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Greason: NFL needs to change its overtime rule

| Friday, February 10, 2017

Super Bowl LI was decided by a coin toss. And that should never be the case in a championship.

Maybe I’m just saying this because I am one of the many Americans who do not like the Patriots, and I’m bitter that they will go down in history as having played one of the best second halves in history.

But I genuinely feel that if the Falcons had been in the same position — winning the coin toss, marching down the field for a touchdown and lifting the Lombardi trophy — I would feel the same way.

Yes, the Patriots were able to win the Super Bowl because they played a fantastic second half. Tom Brady put on an MVP-worthy performance for 30 minutes. A 31-0 run to win in overtime and overcoming a 25-point deficit deserves a trophy. But the Falcons never had the chance to put points on the board in that overtime period simply because their one-in-two chance of winning the coin toss did not go their way.

Sure, the Falcons defense could have stopped Bill Belichick’s and handed the ball back into the capable hands of Matt Ryan. And there’s a perfectly good chance that, despite the scoring drought in the second half, Atlanta also could have marched down the field and scored, had they stopped New England or won the coin toss.

In my mind, the idea of sudden-death overtime is unfair. It leaves the results of the game up to the luck of the draw, instead of skill.

The Super Bowl should be won by whichever team plays the better game. In Super Bowl LI, the Falcons took the cake in the first half, whereas the second half was all about New England. The fact that the game came down to overtime is great. It added suspense to a game of runs. It was unprecedented. But it would have been better if the two teams had had an equal opportunity to wind up in the endzone.

The NFL needs to change its overtime rules. Whether it moves to a modified version of the NCAA overtime procedure or starts fresh, it needs to ensure that the result of the game is governed by the skill of both teams’ offensive and defensive prowess or the clock, as opposed to a 50-50 shot at winning a coin toss and a prayer that the losing team’s defense will be able to come up with a stop.

It is worth pointing out that the NFL postseason overtime rules do allow for both to have the same number of possessions during overtime, unless the first team with the ball scored a touchdown. This is what happened Sunday in Houston. The Patriots won the coin toss and scored a touchdown, ended the game and handing them their fifth championship. But, this does not change the fact that the Falcons could have done the same thing, given the opportunity.

While the coin flip matters in college overtime, as it can give one team a slight strategic advantage, it certainly does not decide the outcome of the game. The way the NFL postseason overtime rules stand at the moment, the winner of the coin toss has a significantly greater chance of winning the game.

The NFL needs to rethink its postseason overtime procedure to assure the best team wins. I’m not saying the Patriots were not the better team this year. But the Falcons deserved the chance to prove themselves as well.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Elizabeth Greason

Elizabeth is a senior studying civil engineering from New York, NY (yes, the actual city). She is a proud resident assistant in McGlinn Hall and is a die-hard Mets and Giants fan. She is currently serving as assistant managing editor of The Observer and she also has an obsession with golf that is bordering on unhealthy.

Contact Elizabeth