ESPN's Bottom Line - Version 2.0

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sudden Death Overtime is Dead, Long Live Sudden Death Overtime

1958 NFL Championship Game won by the Baltimore Colts in Sudden Death Overtime
This past Spring the NFL Competition Committee decided that the existing Sudden Death Overtime rules had become increasingly unfair and as nearly 60% of the games since 1994 were won by the team with the first possession.  This was due to several factors but primarily the change in kickoff placement from the 35 to the 30, which happened in 1994, and the overall improvement of NFL Kickers.  The Competition Committee decided it had to change the overtime rules after last season's NFC Championship Game was won by the Saints on the first possession of Overtime with a successful 40 yard field goal attempt.  

Although the new rules were made last spring, they decided that these new rules wouldn't begin until this season's Playoff games.The new rules end the practice of a first possession field goal ending a game.  Instead each team must possess or have the opportunity (be punted or kicked to) to possess the ball unless the team that has the ball first scores a touchdown on it's initial possession.  If the team being kicked to fumbles the punt or kickoff and the kicking team recovers it after they've scored a field goal, the game is over.  Only after both teams have had the opportunity to possess the ball does the game become sudden death.

This is definitely a step in the right direction and I do like that they've kept the sudden death aspect of the game alive with the changes.  However, I'm afraid that it really changes the dynamics of that 2nd kicking play whether it be an onside kick after a field goal or a punt.  It would seem to be in the kicking team's best interest to try and kick it in such a manner that they would have an opportunity to recover it.  I wonder if this will make teams who just made a field goal try to go for an onside kick in order to end the game rather than give the other team a chance.  These plays are certainly a lot more interesting now.  Hopefully it works out for the best and it will definitely take some getting used to seeing a game end on a random onside kick.

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