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2012 NFL Playoffs: Modified Sudden Death Overtime Rules

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The NFL sent out their postseason media guide and in it they broke down the modified overtime rules the owners implemented in 2010. The general gist of the rules is that after the coin flip, unless the receiving team scores a touchdown, both teams will get one possession. If the initial kicking team records a safety, the game would also be over since they would get the ball back having already scored.

So, if Team A receives the ball and only manages a field goal, the opposing team will get the ball back. If they kick a field goal as well, the game then reverts to sudden death.

Personally, I think this is a decent overtime option that should be used in some form or fashion during the regular season. If you start on defense and can't prevent a touchdown, you haven't really earned a chance with the ball. Additionally, it doesn't go so far as the college football overtime rules, which place teams in opposing territory right off the bat and remove all sudden death from the equation. There is a certain entertainment factor about the college overtime, but I like the idea of teams actually have to drive a real distance to score.

I've posted the complete rundown of overtime after the jump. Do you like the rules or think there is a better way to handle them?


NFL owners voted in 2010 to install a modified sudden-death system to determine the winner when the score is tied at the end of regulation playing time of postseason NFL games. The system guarantees each team a possession or the opportunity to possess, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on its initial possession.

  • At the end of regulation time the Referee will immediately toss coin at center of field in accordance with rules pertaining to the usual pregame toss. The captain of the visiting team will call the toss prior to the coin being flipped.
  • Following a three-minute intermission after the end of the regulation game, play will be continued in 15-minute periods until a winner is declared. Each team must possess or have the opportunity to possess the ball unless the team that has the ball first scores a touchdown on its initial possession. Play continues in sudden death until a winner is determined, and the game automatically ends upon any score (by safety, field goal, or touchdown) or when a score is awarded by Referee for a palpably unfair act. Each team has three time outs per half and all general timing provisions apply as during a regular game. Try is not attempted if touchdown scored. Disqualified players are not allowed to return.
  • Instant Replay: No challenges. Reviews to be initiated by the replay assistant.


Possession: Actual possession of the ball with complete control. The defense gains possession when it catches, intercepts, or recovers a loose ball.

Opportunity to possess: The opportunity to possess occurs only during kicking plays. A kickoff is an opportunity to possess for the receiving team. If the kicking team legally recovers the kick, the receiving team is considered to have had its opportunity. A punt or a field goal that crosses the line of scrimmage and is muffed by the receiving team is considered to be an opportunity to possess for the receivers.Normal touching rules by the kicking team apply