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NFL overtime solution: Keep playing!

Douglas Fritz • Jan 24, 2019 at 4:49 PM

Majorly flawed. That’s the best way to describe the NFL’s overtime setup.

And it seems like everybody is trying to fix it the wrong way. The solution is so simple it has been overlooked like a bunch of trees blocking the view of the forest.

When Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to a game-winning overtime touchdown in Sunday’s AFC championship game, some commentators howled because poor Patrick Mahomes didn’t get to touch the ball in overtime. They said both teams need to get a chance to possess the ball in overtime.

Others defended the current system, pointing to what the Los Angeles Rams did in stopping Drew Brees. The Rams got a game-winning field goal from Greg Zuerlein and are headed to the Super Bowl.

But both of those viewpoints are wrong — especially for postseason purposes.

The simple answer? Keep playing!

After battling for four quarters with the score still deadlocked, why in the name of Roger Goodell does the game need to start over again? It makes no sense to bring the captains back to the center of the field, have a coin flip, pretend it’s 0-0 and start again. Perhaps in an attempt to counteract the absurdity, the NFL decided if you score a touchdown on the first drive, you win. If you don’t, it becomes sudden death.

What? Why?

Let’s fix it for them. At the end of regulation, there should be a break of whatever length the players’ association deems is necessary for everybody to catch their breath. Then the game should resume under the sudden-death rule.

When Kansas City drove to tie the game against New England, kicking a field goal with 11 seconds left, the Patriots had basically no time to score again. But it was New England’s possession. Why potentially take the possession away from the Patriots and have a coin flip?

For Kansas City to retain possession, it would have needed to try an onside kick — which this year had about an eight percent chance of success. Instead, because of the current overtime setup, the Chiefs were awarded a 50-50 chance of getting the ball back with a coin toss.

Why does the NFL punish the team that is leading? It is a greater accomplishment to tie a game than to build a lead?

If a team kicks a game-tying field goal or scores a tying touchdown with no time left on the clock in regulation, why should it have a chance to get the next possession?

New strategies would enter the game if overtime only signaled the beginning of sudden death — likely increasing the amount of 2-point conversion attempts near the end of regulation. A great offensive team with a poor defense would almost surely go for a 2-point conversion with seconds remaining in a game where a tie would force overtime. Without the prospect of a coin flip giving the offense a second straight possession, going for the win would make more sense than accepting overtime and relying on the defense to prevent a game-ending field goal or touchdown.

Consider this scenario: In a tie game, a team begins a drive at its own 10-yard line. After six plays and two first downs, the clock runs out in regulation as the team reaches midfield with a second-down pass completion.

Under the current rules, the drive is nullified and the game starts all over again. Under the proposed rule, after a break, the team in possession faces third down in a sudden death environment. If the team fails to get the first down, a punt may not look so inviting when a field goal can end your season.

Hey NFL, keep playing!

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