


That 42-36 victory by Kansas City, in which the Chiefs scored a touchdown on the opening possession of overtime and thereby denied the Bills the chance to answer, was a key factor in causing and swaying the vote.

“In the Buffalo game this year, it was the greatest 20, 30 minutes of football that I’ve ever seen, ever,” said Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee. “To think that it ended that way definitely brought up the idea of, ‘Hey, is that equitable? Does that work for everybody?’ I have no question that started the discussion. What typically happens in these is they tend to lose momentum as you get further away from the game, and that did not happen in this instance.”

Beginning this season, all 32 clubs must employ a female or a member of an ethnic or racial minority to serve as an offensive assistant coach. Women included among minority candidates.

March 28, 2022

Said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: “We always listen to the fans, that’s the important thing. We are always looking to improve and I think what really drove the decision was the database, ultimately, and looking at the facts and what’s happened.”

Since the last change to overtime, in 2010, 12 playoff games have been decided in an extra period. Of those 12, 10 were won by the team that won the overtime coin flip — and seven of those wins were decided on the opening possession.

“When you see that, that’s the type of thing that I think our coaches and everyone looked at,” Goodell said. “This is an issue in the postseason we should deal with.”

Under the previous system — which still will be in effect for the regular season — the team that gets the ball first can secure a victory by scoring a touchdown, as opposed to kicking a field goal. The Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles jointly submitted the playoffs proposal.


Now, in postseason games, after each team has a possession and providing the score remains tied, sudden death will decide the outcome.

“Those 12 games are as important to those franchises as any they’re going to play in their history,” McKay said. “So to us, we thought, yes, it’s not the sample size of 25 or 30 games, [but] it’s the only sample size we have and each one ends somebody’s season.”

The idea of changing the overtime rules for the regular season did not garner the required three-quarters majority of the 32 votes, but teams were willing to make the change for the playoffs.

The overtime debate is not over, however. And one idea that is gathering some steam in league circles is the notion of “continuation,” in which teams who are tied at the end of regulation would — instead of a coin flip and kickoff — would pick up where they left off at the end of the fourth quarter. That means keeping the same down, distance and field position as when the regulation clock expired.

Rams coach Sean McVay speaks from the NFL meetings and says Aaron Donald relayed he will be back next season. Rams executive Kevin Demoff says McVay and GM Les Snead both will get extensions.

March 29, 2022

In addition, the NFL made permanent a change to kickoff formations in the name of health and safety.

Also at the meetings, Goodell was asked about the status of quarterback Deshaun Watson, the former Houston Texans quarterback accused of sexual misconduct by 22 women. Watson, recently traded to the Cleveland Browns, still faces civil lawsuits.


“We’re going to let the facts lead us, find every fact we can,” Goodell said. “At least there is a resolution from the criminal side of it. Our investigation hopefully will have access to more information.”