Bobby Carpenter: The NFL And NCAA Both Have Overtime Issues

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While baseball might be considered America’s pastime, football has been America’s present and future for the last 30 years or so. Ratings for the NFL were through the roof this season, grabbing 91 of the top 100 telecasts for 2021. The ratings for the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs should be even better since all four games went down to the wire. 

How can the most popular sport in the United States have the worst overtime rules in all of sport? 

The 2021 College Football Playoff didn’t rate as high as it has in the past, but college football is still the second most popular sport in the country. Even when the Championship Game is highly regional with schools from the same conference, it still draws over 20 million viewers.

It’s safe to say that football has become one of the few “must watch” programs in the United States.

The NFL’s four Divisional Round playoff games were all fantastic. With lead changes, upsets and massive comebacks, they had all the ingredients for great entertainment.

While the first three games featured walk off field goals, it was the final game of the weekend that generated the most drama. The Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills produced a total of 25 points in the final two minutes of regulation. The NFL had its young star quarterbacks on centerstage… just the way they like it.

Unfortunately, the Chiefs won the toss in overtime and elected to take the ball. Mahomes then threw a touchdown pass to Kelce and won the game. Meanwhile, Josh Allen and the Bills never touched the football. For a league that prides itself on the importance of offense, defense, and special teams, an overtime ending like that can still feel hallow.

The same thing occurred in Super Bowl LI, when then Patriots had their famous 28-3 2nd half comeback, which was capped by Tom Brady scoring a touchdown in the first possession of overtime. Matt Ryan and the Falcons never got a chance to touch the ball, and though that’s the rule, it just feels wrong.

The NFL should certainly make some changes to its overtime policy, but the NCAA more or less has it right. Both teams get the ball at the 25 yard line with a chance to score. Then in the 2nd OT, both teams must attempt a 2-point conversion. However, the third OT and beyond are just trash since teams must then go back and forth attempting 2-point conversions. It’s the equivalent of ending a basketball game with a foul shooting contest.

How can the most popular sport in the United States have the worst overtime rules?

Regular season NFL games are one thing, but the playoffs are another. Look at the NHL and how they do it. During the regular season, their OT is 3 v 3 and then a shoot-out, if the game is still tied. However, in the playoffs, they play a full 5 v 5 until one team scores.

Is there a simple answer to the problem? Probably not, but putting 10 minutes on the clock and letting both teams play until the conclusion would be a good start — even if only for the playoffs. There has to be a better way to conclude a game for the most popular sport in the world.

Both the NFL and the NCAA need to find a better solution.

Written by Bobby Carpenter


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  1. OK, the #1 and only gripe about the end of KC/ Buffalo is “The Bills never got to touch the ball” so…

    simply amend the OT Rule to “regardless of what happens on the opening possession of OT, both teams WILL get to attempt a minimum of ONE offensive play.” …. so KC has to kick off to Bills … Bills fumble the KO – Game Over … Bills fumble first down snap… Game Over … Bills drive down and score TD … game THEN in Sudden Death. …. this ain’t Rocket Surgery guys.

  2. Sorry Mafia, the rule is the rule. It is better than the old sudden death rule where a field goal wins it.
    Changes could be made. Play out the 10 minute OT. Team with the most points wins. Still tied? Regular season it’s a tie. Post season play another full 10 minutes or make second OT sudden death.
    Not rocket science here.

  3. There’s a simple solution. Just treat OT like another full quarter of play. You have to hang on until the clock is zero. You just play it like another 4th quarter. You can reduce the time to 10 minutes to limit injury. Nothing else changes.

  4. I liked the college rules until they made the recent bone-headed rule change. I agree that each team deserves a possession, but the risk the NFL probably wants to avoid is the long game, though with today’s explosive offenses that is less likely. Injuries become a big risk, and the team that wins faces a more difficult following week game. If Gould had missed that FG for SF, that game might have gone on forever. Neither team was doing anything offensively.

  5. Just give both teams a change to play offense at least once. It will bring strategy into play as well. For example, if Chiefs score TD and kick extra point, then Bills score a TD, they can opt to kick extra point or go for 2. If they kick extra point, then next team that scores wins the game. Bills can’t complain if Chiefs get a winning FG because they had the option to go for 2.

  6. It is what it is. Defense gets paid as well. The Bills allowed the Chiefs to get into FG range with only 13 seconds left. OT is simply luck of the draw on the coin toss. The Chiefs went right down the field and scored a TD like it was a practice walk through. Don’t blame the OT rules. Blame the Bills defense.,

  7. The fact that overtime occurred at all defied the odds.

    With 39 seconds left in regulation, Burkhead rushed ahead for a 10-yard score to push New England in front, but with only one timeout and mere seconds to work with, Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes marched Kansas City deep into New England territory to set up Harrison Butker’s game-tying 39-yard field goal that sent the game to an extra period.

    Sound familiar? Except this time, Brady got the ball and scored in OT to win, with Mahomes sitting on the bench not touching the ball. Funny how quickly we forget… Or are we trying to get Josh Allen to be the face of the NFL now? Maybe it was karma for the Chiefs and Mahomes. But no one can dispute this, whether its 39 or 13 seconds, Mahomes creates magic! I did not hear one pundit mention this fabulous feat… Shame…

  8. The overtime rules are fine. Buffalo owns this. Their “defense” gave up 17 points on three straight posessions including letting KC go 50 yards in 10 seconds for the game tying field goal. The mafia choked on it……

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