NFL owners' overtime changes are approved

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 24, 2010

ORLANDO -- The NFL changed its overtime format in postseason games, attempting to reduce the impact of coin flips and increasingly accurate field goal kickers.

The new system, approved here Tuesday, eliminates the possibility of a team winning a postseason game with a field goal on the opening possession of overtime.

The league's franchise owners voted, 28-4, to ratify the change, which had been proposed by the NFL's rule-making competition committee.

The owners will reconsider the measure, perhaps as soon as May at a scheduled meeting in Dallas, and possibly could use the new system at some point for regular season games as well.

"This idea, in our mind, did the right thing for football. . . . We felt like from a fairness standpoint, this rule needed to be changed," said Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, the co-chairman of the competition committee.

The Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals voted against the proposal.

The vote came on the second day of the three-day annual league meeting, one day sooner than originally expected.

"We knew it would be a hot-button issue when we got here, and we were correct in that assumption," said Indianapolis Colts President Bill Polian, a competition committee member.

Under the new system, the team that gets the ball first in overtime could win the game with a touchdown. If that team scores a field goal, the other club would have a chance to get a possession and tie the game with a field goal or win it with a touchdown. If that team gets a tying field goal, the game would proceed on a sudden-death basis. If neither team scores on its first possession of overtime, the game would be sudden death from there.

Regular season games, at least for now, will continue to use the sport's current overtime format, in which a coin flip determines which team gets possession first and the first team to score wins.

Competition committee members said they proposed the new format because of a trend over the last 16 years in which the team that wins the overtime coin toss has won the game much more frequently, thanks in part to improved field goal accuracy.

Between 1974 and 1993, the team that won the overtime coin toss won the game 46.8 percent of the time, and the team that lost the coin toss won the game 46.8 percent of the time in regular season play (the other games ended in ties). Since 1994, when kickoffs were moved back five yards, the team that won the overtime coin toss won the game 59.8 percent of the time, while the team that lost the coin toss won the game only 38.5 percent of the time.

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