The Buffalo Bills season ended suddenly on Sunday, thanks in part to the current structure of the NFL’s overtime rules.
The coin-flip winner in OT has a lopsided advantage, as the winner of that coin toss has a 10-1 record in the 11 playoff overtime games that have taken place under the current rules.
Sunday’s coin toss resulted in a Kansas City Chiefs possession turned-game-winning drive that has raised the question of parity, sparking conversation around the topic of the league’s overtime structure and whether it needs to change.
ESPN NFL analyst Mina Kimes shared her thoughts on the OT format, making a case for changing the length of the overtime period from 15 minutes to 10 (the length of regular-season OT’s), sudden-death-after-first possession, a spot and choose rule, and allowing the other team to choose whether they play offense or defense.
The NFL shouldn’t change the overtime rules because the Bills got screwed (they did not get screwed). They should change them because a system where teams that win the toss go 10-1 stinks! pic.twitter.com/dDs8L1ThNp
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) January 24, 2022
And ESPN’s Bill Barnwell did a full breakdown of potential OT rule changes also. His included playing out the full 15-minute overtime, deciding the first possession of overtime before the end of regulation by assigning the opening possession of overtime to the team that wins the pregame coin toss or to the home team, playing to eight points, and the spot and choose concept as well.
The spot and choose concept is one that the Baltimore Ravens proposed, in which the overtime kickoff is eliminated while a team gets to choose the yard line from which overtime will begin while the other team decides whether to begin overtime on offense or defense.
Despite the game’s outcome, Bills coaches and players aren’t ones to make any excuses, instead opting to take responsibility for what they could have done differently. QB Josh Allen did just that after the game, despite never making it back on the field after that fateful coin toss, bringing an end to a historic streak of play.
After all, a defensive stop on any of the Chiefs scoring drives in the final minutes of regulation would have given Buffalo the victory, just as one in OT would have given them possession. Similarly, had special teams not kicked the ball into the endzone with 13 seconds left in regulation, time would have run off limiting the Chiefs’ chances to tie to go to overtime.
The lack of parity in the coin-toss possession with the ability to end the game with a TD and eliminate an opponent’s chance to compete does present a problem, however. And while the league has been resistant to changes to the OT rules, even just eliminating the TD-wins rule and letting the teams play out the 15 minute overtime period the same as the rest of the game could be a simple enough fix.
The last time the postseason OT rules were changed, it was because the New Orleans Saints beat Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings with a field goal in the 2009 NFC Championship game. That the Hall of Fame QB never made it back on the field motivated the league to make a change from a field goal being what wins to a touchdown.
The overtime rules are something the NFL may be more likely to once more take a look at after Josh Allen and the offenses’ memorable performance versus the ultimate outcome of Sunday’s game.