The NFL implemented new postseason overtime rules beginning with the 2023 playoffs, introducing a significant change in strategy for teams heading into extra time.
Previously, the infamous ending of the Bills-Chiefs divisional round game, where the Chiefs won the coin toss in overtime and scored first to win 42-36, sparked the alteration in rules. This meant that the Bills never got a chance to possess the ball in the overtime period.
The new rule mandates that both teams must have an opportunity to possess the ball in overtime during the playoffs, eradicating the sudden death scenario that favored the team winning the toss and scoring on the first possession.
With the guaranteed offensive possession in overtime, coaches may now contemplate the unconventional tactic of deferring the choice to receive should they win the coin toss.
Opting to kick off to the opponent in overtime could provide the toss-winning team critical advantages. By deferring, the team would know exactly what it needs to win or tie the game, potentially securing victory with a defensive score or better field position after a stop.
In college football, it’s common practice to win the toss and elect to kick. However, in the NFL, it has been a rare strategy. Since 2010, out of 12 playoff overtime games, the team winning the coin toss emerged victorious in 10 instances. Yet, only 7 out of the 12 won on the first possession without the opposing team possessing the ball.
A notable instance of a team choosing to kick after winning the OT coin toss occurred in a 2019 Steelers-Ravens matchup during the regular season. Mike Tomlin opted to kick to the Ravens, aiming to leverage defensive strengths and field position.
The revised playoff overtime rules now feature 15-minute periods, allowing each team a fair chance. The next score rule applies if both teams score on their opening possessions or if the game remains tied after each team has had a possession.
These modified rules, born from the NFL’s commitment to fairness and excitement, are set to influence playoff strategies and potentially alter the dynamics of crucial postseason showdowns.
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