The overtime rules that referees and players couldn't keep straight in the playoffs are coming to the regular season.
League owners voted on Wednesday to change overtime rules for the whole season. The postseason overtime that was implemented in 2010 will now be used all year. Instant sudden death is out, with a few caveats.
Each team must possess or have the opportunity to possess the ball unless the team that has the ball first scores a touchdown on its initial possession. Play continues in sudden death until a winner is determined, and the game automatically ends upon any score (by safety, field goal, or touchdown).
In layman's terms: As Tim Tebow and Demaryius Thomas showed in the AFC wild-card game, a team will win if it scores a touchdown on the first possession of overtime. If a field goal is scored, the game continues and begins as sudden death.
Even though the playoff system was used twice in the 2012 playoffs, we've yet to see the new rules come into effect. Both overtime games wouldn't have been any different even if the old rules had been in place. The Broncos-Steelers contest finished on the first possession. The 49ers-Giants championship game extended into multiple possessions.
The downsides of the new system will be evident once the following scenario occurs: The receiving team kicks a field goal, the other team gets the ball back, converts a do-or-die fourth down on the next possession and goes on to win the game with a touchdown. The inherent advantage of going second, and getting four downs to stay in a game, is an advantage on par with receiving the ball first in sudden death.
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