The great OT debate

Football fans express frustrations with NFL regulations following conference championships, is change imminent for the league?

This past weekend created a whirlwind of emotions for football fans, warranting a harsh critique of the NFL’s rulebook from both championship games. 

Earlier on Sunday the New Orleans Saints hosted the Los Angeles Rams, resulting in a Rams win of 26-23 in overtime (OT). 

NFL officials came under fire for a missed pass interference penalty in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game and fans’ frustrations grew when the OT regulations led to an anti-climactic AFC Championship result.

The Kansas City Chiefs faced off against the New England Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium, a game whose first half looked like a certain victory for the Patriots. 

Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady’s 80-yard opening drive set the tone of the Patriot’s strong offense, running twice as many plays as the Chiefs through the game, but fighting to keep the lead. 

After Chiefs Quarterback Patrick Mahomes pushed the offense 48 yards in two plays at the end of the fourth quarter, kicker Harrison Butker kicked a 38-yard field goal that sent the game into overtime.

For OT in the NFL, the rulebook mandates that play continues in 15 minute periods until a winner is declared. It states that each team gets a possession unless the first possessing team (winner of the coin toss) scores a touchdown or safety. 

Because of this rule, Tom Brady’s success in the coin toss allowed for them to score a touchdown and negate the Chief’s opportunity to put their MVP Quarterback on the field. 

Chiefs fans and NFL viewers alike expressed dismay at how a coin toss can take away one team’s opportunity for their offense to score, favoring the team who wins the coin toss.

In comparison, college football allows for each team to have possession and start at the the defense’s 25-yard line. If the score is still tied at the end of the first OT period, an additional period is played with starting possession switching between the teams. 

Some argue that this can cause an excessive amount of OT’s (the record of seven was set by Arkansas-Ole Miss in 2001 and has happened 3 times since), but the flip of this is that each team has equal opportunity to possess the ball. 

A coin toss is not a fair determinant of who has the obvious advantage in OT, which in the Chiefs vs. Patriots game, was the Patriots. 

I am not going to argue that the Chiefs would have won had they had the opportunity to possess the ball in OT, as that is a biased speculation, but it is truly disappointing that one of the most explosive players in recent NFL history was not able to play in the OT of his conference championship.

Whoever wins the coin toss going into OT not only gets unfair advantage by ensuring their offense gets field time, but the opposing team’s defense is often exhausted from playing 60 minutes of regulation. 

The results of this AFC Championship game has caused uproar on Twitter, even from NFL players from other teams calling the rules “trash” (Torrey Smith, Carolina Panthers Wideout) and sports commentators urging the NFL to reevaluate their rulebook. 

The NFL has stated that they will discuss the pass-interference issues during the offseason but has not commented on the possibility of changing rules for OT.

It looks as though football fans will have to wait and see what they decide to do on two issues that have been contested by fans and franchises for years.

~Mara Tharp, Production Manager & Copy Editor~

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