PALM BEACH, Fla. – NFL owners voted Tuesday to amend the playoff overtime rule in order to allow both teams to possess the ball regardless of whether a touchdown is scored on the first possession of the extra period.
The change came over two months after the 2021 NFL playoffs, which saw six of the final seven games decided by three points or less. The previous rule came under renewed scrutiny after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Buffalo Bills by scoring a touchdown on the first possession in overtime of their classic playoff game this past winter.
Under the previous playoff overtime rule, each team was allowed to possess the ball in extra play unless the club that received the opening kickoff scores a touchdown. If the opening drive resulted in a field goal, the opposing team would get an opportunity to match the score or win with a touchdown. If there was a turnover, the first team to score would win. This rule is still in effect for the regular season.
The NFL last modified the regulation, called Rule 16, in March 2012, when the league expanded the format from the playoffs to the regular season.
Since 2010, Atlanta Falcons CEO Rich McKay – chairman of the NFL’s Competition Committee – noted there have been 12 postseason overtimes and the team winning coin toss has won 10 times. Seven of those victories came on the first drive, including the Kansas City Chiefs’ win over the Bills in January.
A proposal from the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles sought to have both teams should possess the ball in overtime, regardless of whether a touchdown is scored on the first possession.
What coaches think
While more than a mere majority of league owners agreed with a change – 24 of 32 owners needed to OK it – NFL head coaches were divided on changing overtime. (The final vote was 29-3.)
Asked about a rule change on Tuesday, Super Bowl-winning Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay said: “I don’t think there would be anybody that would disagree that (Bills quarterback) Josh Allen probably deserved [another] possession in the playoffs. And I know [Chiefs coach Andy Reid] feels the same way.”
But Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh disagreed with further modifications. “I’m not for them. I don’t think adding plays at the end of the game is the answer,” he said. “I don’t think extending games is the answer.”
Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera labeled himself a “traditionalist” but added he was “opened-minded going into these discussions” on Tuesday. San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan didn’t have a strong opinion on the matter.
“I’ve never had too big of an issue with it,” Shanahan said. “I’ve lost games where we haven’t gotten the ball, but we’ve also been able to hold people to a field goal and come back and win on a touchdown. So, I really don’t have a strong opinion on which way it goes.”