How NFL 2010 postseason overtime works and postseason OT history

The 2010 NFL playoffs will be played with the most drastic set of overtime changes since “Sudden Death” was instituted by the league in 1941 for divisional playoff games, 1946 for the NFL’s championship game and 1974 for regular season and preseason games.

NFL owners voted at the Annual Meeting in March to amend overtime rules for the postseason to a Modified Sudden Death format. Teams will now have the opportunity to possess the ball at least once in the extra period unless the team that receives the overtime kickoff scores a touchdown on its first possession.

“We felt this year’s proposal gave us the opportunity to make a pretty good rule even better for the players,” said Atlanta Falcons President and Co-Chairman of the NFL Competition Committee Rich McKay at the time. “I really believe the more you talk about the issue, the more you understand the statistics, the more you say there must be a change.”

The sudden-death overtime system that has been in place since 1974 is still used for preseason and regular-season NFL games.

Here is how the NFL will conduct sudden-death overtime for the playoffs this year:

POSTSEASON – MODIFIED SUDDEN DEATH:

The modified sudden death system of determining the winner shall prevail when the score is tied at the end of regulation playing time of postseason NFL games. The system guarantees each team a possession or the opportunity to possess, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on its initial possession.

  • At the end of regulation time, the Referee will immediately toss a coin at the center of the field in accordance with rules pertaining to the usual pregame toss. The captain of the visiting team will call the toss prior to the coin being flipped.
  • Following a three-minute intermission after the end of the regulation game, play will be continued in 15-minute periods until a winner is declared. Each team must possess or have the opportunity to possess the ball unless the team that has the ball first scores a touchdown on its initial possession. Play continues in sudden death until a winner is determined, and the game automatically ends upon any score (by safety, field goal, or touchdown) or when a score is awarded by the Referee for a palpably unfair act. Each team has three time-outs per half and all general timing provisions apply as during a regular game. The try is not attempted if a touchdown is scored. Disqualified players are not allowed to return.
  • Instant Replay: No challenges. Reviews to be initiated by the replay assistant.

KEY DEFINITIONS:

  • Possession: Actual possession of the ball with complete control. The defense gains possession when it catches, intercepts, or recovers a loose ball.
  • Opportunity to possess: The opportunity to possess occurs only during kicking plays. A kickoff is an opportunity to possess for the receiving team. If the kicking team legally recovers the kick, the receiving team is considered to have had its opportunity. A punt or a field goal that crosses the line of scrimmage and is muffed by the receiving team is considered to be an opportunity to possess for the receivers. Normal touching rules by the kicking team apply.

The NFL also released a list of Approved Rulings and how changes of possession (kickoffs, punts, field goals, fumbles, interceptions, etc.) impact overtime.

And as a point of reference, here is the current regular-season and preseason overtime rules:

PRESEASON & REGULAR SEASON – SUDDEN DEATH:

The sudden death system of determining the winner shall prevail when the score is tied at the end of regulation playing time of preseason and regular-season NFL games. The team scoring first during overtime play shall be the winner and the game automatically ends upon any score (by safety, field goal, or touchdown) or when a score is awarded by the Referee for a palpably unfair act.

  • At the end of regulation time, the Referee will immediately toss a coin at the center of the field in accordance with rules pertaining to the usual pregame toss. The captain of the visiting team will call the toss prior to the coin being flipped.
  • Following a three-minute intermission after the end of the regulation game, play will continue for one 15-minute period or until there is a score. Each team has two time-outs. General timing provisions that apply for the fourth quarter will prevail. The try is not attempted if a touchdown is scored. Disqualified players are not allowed to return.
  • Instant Replay: No challenges. Reviews to be initiated by the replay assistant.

POSTSEASON OVERTIME HISTORY: A total of 27 NFL (and AFL) postseason games have gone to overtime since the first (and arguably most famous) in 1958 when Baltimore defeated the Giants in the “Greatest Game Ever Played.”

Only three of these games would have been impacted by the new rule if it had been in place (11 percent), according to a Tweet by Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe. The three were (year listed is season, not date of game): 2001 Oakland at New England, 2002 Pittsburgh at Tennessee and 2009 Minnesota at New Orleans. All three winners (New England, Tennessee and New Orleans) scored on its first overtime possession without the opponent having possession.

Some of the league’s greatest moments took place in extra time, and here is a history of the 27 overtime postseason games (courtesy of the 2010 NFL Record and Fact Book). The first two were league championship games in the NFL (1958) and AFL (1962 Dallas Texans at Houston Oilers). All others were in earlier rounds. The only postseason game without an overtime played to date is the Super Bowl.

The 27 postseason games that went to overtime. The three that would have been affected if the 2010 rules were in place at the time are noted in parenthesis:

  1. Dec. 28, 1958 — Baltimore Colts 23, New York Giants 17, at New York in NFL Championship Game; Giants win toss. Maynard returns kickoff to Giants’ 20. Chandler punts and Taseff returns one yard to Colts’ 20. Ameche scores on 1-yard run at 8:15.
  2. Dec. 23, 1962 — Dallas Texans 20, Houston Oilers 17, at Houston in AFL Championship Game; Texans win toss and kick off. Jancik returns kickoff to Oilers’ 33. Norton punts and Jackson makes fair catch on Texans’ 22. Wilson punts and Jancik makes fair catch on Oilers’ 45. Robinson intercepts Blanda’s pass and returns 13 yards to Oilers’ 47. Wilson’s punt rolls dead at Oilers’ 12. Hull intercepts Blanda’s pass and returns 23 yards to midfield. Brooker kicks 25-yard field goal at 17:54.
  3. Dec. 26, 1965 — Green Bay 13, Baltimore Colts 10, at Green Bay in NFL Divisional Playoff Game; Packers win toss. Moore returns kickoff to Packers’ 22. Chandler punts and Haymond returns nine yards to Colts’ 41. Gilburg punts and Wood makes fair catch at Packers’ 21. Chandler punts and Haymond returns one yard to Colts’ 41. Michaels misses 47-yard field goal. Chandler kicks 25-yard field goal at 13:39.
  4. Dec. 25, 1971 — Miami 27, Kansas City 24, at Kansas City in AFC Divisional Playoff Game; Chiefs win toss. Podolak, after a lateral from Buchanan, returns kickoff to Chiefs’ 46. Stenerud’s 42-yard field goal is blocked. Seiple punts and Podolak makes fair catch at Chiefs’ 17. Wilson punts and Scott returns 18 yards to Dolphins’ 39. Yepremian misses 62-yard field goal. Scott intercepts Dawson’s pass and returns 13 yards to Dolphins’ 46. Seiple punts and Podolak loses one yard to Chiefs’ 15. Wilson punts and Scott makes fair catch on Dolphins’ 30. Yepremian kicks 37-yard field goal at 22:40.
  5. Dec. 24, 1977 — Oakland 37, Baltimore Colts 31, at Baltimore in AFC Divisional Playoff Game; Colts win toss. Raiders start on own 42 following a punt late in the first overtime. Oakland works way into field-goal range on Stabler’s 19-yard pass to Branch at Colts’ 26. Four plays later, on the second play of the second overtime, Stabler hits Casper with a 10-yard touchdown pass at 15:43.
  6. Jan. 2, 1982 — San Diego 41, Miami 38, at Miami in AFC Divisional Playoff Game; Chargers win toss. San Diego drives from its 13 to Miami 8. On second-and-goal, Benirschke misses 27-yard field goal attempt wide left at 9:15. Miami has the ball twice and San Diego twice more before the Dolphins get their third possession. Miami drives from the San Diego 46 to Chargers’ 17 and on fourth-and-two, von Schamann’s 34-yard field goal attempt is blocked by San Diego’s Winslow after 11:27. Fouts then completes four of five passes, including a 39-yarder to Joiner that puts the ball on Dolphins’ 10. On first down, Benirschke kicks a 29-yard field goal at 13:52.
  7. Jan. 3, 1987 — Cleveland 23, New York Jets 20, at Cleveland in AFC Divisional Playoff Game; Jets win toss. Jets’ punt downed at Browns’ 26. Moseley’s 23-yard field goal attempt is wide right. Teams trade punts. Jets’ second punt downed at Browns’ 31. First overtime period expires eight plays later with Browns in possession at Jets’ 42. Moseley kicks 27-yard field goal four plays into second overtime at 17:02.
  8. Jan. 11, 1987—Denver 23, Cleveland 20, at Cleveland in AFC Championship Game; Browns win toss. Broncos hold Browns on four downs. Browns’ punt returned four yards to Denver’s 25. Elway completes 22- and 28-yard passes to set up Karlis’ 33-yard field goal nine plays into drive at 5:38.
  9. Jan. 3, 1988 — Houston Oilers 23, Seattle 20, at Houston in AFC Wild Card Game; Seahawks win toss. Rodriguez punts to K. Johnson who returns one yard to Houston 15. Zendejas kicks 32-yard field goal 12 plays later at 8:05.
  10. Dec. 31, 1989 — Pittsburgh 26, Houston Oilers 23, at Houston in AFC Wild Card Playoff Game; Steelers win toss. Steelers punt to Oilers. Oilers’ fumble recovered by Woodson and returned three yards. Four plays and 13 yards later, Anderson kicks a 50-yard field goal at 3:26.
  11. Jan. 7, 1990 — Los Angeles Rams 19, New York Giants 13, at New York in NFC Divisional Playoff Game; Rams win toss. Everett completes two passes to move ball to Giants’ 48. White called for pass interference; ball spotted on Giants’ 25. Everett hits Anderson with a 30-yard touchdown pass at 1:06.
  12. Jan. 3, 1993 — Buffalo 41, Houston Oilers 38, at Buffalo in AFC Wild Card Game; Oilers win toss. Oilers begin at 20. After 2 plays, Moon’s pass is intercepted by Odomes who returns ball 2 yards to Houston 35. After 2 plays, Christie kicks 32-yard field goal at 3:06.
  13. Jan. 8, 1994 — Kansas City 27, Pittsburgh 24, at Kansas City in AFC Wild Card Game; Chiefs win toss. Hughes returns kickoff 20 yards to Kansas City 25. After 3 plays, Barker punts 48 yards to Pittsburgh 18 where Woodson returns 8 yards to the 26. After 6 plays, Royals punts 30 yards to Kansas City 20. Kansas City drives to Pittsburgh 14 where Lowery kicks 32-yard field goal at 11:03.
  14. Jan. 17, 1999 — Atlanta 30, Minnesota 27, at Minnesota in NFC Championship Game; Vikings win toss. Palmer returns kickoff 30 yards to Minnesota 29. After four plays, Berger punts 51 yards to Atlanta 7 where Dwight returns 8 yards to Atlanta 15. Falcons drive to Atlanta 36. Stryzinski punts 37 yards to Vikings’ 27. Palmer calls fair catch. Vikings drive to Minnesota 39. Berger punts 52 yards to Atlanta 9. Downed by Vikings. Atlanta drives to Minnesota 21 where Andersen kicks 38-yard field goal at 11:52.
  15. Dec. 30, 2000 — Miami 23, Indianapolis 17, at Miami in AFC Wild Card Game; Dolphins win toss. Williams returns kickoff 18 yards to Miami 20. Offensive holding penalty on Freeman, 10 yards, ball spotted on Miami 10. Dolphins drive to Miami 29 where Turk punts 53 yards to Indianapolis 18. Colts drive to Miami 31 where Vanderjagt misses 49-yard field-goal attempt wide right. Dolphins drive to Indianapolis 17 where Smith rushes for a 17-yard touchdown at 11:16.
  16. Jan. 19, 2002 — New England 16, Oakland 13, at New England in AFC Divisional Playoff Game; Patriots win toss. Pass returns kickoff 24 yards to New England 34. Patriots drive to Oakland 5. Vinatieri kicks 23-yard field goal at 8:29. (Oakland would have had opportunity to possess under 2010 rule)
  17. Jan. 11, 2003 — Tennessee 34, Pittsburgh 31, at Tennessee in AFC Divisional Playoff Game; Tennessee wins toss. Reed kicks 60 yards. Returned by Simon 21 yards to Tennessee 31. Titans drive to Pittsburgh 8. Nedney’s 26-yard field goal is good at 2:15. (Pittsburgh would have had opportunity to possess under 2010 rule)
  18. Jan. 4, 2004 — Green Bay 33, Seattle 27, at Green Bay in NFC Wild Card Game; Seahawks win toss. Morris returns kick to Seattle 33. Seahawks drive to Seattle 42. Rouen’s 44-yard punt returned by Chatman to Green Bay 26. Packers drive to Green Bay 31. Bidwell punts 35 yards to Seattle 34. Seahawks drive to Seattle 45. Hasselbeck’s pass to Bannister intercepted by Packers’ Harris and returned 52 yards for touchdown at 4:25.
  19. Jan. 10, 2004 — Carolina 29, St. Louis Rams 23, at St. Louis in NFC Divisional Playoff Game; Panthers win toss. Smart returns kick to Carolina 32. Panthers drive to St. Louis 27. Kasay’s 45-yard field-goal attempt no good. Rams take over at own 35 and drive to Carolina 35. Wilkins’ 53-yard field-goal attempt no good. Panthers take over at Carolina 43, drive to Carolina 47. Sauerbrun punts 40 yards to St. Louis 13. Rams drive to Carolina 38. Bulger’s pass intercepted by Manning at Carolina 35. Panthers drive to Carolina 31. First overtime ends. On first play of second overtime, Delhomme passes to Smith for 69-yard touchdown at 15:10.
  20. Jan. 11, 2004 — Philadelphia 20, Green Bay 17, at Philadelphia in NFC Divisional Playoff Game; Eagles win toss. Thrash returns kick to Philadelphia 28. Eagles drive to Philadelphia 24. Johnson punts 49 yards and Packers start at own 32 after holding penalty. Favre’s pass intercepted by Dawkins at Philadelphia 31 and returned to Green Bay 34. Eagles drive to Green Bay 13. Akers kicks 31-yard field goal at 4:48.
  21. Jan. 8, 2005 — New York Jets 20, San Diego 17, at San Diego in AFC Wild Card Game; Chargers win toss. Dwight returns kick to San Diego 26. Chargers drive to San Diego 35. Scifres punts 39 yards and ball is downed at the New York 26. Jets gain no yards. Gowin punts 41 yards. Parker loses 3 yards on return. San Diego starts on own 30. Chargers drive to New York 22. Kaeding’s 40-yard field-goal attempt no good. Jets drive to San Diego 10. Brien kicks 28-yard field goal at 14:55.
  22. Jan. 15, 2005 — Pittsburgh 20, New York Jets 17, at Pittsburgh in AFC Divisional Playoff Game; Jets win toss. Cotchery returns kick to New York 31. Jets drive to New York 41. Gowin punts 54 yards. Randle El returns 8 yards to Pittsburgh 13. Steelers drive to New York 15. Reed kicks 33-yard field goal at 11:04.
  23. Jan. 14, 2007 — Chicago 27, Seattle 24, at Chicago in NFC Divisional Playoff Game; Seahawks win the toss. Burleson returns kickoff 25 yards to Seahawks 30. Plackemeier punts 18 yards. Drive begins at Bears 34. Gould kicks 49-yard field goal at 4:53.
  24. Jan. 20, 2008 — New York Giants 23, Green Bay 20, at Green Bay in NFC Championship Game; Packers win toss. K. Robinson returns kick 19 yards to Green Bay 26. Favre pass intercepted by Webster and returned 9 yards to Green Bay 34. Tynes kicks 47-yard field goal at 12:34.
  25. Jan. 3, 2009 — San Diego 23, Indianapolis 17, at San Diego in AFC Wild Card Game; Chargers win toss. Sproles returns kick 31 yards to San Diego 25. Sproles scores on 22-yard touchdown run at 6:12.
  26. Jan. 10, 2010 — Arizona 51, Green Bay 45, at Arizona in Wild Card Game; Packers win toss. Touchback. Rodgers is sacked and fumbles, recovered by Dansby for 17-yard touchdown at 1:18.
  27. Jan. 24, 2010 — New Orleans 31, Minnesota 28, at New Orleans in NFC Championship Game; Saints win toss. Thomas returns kick 40 yards. Drive begins at Saints 39. Hartley kicks 40-yard field goal at 4:45. (Minnesota would have had opportunity to possess under 2010 rule)
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