It’s the worst rule in pro sports. The NFL overtime rule. It says that if the receiving team scores a touchdown, they win. If the receiving team turns it over, punts, or kicks a field goal, the opposing team gets to match or win. It’s asinine. It’s like if Bud Selig ruled that extra inning games in the MLB would be won by the first team to hit a home run, and that it doesn’t matter which team hits first.
Believe it or not, the current format is actually an improvement on the old one. Before 2011, the first team to score at all was the winner. When the NFL changed its overtime rules, I have no idea why they didn’t just fix the problem entirely, because even under the “improved” format, the overtime rule has ruined some of the best playoff games since 2011. Here are the 3 big ones that come to mind.
Super Bowl 51
We all know that the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead and lost in overtime, but many of us forget that the MVP didn’t even get a chance to match the Patriots’ touchdown.
In the regular season, Matt Ryan had thrown for nearly 5,000 yards, 38 touchdowns, and only 7 interceptions. His passer rating was the 5th best in NFL history–ahead of even 2013 Peyton Manning– and his QBR was the 6th best in NFL history. He had thrown for a combined 700 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions in the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl.
But he never touched the ball in overtime. Tom Brady and the Patriots marched down the field and scored a touchdown, all while the MVP was forced to watch helplessly from the sidelines. Sad!
2014 NFC Championship Game
Another game, another MVP robbed of a chance in overtime.
Rodgers took his Packers into dreaded Seattle when the Legion of Boom was at its peak, and had his team up 16-0 at halftime. The Seahawks fought back, however, and eventually tied the game after a miracle onside kick recovery.
And in overtime, the league’s best quarterback could only sit and watch as Russell Wilson chucked a Hail Mary touchdown to Jermaine Kearse. Ballgame.
2016 NFC Divisional Round
Rodgers has been the biggest victim of this bogus rule. It was never more obvious than when the Packers faced the Cardinals in the 2016 Divisional Round.
After what had been a defensive battle, Green Bay was down 7 with five seconds left, with the ball 41 yards from the end zone. Rodgers had already pulled off a fairy tale Hail Mary early the season, and it felt inevitable that Jeff Janis would come down with Rodgers’ heave as time expired.
But that was the last time we’d see Rodgers take the field that season. Larry Fitzgerald punched it in for Arizona, and again, we were left wondering “what if”.