The NFL is seemingly on a never-ending quest to fix overtime, tweaking and revamping the rules every so often in an attempt to please everybody. After two games ended in ties last year, it seemed inevitable that we’d see another rule change, and the league delivered.
Starting in the 2017 season, overtime periods are now just 10 minutes long, compared to the normal 15-minute quarters in regulation. The main reason for this, at least according to the competition committee, was to reduce game times for the players’ safety.
“First of all, the number of plays that these guys play, then take that to the next week, is really a competitive disadvantage,” said Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. “Guys get worn out. It’s hard to recover from one week to the next.”
Of course, there’s concern that we might see even more ties, with the shorter period leading to fewer scoring opportunities. There’s also a chance, however slight, that the team that wins the coin toss simply squats on the ball for almost the entire 10 minutes before kicking a field goal. But that’s only an extreme theoretical, and we’ll have to wait and see how teams adjust their strategies when a game goes into overtime this season.
Other than shortening the period, the overtime rules are the same as they’ve been in recent years:
- Teams can only win on the first possession if they score a touchdown — a field goal, punt, or turnover gives the other team a chance to score.
- If the score is still tied after one possession apiece, then we go into sudden-death rules.
- If nobody is able to score when the period runs out, then the game ends in a tie.
Last season, the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks tied 6-6, and a London game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington ended in a 27-27 score.
The rules are about the same in the playoffs, except we go into a second period and beyond until there is a winner. Just like in the regular season, playoff overtime periods will be 10 minutes long. Of course, the New England Patriots didn’t need 10 minutes to finish their miracle comeback against the Atlanta Falcons — James White scored the game-winning touchdown on the opening possession to cap off the first overtime period in Super Bowl history.