PALM BEACH, FL – The 32 NFL teams passed a rule change Tuesday to ensure that both teams will have possession of the ball at least once in overtime from their post-season games. This action comes months later Kansas City won the Divisional Round playoff against the Buffalo Billswho did not get a chance to score in overtime.
The change to the league’s overtime rules was the first since 2010, when clubs voted to allow teams that scored relegated when taking overtime in the opening game to win. (Before that, the team that scored first in any way won in overtime.) The rule, which inherently gave an advantage to the team that won the extra coin, was extended to the regular season in 2012.
Since 2010, there have been an additional 12 games in the post-season, and the team that won throw-ins before overtime has gone on to win 10 of those 12 games. Seven of those 10 wins came when the first car touched down.
The game between Kansas City and Buffalo in January was perhaps the most dramatic of them all. Both teams’ strong attacks scored a total of four touchdowns in the final two minutes of regulation, and Kansas City won, 42-36, by scoring a touchdown on their first possession over overtime.
In the aftermath, commentators, fans and football executives lamented that viewers couldn’t see the Bills and quarterback Josh Allen trying to score in overtime as well, an uproar that encouraged the league to adopt the new rule.
Bills coach Sean McDermott said, who described the rule change as “bittersweet.” “It’s the right thing for the game.”
Both teams will now secure at least one possession, regardless of the hour. If both teams score touchdowns in the opening drives, the team that scores next wins.
The original proposal to change the rule, made by the staff of the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles, would have covered both the 2022 regular season and the post-season. McDermott said there has been strong support for making this change just beyond the season, explaining, “That’s where we’re going to start.”
However, the rule change will expand the games. Some coaches, including John Harbo of the Baltimore Ravens, have cited this as a player safety concern, and a reason to limit it to the postseason, when team seasons are on the line.
Kansas City proposed changes in overtime after the 2018 season that would have given both teams possession, having lost the AFC Championship game to the New England Patriots, who scored in the first touchdown.
McDermott said the Bills playoff against Kansas City was cited multiple times at the meeting as the teams discussed a rule change.
“This is probably the best 20 to 30 minutes of football I’ve ever seen,” said Rich McKay, head of the Atlanta Falcons and chair of the NFL Competition Committee. “And I think it ended up that way definitely coming up with an idea of, Hey, does this work for everyone?”