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Overtime Rules During NFL Playoffs Set to Take Effect

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On more than one occasion, BTSC's own maryrose has lamented about the unfair nature of overtime rules in the NFL. His logic is straight forward: when two teams find themselves tied after going after each other for 60 minutes, it's unfair that the team who wins a random coin toss has a huge upper hand in a sudden death OT format. MR once suggested that teams should have to win with a touchdown rather than be able to end it with a field goal. Not sure I necessarily think that's the best change, but I wholeheartedly agree that something needed to be done about the OT rules, particularly in the playoffs when it's a 'win-or-go-home' situation. Well, the NFL agreed that changes needed to be made and announced last winter that a new OT format would be rolled out for the 2010 playoffs.

What are the new OT rules you might ask? Well, let's take a quick look.


The modified sudden death system of determining the winner shall prevail when the score is tied at the end of regulation playing time of postseason NFL games. The system guarantees each team a possession or the opportunity to possess, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on its initial possession.

· At the end of regulation time, the Referee will immediately toss a coin at the center of the field in accordance with rules pertaining to the usual pregame toss. The captain of the visiting team will call the toss prior to the coin being flipped.

· Following a three-minute intermission after the end of the regulation game, play will be continued in 15-minute periods until a winner is declared. Each team must possess or have the opportunity to possess the ball unless the team that has the ball first scores a touchdown on its initial possession. Play continues in sudden death until a winner is determined, and the game automatically ends upon any score (by safety, field goal, or touchdown) or when a score is awarded by the Referee for a palpably unfair act. Each team has three time-outs per half and all general timing provisions apply as during a regular game. The try is not attempted if a touchdown is scored. Disqualified players are not allowed to return.

· Instant Replay: No challenges. Reviews to be initiated by the replay assistant.


Key Definitions:

· Possession: Actual possession of the ball with complete control. The defense gains possession when it catches, intercepts, or recovers a loose ball.

· Opportunity to possess: The opportunity to possess occurs only during kicking plays. A kickoff is an opportunity to possess for the receiving team. If the kicking team legally recovers the kick, the receiving team is considered to have had its opportunity. A punt or a field goal that crosses the line of scrimmage and is muffed by the receiving team is considered to be an opportunity to possess for the receivers. Normal touching rules by the kicking team apply.