Thu, Mar 25, 2010 - Page 20 News List

NFL owners vote to change playoff overtime rules


National Football League owners voted 28-4 on Tuesday to change the overtime tiebreaker rules for playoff games, modifying the sudden death format currently used to decide who advances.

Under the change approved at the NFL owners meeting, teams that receive the overtime kickoff and kick a field goal on their first possession will no longer win the game, although teams scoring a touchdown will still be winners.

If a team kicks an opening field goal, the other team will be allowed a possession of its own to try and score a winning touchdown or kick a field goal of its own.

Should each team kick a field goal in overtime, the extra period would continue in a sudden death format with the victory going to the next team with any sort of score.

“We felt like statistically it needed to be changed,” said Rich McCay, co-chairman of the NFL Competition Committee. “It wasn’t producing the fairest result based on field goal distance, field goal accuracy and field position start.”

The measure, which needed 24 votes in favor to pass, came about because of the improved accuracy and distance range of NFL kickers over the past 15 years.

“The more you talk about the issue, the more you see there must be a change,” McCay said. “That helped move us vote-wise as much as anything.”

Owners are expected to consider using the new format in regular season games as well, possibly as early as May or potentially not until after the season.

McCay said the different formats seemed acceptable because of the finality of a playoff defeat versus a loss by a team in the 16-game regular season.

“Part of the reason we have different rules is we have different consequences,” he said. “This idea, in our mind, did the right things. It kept the football decisions the same and the strategy the same.”

Bill Polian, president of the Indianapolis Colts, said that the change is in keeping with the history of American football given the evolution of the sport.

“We felt enacting this change for the playoffs would be entirely consistent with the history of the game,” Polian said. “We felt it would be an improvement from a fairness issue.”

The NFL will not be the only league to use different rules in playoff and regular-season games.

The National Hockey League uses a five-minute overtime and shootout in the regular season and sudden death in the playoffs.

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