The NFL’s overtime rules have created a lot of discussion over the last 15 years. They remained relatively stagnant in the early stages of the NFL’s existence, but recently, the league and its 32 clubs have made changes to the protocol for both the regular season and postseason.
That includes a change that will take effect in 2022.
NFL overtime will no longer be sudden death during the postseason. Both teams will be guaranteed a possession after the league ratified a rule change pushing for this outcome.
The decision comes in the wake of the Bills vs. Chiefs playoff game in January, which saw Kansas City mount a game-tying drive with 13 seconds left in the fourth quarter and get the ball first in overtime. The Chiefs scored immediately and denied fans a chance to see a rebuttal from Josh Allen and the high-flying Buffalo offense.
What exactly are the NFL rules for 2022? Here’s a breakdown of how they will work and a brief history of the league’s notable rule changes over the last 12 years.
IYER: Breaking down the Bills’ 13-second collapse vs. the Chiefs
NFL overtime rules 2022
The NFL’s overtime rules were amended during the 2022 offseason. The major change is that during postseason play, both teams will have a chance to possess the ball during the overtime period. Previously, the team that received the ball could end the game by mounting a touchdown drive.
This change comes in the wake of the Chiefs’ overtime win over the Bills during the 2022 NFL playoffs. During that contest, the Chiefs mounted a 13-second drive to tie the Bills as the clock expired in regulation. Then, Kansas City won the coin toss and marched across the field against Buffalo’s defense before scoring a game-ending touchdown.
Many were disappointed that the Bills did not get to possess the ball in the 42-36 slugfest, and the NFL voted to adjust that protocol for the upcoming season. However, that will only apply to the postseason; the regular-season overtime rules will keep in place the same sudden-death protocols.
Below is a basic run-down of the NFL’s overtime rules for 2022, which can also be found here.
NFL overtime rules for preseason
- As of 2021, there is no overtime in NFL preseason games. Contests during which the scores are equal after regulation will end in a tie.
NFL overtime rules for regular season
- At the end of regulation, the referee will toss a coin to determine which team will possess the ball first in overtime. The visiting team captain will call the toss.
- No more than one 10-minute period will follow a three-minute intermission. Each team must possess, or have the opportunity to possess, the ball. The exception: if the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown on the opening possession.
- Sudden death play — where the game ends on any score (safety, field goal or touchdown) — continues until a winner is determined.
- Each team gets two timeouts.
- The point after try is not attempted if the game ends on a touchdown.
- If the score is still tied at the end of the overtime period, the result of the game will be recorded as a tie.
- There are no instant replay coach’s challenges; all reviews will be initiated by the replay official.
NFL overtime rules for playoff games
- If the score is still tied at the end of an overtime period — or if the second team’s initial possession has not ended — the teams will play another overtime period. Play will continue regardless of how many overtime periods are needed for a winner to be determined.
- There will be a two-minute intermission between each overtime period. There will not be a halftime intermission after the second period.
- The captain who lost the first overtime coin toss will either choose to possess the ball or choose which goal his team will defend, unless the team that won the coin toss deferred that choice.
- Each team will have an opportunity to possess the ball in overtime.
- Each team gets three timeouts during a half.
- The same timing rules that apply at the end of the second and fourth regulation periods also apply at the end of a second or fourth overtime period.
- If there is still no winner at the end of the fourth overtime period, there will be another coin toss, and play will continue until a winner is declared.
MORE: How Bills vs. Chiefs helped change the NFL’s playoff OT format
NFL overtime rule change proposals
NFL overtime remained largely untouched during the first 50-plus years of the league’s existence. However, in 2010, the NFL amended the sudden-death rule for playoff games. Since then, there have been plenty of changes and proposed changes to the rules.
Below is a brief recap of each notable one and whether it has succeeded or failed.
2010: NFL changes postseason overtime rules
The NFL first changed its sudden-death overtime rules in 2010. At that time, the NFL adopted new overtime rules for the postseason alone. The major change was that a made field goal no longer ended overtime; only a touchdown on the first possession would end the extra period.
The goal of this change was to prevent the coin toss from having a major impact on overtime games. Prior to the rule change, the team that won the coin toss won 60 percent of the time and 34.4 percent of the time on the first possession.
2012: NFL implements postseason OT rules in regular season
The NFL was pleased with how its postseason overtime rule changes worked, so it expanded them to the regular season.
2017: NFL shortens overtime
In 2017, the NFL opted to shorten overtime from 15 minutes — the length of a typical quarter — to 10. According to commissioner Roger Goodell, this change was made in the name of player safety.
“We think this is an important change, particularly for teams that may be into an overtime situation and a lengthy overtime situation that may have to come back and play on a Thursday night, so this is another positive change,” Goodell said, per NFL .com.
2019: Chiefs proposal for both teams to receive ball fails
The Chiefs benefitted from the NFL’s overtime rules against the Bills in 2022, but they were on the wrong side of a defeat against the Patriots in 2019. The Patriots got the ball first in overtime and never looked back, marching the length of the field to defeat Patrick Mahomes and Co.
“I think everybody wants a chance for guys to do what they do,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach told Pro Football Talk when asked about the rule change proposal in March of 2019. “I don’t really see the downside of having that. Especially when you have a player like Pat Mahomes. It would have been a lot of fun. I think people, if they weren’t already tuned in for a great game, would have turned on that overtime.”
As such, the Chiefs made a proposal to allow both teams to possess the ball in the postseason. They also requested to eliminate the overtime coin toss and just rely on the one at the beginning of regulation to decide who gets to choose whether to kick, receive or which side to defend.
2020: Eagles look to change coin-toss rules, are denied
The Eagles were the next team to target a change in the NFL’s overtime rules, but theirs was specifically aimed at the coin toss.
Philadelphia proposed a rule that would have essentially declared the team that scored more touchdowns during regulation the coin-toss winner. That team would have the same options as the team that wins a coin toss. If the teams had an equal number of touchdowns, they would just do a normal coin toss.
The Eagles’ proposal garnered little support and Philadelphia came up with a new proposal to change things in 2021.
2021: Ravens and Eagles’ “spot and choose” overtime proposal shut down
The Ravens and Eagles came up with a joint proposal to keep sudden death intact for NFL overtimes but provide the team that loses the coin toss with a say in the outcome.
Under the “spot and choose” proposal, the winner of the coin toss can choose to start on offense, defense or where to spot the ball to start overtime. For example, a team could choose to receive the ball, but then their opponent could choose to spot the ball at their own 1-yard line, making it necessary for the team on offense to drive the length of the field for a game-winner. touchdown.
Conversely, a team could choose to spot the ball on their own 15-yard line and that would force their opponent to make the difficult choice about whether they’d like to be on offense or defense.
This system would have ensured that the team winning the coin toss would not automatically benefit from it. If they elect to receive, they could see the ball placed deep in their own territory. And if they elect to spot the ball, they would most likely have to play on defense.
Ultimately, the rule did not gain enough support to pass, but the NFL did test it out at the 2022 Pro Bowl instead of kickoffs.
2022: NFL to allow both teams to possess the ball in overtime
NFL overtime is changing in 2022 for the first time since 2017. Both teams will be able to possess the ball in the extra period during the playoffs. Previously, if the receiving team scored a touchdown on its first drive, the game would be over.
MORE: Full history of the NFL’s overtime rule changes since 2010
History of NFL overtime rules
The NFL’s first overtime game took place on Aug. 28, 1955. The Rams beat the Giants in that contest using the sudden-death format.
The overtime rules for that contest came from game promoter Harry Glickman. He came up with the idea of the sudden-death rule and it was used during the NFL championship in 1958.
Sixteen years later, the NFL officially added a sudden-death overtime period to be played during regular-season games that ended tied. In the original format, the first team to score any points at all won the game. That included kicking a game-winning field goal.
That sudden-death format continued to be the NFL’s preferred overtime option for 35 years. However, in 2010, the league amended the rules for playoff games. Field goals no longer counted as sudden-death game-enders for the team that received the ball first. Only a first-possession touchdown by the receiving team would end overtime without both teams getting a possession.
Two years after that change was implemented for the postseason, it was expanded to preseason and regular season games.
In 2017, the length of the overtime period was changed from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. In 2021, the NFL officially eliminated overtime from preseason games. Both of these changes were made in the name of player safety, as it limited the number of snaps played in a contest.
Finally, the most recent NFL overtime change in 2022 ensures that each team will be able to possess the ball in overtime of a playoff game. Sudden death only kicks in after the first team has had its possession, regardless of whether they score a touchdown.