2011 NFL Playoffs: Overtime Rule Changes Revisited

Way back in March of 2010, NFL owners voted to drastically alter the way playoff games which extend into overtime are decided. In the past, every overtime contest was a sudden-death situation. A coin toss determined the course and the first team to score won. Simple as that.

Teams would rarely, if ever, defer in overtime because - well - it would be stupid. If the object is to score first, it only makes sense to put your offense on the field. Since 1994, teams who received the ball first in OT have won 60 percent of the time. With the new overtime rules, which apply only to the playoffs, that could change.

If you're a bit old-school (like me) sudden-death probably never bothered you. Hey, if you don't win the toss, make the stop. Right? With the Bears set to enter the playoffs, we thought it would be a good time to revisit this issue. Here's a brief look:

Playoff Overtime Rules

Scenario 1: If Team A receives the kick and scores a touchdown on either that possession or drive, Team A wins the game. If Team A turns the ball over and Team B scores a touchdown on either that possession or drive, Team B wins the game.

Scenario 2: If Team A receives the kick and scores a field goal on that drive, Team B will be afforded an opportunity to possess. If Team B scores a touchdown, they win. If Team B scores a field goal, the game is extended and traditional sudden-death rules apply. If Team B fails to score, the game is over.

Scenario 3: If Team A performs an onside kick, whether to begin overtime or after scoring a field goal, and legally recovers the ball, Team B has had its opportunity to possess and a scoring drive (field goal or touchdown) by Team A wins the game.

With that said, more than a few questions are certainly raised. Let's face it, if I'm Team A and I lose the coin toss, I'm thinking very hard about trying for an onside kick. Why not? The only thing I have to lose is field position. If I kick downfield, my only shot is to stop Team B or hold them to a field goal. If I recover the onside kick, I could seal the deal with any score.

Or maybe, a team actually decides to defer in overtime. While I doubt it, there might be some strategy involved. Again, if I am Team A and I am confident that my defense can either force Team B to punt or hold them to a field goal, maybe I'm as equally confident in my offense to score. Not to mention, if Team B does get a field goal, I'm now forced to score; effectively, gaining an extra down. Think about it, Team B isn't going for it on fourth down and potentially putting me right in, or outside, field goal range for the win. If I HAVE to score on my drive, I have to go for it on fourth down. For all intents and purposes, I gain an extra down.

Bears Overtime Statistics

The Bears have won nine of their last 10 overtime games since 2002.

The Bears have 22 franchise overtime victories which is tied with the Denver Broncos for the most in the NFL.

Of those 22 victories, NONE have come on an opening-drive touchdown.

There have been 445 overtime games in regular-season play since 1974. Of those, the team that has won the coin toss is 239-189-17, a .537 winning percentage.

Both teams have had at least one possession in 70 percent of all overtime games.

In the Bears' only overtime playoff game in 2007, they lost the coin toss but forced the Seahawks to punt. The Bears drove 34 yards to set up Robbie Gould's game-winning 49-yard field goal.

Filed under: Playoffs

Tags: Chicago Bears, Overtime, Playoffs

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