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DelVecchio: NFL overtime rules don’t cut it

| Thursday, January 24, 2019

This past Sunday’s pair of overtime thrillers in the NFL Conference Championship games brought huge ratings to both CBS and Fox, and for good reason.

In the AFC, the New England Patriots advanced to their third straight Super Bowl after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 37-31 in overtime. The Brady and Belichick legend continues, as the two all-time greats will now be playing in their ninth Super Bowl as a QB/head coach duo.

Representing the NFC in Super Bowl LIII will be the Los Angeles Rams, who prevailed over the New Orleans Saints 26-23, also in overtime.

CBS’ coverage of the AFC Championship was the most watched conference title game in five years, averaging 53.9 million viewers, and Fox’s coverage of the earlier NFC title game saw an average of 44.08 million viewers. Together, the average viewership of 49 million viewers is the highest it’s been in three years.

With millions of people watching two fantastic, high-intensity, back-and-forth football games unfold, the spotlight was even brighter than usual for the NFL executives and commissioner Roger Goodell, especially after a blown call late in the NFC title game cost the Saints a trip to the Super Bowl.

Yet, the biggest issue with the NFL that was further illuminated on Sunday was the atrocity that is the NFL’s overtime rules.

While most people think that college football overtime rules are far superior to the NFL’s — a statement that I agree with — I also would argue that the college rules wouldn’t fit in the NFL. In college, both teams get a possession starting at their opponent’s 25-yard line and then either match what the team before them got or beat it. While this makes for an extremely exciting and entertaining overtime period, starting at the 25-yard line in the NFL isn’t the answer. Currently, the NFL overtime rules largely favors whoever wins the coin toss, as all the team needs is a touchdown and the game is over. On Sunday, the Chiefs lost in overtime without ever touching the football.

With this being said, change is definitely needed to the format. It just isn’t right that Patrick Mahomes, front runner for this year’s MVP award, didn’t even get to touch the ball in the overtime period. The question is how hard is it to make a simple rule change? And how cool would it have been to watch Mahomes try and piece together a touchdown drive to match Brady’s for the Chiefs?

The Chiefs lost five games this season, and in those five losses Mahomes and the Chiefs high-powered offense averaged 36.2 points per game, which almost seems unreal. While it’s true that the NFC Championship also went to overtime, and the L.A. Rams were able to pull out a win because they played some defense, this doesn’t detract from the fact that each offense should be able to have a possession in the overtime period. Maybe the Chiefs shouldn’t have allowed three third-and-10 conversions to lose, but then again maybe Mahomes shouldn’t have been watching it all unfold from the sideline.

Years back, the NFL took a step in the right direction when they made overtime fairer by eliminating the rule that the first team to score in general wins (so even a field goal wins it). Now, they must finish the job and ensure that both teams get the chance to possess the ball in the extra frame.

It is one thing to keep the current OT format in the regular season to limit the length of games, but in the playoffs, when it’s win or go home, the current rules just don’t cut it.

It’s not Brady’s fault for being Brady, and once again proving that he is the best to ever do it, but it’s wildly unfortunate that Mahomes didn’t get his shot to prove that he’s next in line.

I’m not sure what the best format for NFL overtime is, or what would be the next best step moving forward, but I am sure that the current format isn’t working, and it would be difficult to argue that change isn’t needed, especially after Sunday.

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

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