NFL’s OT Rules: An easy fix for a broken system

Bills quarterback Josh Allen deserved a chance to answer the Chiefs in overtime Sunday night -- here's how the NFL can fix its OT rules.

Was Sunday night’s Bills-Chiefs Divisional Round playoff game the breaking point for the NFL’s broken overtime rules? The Kansas City Chiefs are in the AFC Championship Game, and the Buffalo Bills are home largely due to a function of luck. And that’s simply unfair to everyone.

Luck should not decide overtime playoff games

The Chiefs ran the last three plays of regulation (to tie the game) and all eight plays of overtime (to win) against a completely gassed Bills defense. It shouldn’t be surprising that arguably the best quarterback playing right now, Patrick Mahomes, would carve up a totally exhausted Bills defense for a game-winning touchdown.

But the way the rules were written — a touchdown at any time in overtime ends the game — robbed Josh Allen of the chance to answer. And answer he likely would have, considering he led the Bills to touchdowns on four of their last six possessions.

That didn’t happen, however, because the Chiefs won the toss and scored on their first possession. That system allowed luck to decide a marvelous, evenly played game. And that is a shame.

Dean Blandino, a FOX Sports rules analyst who was the league’s former VP of officiating, explained the NFL’s rationale for their overtime structure on Twitter late Sunday:

That’s not a bad idea, considering that — at least as of 2019 — the team that wins the toss (and almost always chooses to get the ball first) wins the game 52.7% of the time.

That’s a significant benefit. If the league is determined to keep the sudden-death component of the game, at least the advantage goes to the team that earned it on the field, not through chance.

How to fix the NFL’s overtime rules

But that still isn’t the fairest way to determine a winner. And it might not even be the most entertaining. The Chiefs were the home team Sunday, so they would have gotten the ball first in overtime under Blandino’s system. There should be no scenario in which Allen and the Bills didn’t have a chance to answer.

The NFL system — which is designed to give offenses a huge advantage over the defense — robbed Buffalo a chance to get its best player on the field at the most critical point of the season. No other sport would do something so ludicrous.

Here’s our solution

If a game is tied after regulation in playoff games, simply play another full 15-minute period, and whoever is winning after that extra period wins the game. It works well for soccer. Why not for American football?

And in the off chance that the game remains tied through 75 minutes, keep playing until someone scores. If you have the ball on third-and-5 at your own 40 when time expires in OT, you get the ball on third-and-5 at your own 40 when the next period begins. If you score first, you win. But if the other team scores, you lose.

While some will bring up the player safety aspect of that much more football, remember: OT games are relatively rare. Overtime games in the playoffs are even rarer. We agree that the current rule is fine for the regular season. But slightly more risk — and potentially a lot more high-level football — is OK if it means the best team actually advances in the best tournament in all of sports.

Adam Beasley is the National NFL Analyst and Insider for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.