PALM BEACH, Fla.—The NFL changed its regular season overtime system Wednesday, aligning it with the overtime format used during the postseason.
The revised system prevents a team from winning a game with a field goal on the opening possession of overtime. It was approved by the owners of the 32 NFL franchises in a 30-2 vote on the final day of the annual league meeting here.
The owners also approved automatic instant replay review of all turnovers. A coach no longer will have to use one of his instant replay challenges to seek review of a turnover.
All scoring plays are currently subject to instant replay reviews, and the league has found little impact on the pace of games. The owners rejected a proposal to have replay decisions made by the replay official in the booth rather than by the referee on the field.
The owners voted to ratify the new overtime rules two years after they approved them for postseason play. The measure needed the approval of at least 24 teams to be enacted. It will take effect during the upcoming season.
“It should be consistent,” said John Mara, co-owner of the New York Giants. “I was never comfortable with it being different for the playoffs and the regular season. I think this is a better system.”
Under the previous system for the regular season, the first team to score in overtime prevailed. That format produced concern that the outcome of a game could depend too heavily on the coin toss that determines possession at the outset of overtime, particularly with NFL field goal kickers becoming ever more accurate.
With the new system, a team still can win a game with a touchdown on the opening possession of overtime. If a team kicks a field goal on the opening possession of overtime, the other team gets one possession to win the game with a touchdown or tie it with a field goal. If that team kicks a tying field goal, the game continues on a sudden-death basis, with the next team to score winning.
“In my opinion, if you’re going to do it in the postseason, why not do it in the regular season?” Washington Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said earlier Wednesday at the NFC coaches’ breakfast.
Previously, some owners had been concerned about extending games and putting players at increased risk for injuries. But teams grew increasingly comfortable with the revised overtime format, citing its fairness.
The new format has rarely been put to the test. There have been no overtime games in which both teams scored. There were no postseason overtime games in 2010, and last year there were just two.
In a first round AFC playoff game, the Denver Broncos won on a touchdown pass by quarterback Tim Tebow on the opening play of overtime. The other, the NFC title game, was won by the New York Giants with a field goal that followed a fumble on a punt return by the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers had a previous overtime possession before the Giants scored.
They owners rejected a proposal to penalize defenders for horse-collar tackles on a quarterbacks in the pocket. That remains an exception to the ban on such tackles. Several proposals were put off for further consideration at the owners’ meeting scheduled for May. One would increase the roster size during the offseason and training camp to 90 players per team. Another would allow a player to return from the injured reserve list under some circumstances. And a third would push back the annual NFL trading deadline by two weeks, until after the eighth week of the season.