Both teams secured playoff overtime possession with rule change approved by NFL owners


PALM BEACH, Fla. — NFL owners on Tuesday approved a modified overtime proposal that will guarantee every team possession, but only in the playoffs.

The regular season game rule, which allows the team with first possession to win if they score a touchdown, will remain unchanged.

A majority of NFL decision makers arrived at The Breakers hotel this week ready to adjust overtime one way or another, largely in reaction to the public outcry after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Buffalo Bills in overtime in the divisional playoff round with an opening touchdown. .

The Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles have proposed mandatory possession for both teams in all games, regular season and playoffs, but competition committee chairman Rich McKay said he won’t. There wasn’t enough support among owners to pass the rule unless it was changed in the playoffs only. Ultimately, it passed by a vote of 29 to 3.

If the score remains tied in the playoffs after each team has had possession, the game will be decided in traditional sudden death.

Recent data shows the “mainly problem” was found in post-season overtime, McKay said. Since the current opening touchdown requirement was instituted for the 2012 regular season, teams that win the toss have won 50% of the time, according to league data. That number has increased slightly to 54% since the league shortened overtime from a maximum of 15 to 10 minutes in 2017, but there has been a big jump in the playoffs.

Since the previous playoff format was implemented in 2010, seven of 12 overtime games have been won on opening possession, and 10 of those 12 have been won by the team that won the draw by lot. A total of 12 games isn’t a large sample size, McKay acknowledged, but it was large enough to cause change.

“Those are the only overtime games we’ve had,” he said. “It’s 12 years, 12 games. Those 12 games are as important to these franchises as any they’ll play in their history. So for us, yeah, it’s not a sample of 25 or 30 games, but it’s the only sample size we have and each one ends someone’s season, so for us it was something we felt we had to change.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane said he favors the playoff-only modification and revealed this week that he was considering it long before the Bills lost to the Chiefs.

“I mean, I think we already thought about it when it happened when Kansas City lost to New England. [in the 2018 AFC Championship Game]. I was watching this game unfold, man, you got a young [Patrick] Mahomes against a veteran in [Tom] Brady and you never saw Mahomes have a chance. Brady just took them to the field. I think it happened in the [Super Bowl LI]when the Patriots won.

“So there were times when you were like, man, I wonder what would have happened if the other team had the ball. Definitely when that happens to you, focus on it a bit more.”

The Tennessee Titans withdrew a proposal that would have allowed a team to win on the opening possession of overtime if they scored a touchdown and converted a 2-point attempt. But McKay said he heard talk this week from coaches who will consider using the 2-point attempt in playoff overtime either to gain an advantage after the first possession or to win a game on the second.

The owners also approved an additional rule change and resolution. First, they made permanent a 2021 experiment that adjusted positioning in the setup box on kickoffs designed to increase recovery rates for in-game kicks. The adjustment corresponded to an increase in the rate in-game kick recovery from 7.8% in 2020 to 13.5% in 2021, McKay said.

The new resolution, meanwhile, changed the league’s tampering policy to allow teams to retain their player staff members during the draft. Between then and June 30, these teams would be required to allow staff members to speak with other teams. The resolution would only apply to non-top managers who are looking for a secondary manager role in football.

ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg contributed to this report.


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