Controversy over NFL overtime rules: Should they be changed?


Evan Garber

The coin toss is far too important in the outcome of the game. Overtime rules must be changed in the NFL.

Evan Garber, Staff Writer

The divisional round of the NFL playoffs had all four games being decided on the last play of the game. We had the Bengals beat the Titans on a 52-yard field goal as time expired. The 49ers beat the Packers on a 45-yard field with no time remaining. The Rams marched 62 yards down the field in 37 seconds to set up a game-winning 30-yard field goal. Then, in the final game, the Titans and Chiefs combined for 25 points in the final two minutes of regulation to force overtime. After all of that, how was the game decided? Well, just a simple flip of a coin.

”I think the NFL should change their overtime rules because it makes the overtime coin flip the most important play of the game instead of making it about the actual overtime period,” said NFL fan Ryken Mak (‘23).

The ending to this game restarted the nearly seven-decade-long debate of if the NFL should change the rules of overtime. The league first used the sudden-death overtime in the 1958 Super Bowl between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants. Written three years prior, a coin toss would decide which team receives the ball at the start of overtime and once a team scored any points, the game was over.

It wasn’t until 2010 after the Saints won the NFC Championship Game on a field goal in overtime that the rule was changed to what we know today. If the team that receives the ball first scores a touchdown, the game is over. But if they score a field goal, the opposing team gets a chance to either tie it or win with a touchdown. If both teams score a field goal, then it goes into sudden death.

“I think they should adopt a system similar to the NCAA overtime rules that allow both teams to get the ball,” said Kai Burgermeister (‘22).

After seeing the Chiefs-Bills divisional matchup end on a Chiefs touchdown in overtime without the Bills getting a chance to match it, fans have been proposing potential rules for overtime. While most point to the college football overtime rules, others have their own unique tweaks. But what they all have in common is both teams receiving the ball.

“I would suggest they play the full 15 minutes then go to a field goal kickoff if still tied,” said Mak.

On the other hand, some people believe that the overtime rules are fine just the way they are. Football is a team sport meaning everyone has to do their part in order for a team to win. It’s the job of the team that does not receive the ball in overtime to prevent the opponent from scoring a touchdown.

There also could have been other instances earlier in the game where one of the three groups didn’t do its job. For example, the Bills defense let the Chiefs drive 44 yards in two plays to set up a game-tying field goal in just 13 seconds. Although a valid statement, the whole team should get to decide the outcome in overtime. If a team scores, their opponent doesn’t get a chance to strike back. Even for the scoring team, the defense doesn’t get a chance to seal the victory. It’s a team sport so every aspect of the team should be a part of the outcome.

“Sports are supposed to be based on skill not luck,” said 49ers fan Anson Yee.