The finish Sunday night of what some are calling the most exciting NFL game of all time has prompted renewed calls for the league to change its overtime rules.
Under the current set-up, modified several times over the years, the team that wins the coin toss is the only one guaranteed a possession in the extra period. If that team scores a touchdown on that first possession, the game is over. If it doesn’t score or only kicks a field goal, the other team gets a chance to have the ball.
Some say the rules are inequitable. They point to the fact that, since the NFL adopted its current overtime set-up in 2010, the team winning the coin toss has won 10 out of 11 playoff games that went into overtime. Seven of these ended in walk-off touchdowns on the opening drive, as it did for the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday in their improbable 42-36 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
We like the overtime rules just as they are.
The first reason is, although there is an advantage in winning the coin toss, the outcome of the overtime is not guaranteed by it. Of those 11 playoff games that went into overtime, on four occasions the team that didn’t win the toss did get at least one chance on offense.
Second, football is not just a game of offense. If the team that doesn’t win the toss is not able to keep its opponent from driving down the field 75 yards with the game, and perhaps the season, on the line, maybe it doesn’t deserve to win.
Finally, would the games really be as exciting or as memorable without the sudden-death element. College football uses an equitable system for its overtime, but who remembers for long how those games ended?