The Josh Allen Effect – NFL Owners Approve New Postseason Overtime Rules

Photograph[i]

The majority of NFL owners officially approved a change in the postseason overtime rules that will guarantee each team a possession,[ii] unless the team kicking off to start the overtime period scores a safety on the receiving team’s initial possession.[iii] Now, even if a touchdown is scored by the team that possesses the ball first in overtime, the second team will get a chance to possess the ball, too. Additionally, according to the new rule, the team to possess the ball second in overtime will get unlimited time to score a touchdown.[iv] For example, if the first team scores a touchdown and takes 9 minutes off the clock, the second team would get the ball with 6 minutes left. But, if the second team is still driving and time runs out, the game isn’t over but will continue into a second overtime period.[v] However, if the score remains tied after each team has had a possession, the game will be decided in the traditional sudden death fashion.[vi]

This overtime rule change was prompted largely by the public outcry after the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Buffalo Bills in overtime during this year’s divisional playoff round with an opening-possession touchdown. The outcry from that game’s ending came not because the Chiefs won, but because the Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who had been phenomenal all game, didn’t even get a chance to touch the ball as the Chiefs won the coin toss and scored a touchdown on the first possession, ending the game. If both teams had been guaranteed a possession, the outcome may not have changed, but at least Allen would have had the chance to tie it or even win it. Even the Chiefs head coach Andy Reid stated that he thought the now-former overtime rules were unfair.[vii]

The Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles originally proposed a mandatory possession for both teams in all games, regular season and postseason, but Competition Committee Chairman, Rich McKay, reported that there was not enough support among the owners to pass the rule unless it was amended to the postseason only.[viii] Thus, a comprise was reached and the new overtime rule will be limited to just the postseason, while the rule for regular-season games, which allows the team with the first possession to win if it scores a touchdown, will remain unchanged. Bills general manager Brandon Beane stated that he was in favor of the postseason-only modification.[ix]

League data shows that the problem with the overtime rules that plagued the Bills postseason run was principally found in the postseason. Since the 2012 regular season, when the current requirement for an opening-possession touchdown was instituted, teams winning the coin toss have won 50% of the time.[x] But, in the postseason, there is a much greater win disparity. Over the past decade, seven of the last twelve overtime postseason games have been won on the opening possession, and ten of those games were won by the team that won the coin toss[xi]; the only two teams over the past decade to lose in the postseason after winning the overtime coin toss were the 2021 Chiefs and the 2018 New Orleans Saints.[xii]

Ultimately, the final voting tally for the new overtime rule was 29-3, with the Bengals, Vikings, and Dolphins voting against the rule change.[xiii] However, the votes in favor of the new overtime rule cleared the benchmark set by the league’s protocols, which requires that a rule proposal garner a minimum of 24 votes in favor to pass.[xiv]

In addition to the above-mentioned rule change, the NFL owners also approved one other rule change and one resolution. The other rule change involved the owners making official a 2021 experiment designed to increase recovery rates for onside kicks by adjusting the positioning of the setup zone.[xv] The 2021 adjustment helped increase the rate of onside kick recoveries from 7.8% in 2020 to 13.5% in 2021.[xvi] Meanwhile, the new resolution changed the league’s tampering policy to allow teams to retain non-high-level executives pursuing a secondary football executive position through the draft.[xvii]


[i] https://www.wivb.com/sports/buffalo-bills/josh-allen-was-the-1-fantasy-football-quarterback-again/

[ii] https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/33622482/teams-assured-possession-playoff-rules-change

[iii] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/nfl-overtime-posession-coin-toss-new-rules-playoffs/

[iv] https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/three-teams-voted-against-the-nfls-new-overtime-rule-including-one-that-played-in-super-bowl-lvi/

[v] Id.

[vi] https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/33622482/teams-assured-possession-playoff-rules-change

[vii] https://sports.yahoo.com/nfl-owners-approve-new-overtime-rules-but-for-playoffs-only-170656186.html

[viii] https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/33622482/teams-assured-possession-playoff-rules-change

[ix] Id.

[x] Id.

[xi] Id.

[xii] https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/three-teams-voted-against-the-nfls-new-overtime-rule-including-one-that-played-in-super-bowl-lvi/

[xiii] Id.

[xiv] Id.

[xv] https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/33622482/teams-assured-possession-playoff-rules-change

[xvi] Id.

[xvii] Id.

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