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1st major modification in league history

Yes, that headline is screaming. And for good reason. The NFL now can’t simply resolve a tie game much like Major League Baseball (if necessary, play till 5 a.m. to resolve .006  percentage points in the standings), the NHL (after five minutes, go to a shootout that resembles pregame warmups), and NCAA football (a sudden-life format that was called “last licks” in my elementary school days).

The NFL owners approved a “modified sudden death” system, in that a field goal on the first possession of overtime extends the overtime period for a retaliatory possession by the other team. If the score is then equalized, then the next score wins the game. Therefore, the “catch-up” team must score at least a tying field goal on the second possession to stay alive. A touchdown at any time ends the game.

Oddly, this is only implemented for the postseason. The league stance is that there are already separate rules for regular season and the postseason. (This difference is merely that one overtime is permitted in the regular season and an additional timeout is given in postseason.) This may be to avoid an odd, but plausible, circumstance where an overtime session only lasts two possessions because of two conservative, ball-controlling offenses, and thus adding the clock into that second possession.

Competition Committee members Bill Polian and Rich McKay (Colts and Falcons presidents) explained that there were fundamental inequities to the team losing the coin toss in overtime. We will dissect them in another post. You can watch the news conference here.

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)