After several years of complaints from fans and analysts, both teams will be allowed to have a possession in overtime—but only in the playoffs.
NFL owners decided by a reported vote of 29-3 to change the game’s overtime rule for the postseason going forward. Whereas in the past, the first team to get the possession in overtime can end the game with a touchdown, now both teams are guaranteed an opportunity in the extra period, with the only exceptions being if the first possession results in a safety or a defensive touchdown.
The driving force behind this rule change seems to be the contest between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs during the most recent postseason. After the two teams traded a flurry of scores in the final four minutes of the game, the Chiefs won the overtime coin toss and proceeded to score the game-winning drive before Josh Allen and the Bills’ offense—who had been equally unstoppable that game—had a chance to retaliate.
That game was far from the only example of the first possession deciding the outcome of the game. A commonly-used statistic showed that of the past 12 overtime games in the postseason, 10 were won by the team who received the ball first—although just seven of those won the game on the opening possession. Critics of the new rule argue that is too small of a sample size and that this is simply an overreaction to the Bills/Chiefs game.
As for why this rule wasn’t expanded to the regular season, it appears the winner of the coin toss is far less important prior to the playoffs. Per ESPN, since the league last changed overtime rules in 2010, the coin toss winner has won 50 percent of the time.
For what it’s worth, Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes indicated they were one of the teams that voted in favor of the new rule proposal.
“Everybody has their different takes on sudden death versus getting the extra possession, but we were in favor of it,” Holmes said on Tuesday.