Overtime in the NFL

Once again, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots have punched their ticket to the Super Bowl. Once again, former Browns head coach Bill Belichick is leading the way. It’s a combination of great leadership, great coaching and exceptional roster management. Also, having the greatest quarterback in the history of the game doesn’t hurt either. This time, however, the Patriots defeated a very tough team in the Chiefs, but it took a little extra time to get there.

The AFC title match-up saw regulation end with a tie score of 31-31. New England won the coin toss and elected to get the ball. I’m going to sidestep for a moment here and give a 10-second overview of the NFL’s overtime rules. The team who elects to receive wins the game if they score a touchdown on that possession or if the opposing team’s defense scores a touchdown on said possession. If the receiving team only scores a field goal or if they don’t score at all, the team who kicked off in OT gets a crack at it, thus allowing their offense to take the field.

Now that that’s out of the way, it is important to note that both the AFC and NFC championship games went to overtime on Sunday and both were the subjects of very different outcomes. Barring the god awful no-call that everyone and their brother is aware of in the Rams/Saints game, it was a situation where the Saints won the coin toss at the top of OT and elected to receive. Unfortunately for Saints fans, the gold and black were unsuccessful in their attempts to move the ball up the field, causing them to eventually kick off to Los Angeles.

The Rams took advantage of the change in possession as they proceeded to get the yardage they needed, allowing kicker Greg Zuerlein to nail an epic distance field goal and seal the deal for a trip to the big game…which was assisted greatly by some blindfolded NFL officials who continue to change the outcomes of games with their abysmal attempts to manage a contest, but I digress. Honestly, I want to go on about that mess, but I already wrote about that a few weeks ago here.

In the Patriots/Chiefs game, Brady and crew won the coin toss, marched down the field right into the end zone on that first OT possession.

Game over.

Since that moment, I’ve seen numerous complaints on social media and heard a few on the radio this morning asking how fair it is to decide the outcome of a football game on one possession. First off, this isn’t basketball, and that’s not a knock to basketball. You can get away with multiple overtimes there. The risk of injury is far greater in the sport of football due to the constant pounding these players take. Personally, I don’t want to see a game continue endlessly due to the score still being tied at the conclusion of one or two OT quarters while rosters have dwindled in one game because of injuries.

How quickly fans had forgotten that a mere few hours earlier, an overtime game took place where each time had a shot at the ball past regulation. There is nothing wrong with the current structure of how an NFL overtime is carried out. The main argument comes from those who don’t feel a game should be won without letting the other team get the ball. Again, we can’t have a game without end. Also, it is blatantly obvious that this great sport is played on two sides of the ball, offense and defense. Is it not the defense’s duty to stop the progression of the other team? And before any confronts me with the questions of, “Well what if the Browns were in the Chiefs’ position and lost that way? Then what would you say?” I would be heartbroken, of course! Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be calling for a grand retooling of the NFL’s overtime rules and structure.

When we get down to it, there is something about football that just doesn’t scream it is a game for excessive play past regulation. It’s not hockey in the playoffs. It’s not baseball with marathon bullpens. While there is that potential in the NFL for games to go back and forth in OT without scoring, it’s just something that happens about as often as an eclipse and in a day and age where the zebras on the field are coming into question weekly, there is a far greater issue casting a shadow on the game than how its overtimes take place.

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