After the New England Patriots miraculously came back to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, many fans took issue with the current overtime rule that allowed the Patriots to win without giving the Falcons a chance on offense to tie or win. Is that because the rule is actually flawed and there is a better solution out there? Or did fans suddenly hate the rule because their team didn’t win?

The current overtime format in the NFL is that if the team that receives the ball first scores a touchdown, the game is over and that team wins. If that team kicks a field goal, the other team has one opportunity to score a touchdown. If they get a field goal, the game continues under sudden death rules. But if the other team scores a touchdown, the game is over. If neither team scores on their first possession, the next team that scores wins.

After the Super Bowl, many fans complained about the NFL’s overtime format, namely because the Falcons didn’t get a chance to score. This despite the Falcons blowing a 25-point lead during which they could have had multiple attempts to win.

This rule came into effect after the 2010 NFL Playoffs, due to a similar situation that happened on Sunday. Controversy ensued after the New Orleans Saints won the coin toss and kicked a field goal to defeat Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings to go to Super Bowl XLIV. The NFL passed the current overtime rules as a way to incentivize teams to score a touchdown to win, rather than play very conservative football once they get into field goal range and win the game.

While many are speaking up now about the drawbacks of the current overtime format, there have been multiple times this season when the overtime rules have largely failed, namely in the amount of tie games we have had in the NFL this year. Granted, there were only two ties this season, but one was an incredibly boring Seahawks-Cardinals 6-6 contest on a Sunday night while the other tie was a 27-27 game between the Redskins and Bengals in London. Both were nationally televised games and both games were rather dreadful.

While the current overtime format was an improvement over the old rules, they certainly aren’t all they could be. When the rules were unveiled, it seemed more like putting a band-aid on the solution rather than actually fixing the solution. And it’s come at the forefront of one of the biggest games in NFL history.

Those looking for change in the NFL’s overtime format point to the college football overtime system. In college, the overtime period isn’t timed and each team starts at the 25-yard line. Each team gets an equal opportunity to score and after the third overtime, teams are required to go for two. This eliminates the ability for a tie game, makes the overtime period more exciting and gives each team a guaranteed chance to score. The NFL should have adopted this system instead of going to a rather convoluted system that actually increases the likelihood for more ties.

While that fixes just about every issue NFL fans have with the current overtime format, it’s unlikely that the NFL will adopt this system. The league wants to be the one making the rules, not adopting other rules that other organizations have made. On very rare occasions has the NFL passed rules that were originally designed for college football.

But despite all this, the Patriots won the Super Bowl under the current overtime system. If Falcons fans didn’t already hate the overtime format, they are clearly upset that regular season MVP Matt Ryan didn’t get a chance to win in overtime. And I’m sure if the roles were reversed and the Falcons won the Super Bowl in overtime on just one possession, Patriots fans would be hating the overtime format instead.

For Patriots and Falcons fans who were personally affected by the current NFL overtime format, it would be easy and likely to believe that their opinion would be shaped on the result of last night’s game. To neutral fans like myself, congrats to the Patriots for the win, but the NFL really needs to change how it does overtime and do so as soon as possible.

About Phillip Bupp

News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing, highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

Follow me on Twitter @phillipbupp

1 thought on “Many football fans want NFL overtime format changed again after Super Bowl LI

  1. Regardless of if you’re a Patriots or Falcons fan or how badly the Falcons blew their lead, you should agree that this is a bad rule. If you think the defense should have to play good, well what about the Patriots defense? Or the Falcons Offense? They didn’t have to play at all during overtime. A reverse situation happened last year in the playoffs when the Packers faced the Cardinals, where the Packers managed to tie the game against a failing Cardinals defense, only for the Cardinals to get the ball first in overtime and score a touchdown on the opening drive. A coin flip should not be determining who gets to play offense and who gets to play defense for potentially all of overtime. Both offenses and defenses should have to play, so therefore each team should have an opportunity to possess the football.

    Not only would this be more fair, it would be more interesting because teams may consider going for a 2-point conversion. For an example, imagine the first teams scores a touchdown and an extra point. If the second team then manages to get a touchdown, if they only kicked the extra point then it would go to sudden death and the first team could win on a field goal. So they may instead want to attempt a 2-point conversion to win the game right there. The first team could also attempt a 2-point version in order to prevent this situation from happening, and to force the 2nd team to make one in order to keep the game going. Of course missing the 2-point conversion would have drastic consequences, but that’s part of what makes it interesting.

Comments are closed.