NFL overtime is one of THE must-watch moments in all of sports with two teams in a do-or-die scenario attempting to grab a vital win – no wonder the rules matter so much.
Never is that battle for supremacy more gripping than in the playoffs or post-season with the road to the Super Bowl nearing a thrilling conclusion.
The stakes are high and the rules really matter, which is why one playoff game in particular in 2021 ended up bringing a major change to the way things will work for 2022.
When Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the brave Buffalo Bills 42-36 in a shootout for the ages at Arrowhead Stadium, NFL fans the world over were on the edge of their seats. The morning after many of them were calling for changes to the overtime rules.
That didn’t help Buffalo quarterback and MVP hopeful Josh Allen back then – he came away from his greatest ever performance with nothing but the pain of an agonising defeat. But it will help players like him in the future.
Here is the story of how the overtime rules were changed, and what it means for the 2022 season.
What are the rules for NFL overtime in 2022?
The first thing to say is that what happened in Arrowhead on that unforgettable night in January did nothing to change the overtime rules for regular-season games. It absolutely did though for post-season play though.
From now on, the new overtime rules for NFL playoff or post-season games mean both teams will get chance to touch the ball on offense. No team will lose without that.
The old rules meant that a team could win immediately in overtime by scoring a touchdown, but not any more. Now the other team will get a shot to respond. If they do and match with a touchdown of their own, only then will we go to sudden death.
NFL regular-season overtime rules will remain the same, with sudden death starting immediately. If a team possesses the ball first and scores a touchdown – game over.
So why did the NFL change the overtime rules?
Commissioner Roger Goodell claims the decision was driven by statistics – namely that 7 of 12 playoff games played under the old rules had been won on the very first possession.
Personally we believe there’s every chance it was the storm of protest from around America that brought the change more than anything else. Whatever, the teams voted it though by a 29-3 margin.
How long does NFL overtime last?
In the regular season, NFL games have a 10-minute overtime period. It had been 15 minutes until 2017, when the rules were changed with player safety in mind. If no team wins the game in that 10-minute period, the game ends in a tie. Each team receives two timeouts in overtime and there are no challenges allowed – all reviews are initiated by booth officials.
The post-season of course is different. Overtime periods are 15 minutes and there are multiple periods if necessary until one team finally wins. Each team receives three timeouts per half (two 15-minute periods) and no challenges are allowed. All reviews are initiated by booth officials.
During the post-season there are two-minute breaks between each overtime period.
Has the Super Bowl ever gone to overtime?
The answer is just once – when the New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in Super Bowl LI, an epic game which aired live on Sky Sports NFL in the UK.
That’s the game remember when the Falcons appeared home and hosed when they held a 28-3 lead, before Tom Brady brought the Pats roaring back for an incredible win on the back of 31 unanswered points.
The game was played at NRG Stadium in Houston Texas on February 5, 2017.
What is the NFL’s longest ever overtime game?
We have to go back a long way for this one, to Christmas Day 1971 to be exact.
The Miami Dolphins finally defeated the Kansas City Chiefs 27-24 in sudden-death overtime after a game which lasted an astonishing 82 minutes and 40 seconds.
Garo Yepremian eventually kicked a 37-yard field goal to win it for the Fish, after a game which lasted the full 60 minutes of regulation and then a gruelling 22 minutes and 40 seconds of overtime.