13 seconds remaining in the divisional round of the 2021-2022 NFL season and Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills have Patrick Mahomes on the ropes. With a long field in front of him and facing a deficit of 3 points, Mahomes needs to drive the Kansas City Chiefs into field goal range. After a quick completion to Tyreek Hill, 8 seconds remain on the clock. Mahomes snaps the ball and quickly finds Travis Kelce who is able to run deep into Bill’s territory. The Chiefs kick the field goal, and one of the most competitive games of football in recent history is headed to overtime. Little did Josh Allen know, one single coin toss was standing between him and the field. Kansas City wins the coin toss and Allen is forced to watch from the bench as Mahomes picks apart the Buffalo defense, scores a touchdown and celebrates his fourth consecutive trip to the AFC Championship. It is after historic events like this that make the NFL community ask the age-old question: Can the NFL overtime rules be changed?
The NFL’s rules for its 15-minute overtime period in the postseason state that “both teams must have the opportunity to possess the ball once during the extra period unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on its initial possession, in which case it is the winner.” However, most teams that lose the coin toss don’t ever get that opportunity. In fact, coin toss winners are 10-1, winning 90.9 percent of overtime contests in the playoffs. Furthermore, seven of the 10 winners scored the sudden-death touchdown on the opening drive, demonstrating how much influence the coin toss really has. Should a heads or tails call actually determine the ending of a game with such high stakes? Most of the NFL community doesn’t think so and demands change. However, there is a group of fans who argue that it’s just a part of the game.
A smaller population of the NFL fan base tends to disagree with this need for change. In fact, they have one very simple suggestion to all the NFL teams that have complained about these overtime rules: Play better defense. These teams claim they don’t ever get an opportunity on the field to win the game, however, all it takes is four stops to get your quarterback and offense back on the field. While the Bills are complaining they didn’t have a fair chance to win the game, rather than blaming the coin, some believe that they need to put the blame on the defense. After all, they did let Mahomes throw for 177 yards after the 2-minute warning and lead an eight-play, 75-yard drive ending with a Travis Kelce touchdown and subsequently ending the game.
The Buffalo Bills are certainly still hurting after this loss, however, Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs know exactly how they feel. After losing to Brady’s 2018 Patriots on the first drive of overtime, the Chiefs lobbied the NFL in an attempt to change this very rule. Their proposal mandated that both teams have an opportunity on offense, regardless of the result of the first drive. They also wanted to eliminate the second coin toss altogether and stick with the pre-kickoff coin toss to decide possession. NFL executives were hesitant to support this proposal and it was soon tabled due to a lack of support. The Buffalo Bills are definitely wishing they had supported this proposal four short years ago. Since then, the Ravens and Eagles have also made the case for altered and improved NFL overtime rules. However, it was to no avail.
After the heartbreaking loss in 2018, Mahomes was on the right side of the rule this time and he certainly isn’t complaining.
“Yeah I mean it worked out well for us this time,” Mahomes said to a local TV station WDAF. “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, but I’ll take the win this time. Obviously, it hurt me last time. But all you can do is play the way the rules are explained and that’s what we did today.”
Teams are becoming desperate to minimize the impact of the coin toss and this has led to a few different NFL overtime proposals. Part of the fanbase wants the NFL to adopt college football overtime rules. The college football overtime rules call for a two-possession series in which each team has an opportunity to play offense and defense starting on the 25-yard line. The team that scores the most points during regulation and overtime wins the game. If the game is still tied after an overtime period, another overtime period is played. However, if the game were to go to a third overtime period, teams are required to run a two-point conversion in an attempt to end the game. This overtime format is seen to be vastly more entertaining for the fans and fairer for the players.
Another proposal looks to replace the coin toss before overtime games with field goal kicks. This proposal would have the team that lost the game’s initial coin toss decide on a certain distance for a field goal to be kicked. Then, the team that won the game’s initial coin toss would have the opportunity to decide if they would like to kick the field goal or defer. The team that ends up kicking has one chance to make the field goal and get the ball first in overtime, otherwise, the opposing team gets it. While the team that loses possession will still have to play strong defense to win the game, this proposal at least eliminates the element of chance and randomness that comes with a coin toss. Instead, it will come down to the skill and talent of the team. And isn’t that the whole point at the end of the day?
While these NFL overtime rules come into question every few years, only time will tell if the NFL is planning on inciting this necessary change. The case has been made many times now and the reasoning is quite clear, however, the NFL remains hesitant. In the meantime, the only suggestion that can be made is to play better defense or win the coin toss. So, if you were in Josh Allen’s cleats, heads, or tails?