The NFL decided to change its overtime format for the postseason, but will the rule alterations really make a big impact?
From now on, every playoff team will get a chance to touch the football in an overtime affair.
On Tuesday, the league passes an amendment to the rulebook, stating in a postseason game, both teams will have a chance to possess the ball regardless of the first possession’s outcome. However, should both teams score the same amount of points after each has the ball once, it becomes sudden death.
This rule has been bantered about for years, but was pushed to the forefront after the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs played an instant classic in the AFC Divisional round, which ended when the Chiefs won the coin toss and won the tilt with an opening-drive touchdown.
Bills general manager Brandon Beane talked about the rule change in the immediate aftermath of the announcement, per ESPN:
“I mean, I think we thought about it before when it came up when Kansas City lost to New England [in the 2018 AFC Championship Game]. I was watching that game going, man, you got a young [Patrick] Mahomes versus a veteran in [Tom] Brady and you never got to see Mahomes get his chance. Brady just took them right down the field. I think it happened in the [Super Bowl LI], when the Patriots won.
“So there was sometimes where you’re like, man, I wonder what would’ve happened if the other team would’ve got the ball. Definitely when it happens to you focus a little bit more on it.”
However, with sudden death coming after one possession apiece, does the rule make a huge difference?
In the case of Bills-Chiefs, it’s hard to imagine the Bills wouldn’t have answered, and then Kansas City would have gone down and scored again, only needing a field goal.
Then again, the case can be made for strategy. Maybe Buffalo or Kansas City goes for a two-point conversion, trying to either ensure a sudden-death scenario should its defense fail, or to win the game outright if scoring when down seven points.
It’s fascinating, and we’ll see it play out in the upcoming years. What we won’t see is a repeat to the way Buffalo ended its season, with a star quarterback standing hopelessly on the sideline. And that, more than anything else, is what the NFL wants to avoid.