NFL overtime rules need further changes

NFL overtime rules were brought into further scrutiny following the Green Bay Packers‘ 26-20 overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC divisional round of the playoffs on Saturday.

Packers players, most notably linebacker Clay Matthews, were upset that their offense did not get a chance to possess the football in overtime, especially after the emotional high they were feeling after quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed an improbable Hail Mary touchdown pass at the end of regulation to force the extra period.

Under the current NFL overtime rules, a field goal on the first possession of the period cannot end the game, so that both teams have a chance as possessing the football. However, if a team scores a touchdown or safety on the first drive — as the Cardinals did Saturday — then the game will end.

Each team has a chance to possess the football, unless the first drive ends with a touchdown or safety.

NFL overtime rules

The current overtime rules were adopted in 2012, modifying the sudden death format that was previously in play. Too many games were decided on the first possession of overtime, and the NFL didn’t want games essentially decided by a coin flip.

However, as I stated then and still believe today, the NFL needs further changes to the overtime rules. This is not in response to what happened on Saturday, because I couldn’t be more thrilled that the Packers were ousted from the playoffs. The Packers shouldn’t have left Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald wide open for a huge gain if they wanted another chance at possessing the football.

No, this has to do with simple fairness to both teams. To allow any kind of sudden death on the first drive of overtime — even one that requires a touchdown or safety to end the game — is a little bit unfair.

So, what would be considered fair overtime rules? Well, playing a full overtime period that is 15 minutes long isn’t constructive due to time constraints. Instead, the NFL should institute the following:

  1. A five-minute overtime period, at the end of which, the team that is leading would be declared the winner.
  2. If there is no leader after the five-minute period, then a second five-minute overtime period would be played that becomes sudden death.

Rather than one 15-minute period, this proposal of two five-minute periods actually reduces the overall time of overtime, and still gives both teams possession of the ball. I think it’s a win-win proposition.

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