After both the NFC and AFC championship games went into overtime in January 2019, tweaking the NFL rules that govern the extra period was up for consideration, particularly because the Kansas City Chiefs never touched the ball in their overtime loss to the New England Patriots. The league considered making changes, but chose to the leave the rules as they are for the 2019 season and 2020 playoffs.

Then that scenario happened again in the first round of the 2020 playoffs: The New Orleans Saints never touched the ball in their overtime loss to the Minnesota Vikings. That led to renewed calls for both teams to get a crack at scoring, for a way to take the coin toss out of the mix.

Minnesota’s win was actually the second overtime game of the opening weekend; earlier, the Texans beat the Bills in overtime, 22-19, although both teams had overtime possessions in that one.

Here’s a refresher on what happens when teams are tied at the end of regulation.

PLAYOFF OVERTIME RULES

Postseason games cannot end in a tie, and so the rules are slightly different in the playoffs than they are during the regular season.

  • At the end of regulation, a coin toss will determine which team gets the ball first in overtime. The visiting team captain will call the toss.
  • Each team must possess, or have the opportunity to possess, the ball. There is one exception: If the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown on the opening possession, as the Patriots did against the Chiefs and the Vikings against the Saints, the game is over.
  • Sudden death play — where the game ends on any score (safety, field goal or touchdown) — continues until a winner is determined.
  • The extra point is not attempted if the game ends on a touchdown.
  • There are no instant replay coach’s challenges; all reviews will be initiated by the replay official.
  • If the score is still tied at the end of a 15-minute overtime period — or if the second team’s initial possession has not ended — the teams will play another period. The teams will continue to play no matter how many overtime periods are required to determine a winner.
  • A two-minute intermission will be taken between each overtime period. There is no “halftime,” however.
  • The captain who lost the first overtime coin toss will either choose to possess the ball or select which goal his team will defend in the second overtime, unless the team that won the coin toss deferred that choice.
  • The same timing rules that apply at the end of the second and fourth regulation periods also apply at the end of a second or fourth overtime period.
  • If there is still no winner at the end of a fourth overtime period, there will be another coin toss, and play will continue until a winner is declared.

The Chiefs had proposed changing the rule after losing the 2019 AFC title game when the Patriots reached the end zone on their first possession, the only scenario by which an OT game can end after one possession. Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, the chairman of the league’s competition committee, said last May that the Chiefs planned to resubmit their proposal, which could take effect in the 2020 season, at the annual meetings.

“These are rules that typically take time,” McKay said.

In the 2018 season, two regular season games ended in ties, both in the first month of play. The Steelers and Browns finished in a 21-21 tie on Sept. 9 and the Vikings and Packers game ended in a 29-29 tie the following week. In 2019, only the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals finished with a tie. Here are the regular season rules.

REGULAR SEASON OVERTIME RULES

  • At the end of regulation, a coin toss will determine which team gets the ball first in overtime. The visiting team captain will call the toss.
  • No more than one 10-minute period will follow a three-minute intermission. Each team must possess, or have the opportunity to possess, the ball. There is one exception: If the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown on the opening possession, the game is over.
  • Sudden death play — where the game ends on any score (safety, field goal or touchdown) — continues until a winner is determined.
  • Each team gets two timeouts.
  • The extra point is not attempted if the game ends on a touchdown.
  • If the score is tied at the end of overtime, the game ends in a tie.
  • There are no instant replay coach’s challenges; all reviews will be initiated by the replay official.