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USFL will decide overtime in a 2-point shootout

While the NFL grapples with potential modifications to the sometimes-sudden-death overtime format, the USFL will guarantee equal possessions in a shootout format.

In the overtime, both teams will alternate for three plays each from the 2-yard line for an attempt to score a 2-point conversion. If one team leads after each team has run three plays — or has an insurmountable lead at any point — the game is over. If it is still deadlocked, it goes to a sudden-death elimination, alternating plays until one team can score and defend their goal in one shootout “inning.”

The winner of the overtime coin flip can either choose which team has the first snap in the shootout or the end of the field from which both teams will play. The opponent will get the choice that was not exercised.

All of the standard 2-point conversion rules are in effect, but there are a few additional rules that apply.

First, the defense cannot score in the shootout. Once the defense has possession of the ball, the down is over and there is no score. It is nearly impossible to commit a safety under these circumstances, but if a safety is awarded in the shootout, it would be scored as 2 points (There are no “one-point safeties” for the offense.)

Second, each team will have a timeout to use in the best-of-3 round — to use on offense or defense — but no timeouts are available for the subsequent sudden-death shootouts.

But it gets interesting if there is a penalty flag in overtime.

There are no yardage penalties and no penalties carry over to other shootout downs. If the offense commits a live-ball foul, the down does not score, and there is no other attempt. If the defense commits a live-ball foul, then the offense automatically scores. In this case, if the offense has scored on the play, the defensive foul is declined by rule, but the offense is awarded 2 points on the defensive foul if they did not score. The only situation where the down is replayed is if there are offsetting penalties that would require the down to be replayed (without other complicating factors such as a rare 5 vs. 15 enforcement).

If a player on either team commits a dead-ball personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct foul, the player is ejected from participating in the remainder of the overtime.

Updated 3/31: This post was updated with additional rules changes by the USFL regarding safeties and timeouts.

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Ben Austro
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)

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