When they were first established two years ago, the playoff overtime rules always made far more sense than the regular-season overtime rules. Well, on paper they did at least. Just don’t ask anyone to explain them.
And when they were first used during the 2012 playoffs, no one really noticed a major difference. That’s because Tim Tebow won a game in one play, and then in the other game that needed extra time (the NFC Championship between the 49ers and Giants), it just felt like two teams were playing football until someone scored.
The only difference is that each team was given at least one chance to score, and after both teams had one possession it was just like old times again, with sudden death resuming, and a win riding on a kick. That’s fair and balanced, and it’s simple common sense.
The NFL is one of the few sports leagues that hasn’t had a bare knuckle fight with common sense (hey baseball, how’s that salary cap coming?), and today at the owners meetings the elderly men in nice suits who make important league decisions voted to expand the playoff overtime format and bring it into the regular season.
Need a refresher on the rules? Take it away, Ed Hochuli. You’re usually pretty good at keep things concise and simple…
Good job, that only took a minute and 30 seconds.
Although he was correct and thorough, the long-winded explanations from the likes of Hochuli are what’s given the playoff OT rules their reputation of being a complicated, migraine-inducing mess.
Here’s the bare bones basics of what you need to know: if there’s a touchdown on the first possession the game is over (i.e. Tebow beating the Steelers), otherwise both teams get one possession even if a field goal is scored on the first possession. If the game is still tied after two possessions, then sudden death begins. An interception or kick return for a touchdown ends the game, as does any TD at any time.
Again, the expansion of this format into the regular season was an easy decision due to the balance it creates, but the only concern lies with the executives who make money off of television eyeballs. An overtime in the early Sunday games could spill into the late games, causing undergarments to twist uncomfortably when viewers are choosing to watch an entertaining overtime instead of the Cardinals-Rams out west.
Thankfully, we’re all in the business of watching exciting football, and not selling exciting football, so we won’t care about the TV networks’ concerns, or feel any shame.
The owners also decided to expand the boundaries of instant replay. Last year those lines were pushed to include a booth review of any scoring play, and now the booth will also review all turnovers.
Referees will still have the final call, but replay officials will buzz the field if they think a turnover is questionable, and the head official will then go under the hood. It’s the same procedure that applied to the automatic scoring reviews this year.
A few other notable rules changes:
- A player on the receiving end of a crackback block is now considered a defenseless player. Therefore, a hit to the head during a crackback block is a 15-yard penalty.
- A team will lose a down for illegally kicking a loose ball.
- Too many men on the field is now a dead ball foul.