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'It kind of stinks': Chiefs, Bills shrug off controversy over NFL overtime rules

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Travis Kelce scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime. But even he knew it.

“It was a situation where whoever had the ball last was going to win that game,” the Chiefs Pro Bowl tight end said after Kansas City edged Buffalo 42-36 in an AFC divisional-round matchup. “Both offenses were hitting up and down the field just about all night.”

Buffalo’s offense never got the field in overtime.

Because the Bills lost the coin toss and gave up a touchdown. Such are NFL overtime rules.

“Each team must possess, or have the opportunity to possess, the ball,” the NFL rule book reads. “The exception: if the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown on the opening possession.”

Sunday, the Chiefs engineered an eight-play touchdown drive in overtime featuring six-of-six passing by Patrick Mahomes. The overtime drive was sufficient to seal the Chiefs’ win and their fourth straight AFC championship game berth. It also ended Buffalo’s special season, the Bills’ playoff chances extinguished at Arrowhead Stadium for a second straight year.

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce celebrates after beating the Buffalo Bills in overtime in an NFL divisional playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022 in Kansas City, Mo.
Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce celebrates after beating the Buffalo Bills in overtime in an NFL divisional playoff football game, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022 in Kansas City, Mo.

The Bills had chances to win late, scoring 15 points in the final 2 minutes of regulation and even mounting a lead with 13 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Bills also, as the visiting team, had the chance to select heads or tails for the overtime coin toss. Bills quarterback Josh Allen, to his misfortune, proclaimed “tails.”

The coin flashed heads.

Mahomes and company capitalized.

The coin-toss relevance favored the Chiefs in a game of prolific offenses and struggling defenses. But Kansas City nonetheless understood how capricious the rules can feel. Just three years had elapsed since they carried the Patriots to overtime in the AFC championship game. Eerily similar to Sunday night’s game, the Chiefs had lost their lead in the final minute of regulation. That year, the Patriots scored a touchdown to take a 31-28 lead with 39 seconds to play. Mahomes completed two chunk plays to set up kicker Harrison Butker’s 39-yard field goal attempt just 31 seconds later. Then came that foreboding coin toss. New England won and quarterback Tom Brady wrapped the game on the first drive.

“It worked out well for us this time, but sometimes whenever you got two teams going back and forth like you’re going, it kind of stinks that you don’t get to see the other guy go,” Mahomes said. “I’ll take the win this time. Obviously it hurt me last time.

“All you can do is play the rules the way the rules are explained. That’s what we did today.”

The Bills understood that “kind of stinks” feeling, head coach and players alternately describing their sentiment as “devastated,” “hurt” and “sick to our stomachs.” But they, too, accepted the series of events that propelled them to the whim of overtime chance. Bills coach Sean McDermott blamed himself for not better strategizing the final 13 seconds of regulation, and Allen said he knows to beware any time left on the clock.

“I’m thinking: ‘It’s Pat Mahomes on the other side,’” Allen said. “They made some good plays there at the end, and unfortunately the coin toss went the way it went.”

MORE: 32 things we learned from 2021 NFL divisional playoff round

NFL DIVISIONAL ROUND WINNERS, LOSERS: Chiefs coaches were brilliant; overtime rules stink

Allen stopped short of complaining about the disproportional significance a probability question – heads or tails – might have had on the game’s outcome. Sure, he believed in himself and his offense after a day in which he accounted for four touchdowns and 397 yards of offense, including a team-high 68 rushing yards on 11 carries. But Allen understood, like Mahomes has experienced firsthand in a span of four postseason runs, that the same rules that bit him could one day favor his offensive prowess.

“The rules are what they are, and I can’t complain about that,” Allen said. “Because if it was the other way around, we’d be celebrating, too. So, it is what it is at this point. And we just didn’t make enough plays tonight.

“We’ve just got to use this as fuel. Fuel for the fire.”

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL overtime rule 'kind of stinks,' but Chiefs, Bills shrug it off