The year was 2014. Broncos fans were heartbroken after suffering a humiliating loss in the Super Bowl to the Seattle Seahawks, 45-8. They wanted revenge and they had an early shot at it the following year. The Broncos came to Seattle during week 3 of the following season with a chip on their shoulder. However, by the start of the fourth quarter, it seemed that history was to repeat itself. The Broncos were in a hole once again, 17-3. This game would not end the same way that it had in February, the team decided. They scored a safety to bring the score to 17-5 early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Peyton Manning led his team down the field to score an additional seven unanswered points, making it a one-possession game at 17-12. The Seahawks were forced to punt on their next possession, giving Manning a chance to tie the game. Unfortunately for Denver, he threw an interception against the Legion of Boom and the Seahawks capitalized with a field goal, making it an eight-point game, 20-12. The Broncos received the ball with about a minute left in the game and led one of the most impressive drives in modern Broncos history against arguably the best defense since the 2000 Ravens. With about 20 seconds left in the game, they got the touchdown and the two-point conversion and the score was tied at 20-20. The game was going to go into overtime after the Broncos went on a run, outscoring the Seahawks 17-3 in the fourth quarter with the Broncos offense scoring 15 of those 17 points. Even though the Broncos offense was able to force overtime, the offense wasn’t able to see the field, because the Seahawks won the coin toss, took the ball, and scored the game-ending touchdown. The fact that the Broncos offense did not get to see the field due to the rules of overtime is but one of the many examples of why NFL overtime rules are flawed and need to be changed.
NFL Overtime Rules Must Be Fixed
The first and most important change that needs to be made is that the rules need to allow each team to match the other’s score, except in the event of a safety or a turnover that leads to a score. For example, in the Broncos-Seahawks game, the Broncos should have been able to get the ball and attempt to tie the game again. If they succeeded, then Seattle would have gotten another chance and on and on until one team gets stopped on fourth down or there is a turnover. Think about it this way: if there is a game that is a shootout, where either team can score touchdowns at will and they find themselves forcing overtime, it is pretty clear that whoever wins the coin toss will win the game. In effect, the coin toss decides the game, not the better team. In a league that plays a sixteen-game season, a game decided like that could have huge implications for the playoff picture. It is also unfair that after 60 minutes of football, it comes down to a coin toss and not really the actual playing of the game. Allowing each team one try to match the other’s score is the fairest way to decide overtime.
Of course, allowing each team a chance to match the previous score would effectively result in more ties. When combined with the new shortened overtime periods, the number of ties would sky-rocket. However, ties should also be legislated out of football. They’re confusing, both emotionally and mathematically. However, the league is not afraid of more ties because they are trying to minimize extra playing time, thereby minimizing injuries. On one side, the league wants less playtime and on the other, fans do not want ties. There is a simple solution, and it is already used in other sports.
After time expires in overtime, the game should become a shootout, similar to those in hockey and soccer. Pretend that the Broncos-Seahawks game finished overtime with a tied score and Seattle had possession of ball when the clock hit zero. Seattle would get the ball placed at the 2-point conversion line and would be given one untimed down to score in the end-zone. If they turn it over, then the Broncos score one point and the Seahawks lose. Should they not score, then the Broncos would get a chance to score. If the Broncos score, then they win. However, if the Seahawks scored on their try, then the Broncos would get one attempt to match the score. The first team to be unable to match the other’s score loses. Finally, if neither team scores on their first possession then it becomes sudden death and the next team to score wins the game. These changes would make the game more exciting, there would be no ties, and the league would only be extending the game by a few plays. Everybody wins.
Overtime needs to be fixed. Too many times have teams been robbed of a fair chance at victory due to a flawed section of the rulebook. Each team should get a chance to match each other’s scores and then there should be a shootout in lieu of a tie. Overall, since the beginning of football, overtime has been a flawed part of the game and these changes will make the world’s greatest sport even better.