NFL overtime rules change: Possessions for each team required in postseason starting in 2022

NFL overtime rules change
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, an NFL overtime rules change has been approved by a majority of the team owners on Tuesday, ensuring that each team in a postseason game will get possession of the ball regardless of what happens with the first possession of the extra period.

These rules will only apply to the postseason, not the regular season, as league owners passed the proposal by a vote of 29-3. The only teams who voted against the ruling were the Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, and Cincinnati Bengals.

If the score remains tied in the postseason overtime scenario, the game will be decided in the usual sudden-death format — or the team to score first in any capacity wins.

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This changes the previous postseason overtime rules used in the postseason — instituted in 2010 — dictating that if a team with the opening possession scores a touchdown, the game is over. Twelve postseason games have been played under that format and seven have been decided on the opening possession.

Jan 23, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) scores the game-winning touchdown against the Buffalo Bills during overtime in the AFC Divisional playoff football game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The most recent example came in a wild AFC Divisional Round tilt between the Chiefs and Buffalo Bills, which Kansas City won on an opening overtime drive 42-36 after driving 75 yards following a win of the coin toss. Buffalo never had a chance to reply.

“It’s the only postseason overtime games we’ve had,” NFL competition committee chairman Rich McKay said (h/t ESPN). “It’s 12 years, 12 games. Those 12 games are as important to those franchises as any they are ever going to play in their history.

“So to us, yes, it’s not a sample size of 25 or 30 games, but it’s the only sample size we have and each one ends somebody’s season. So for us, this was something we thought we needed to change.”