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A refresher on the postseason overtime rules

Posted by Duke Bobber on January 9, 2012 – 2:45 pm

Prior to the 2010 season, NFL owners voted to amend overtime rules for the postseason to a modified sudden death format. Teams have the opportunity to possess the ball at least once in the extra period unless the team that receives the overtime kickoff scores a touchdown on its first possession.

A look at the NFL’s overtime procedures for the postseason:

POSTSEASON – MODIFIED SUDDEN DEATH

The modified sudden death system of determining the winner shall prevail when the score is tied at the end of regulation for 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 a coin at the center of the 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 the Referee for a palpably unfair act. Each team has three timeouts per half and all general timing provisions apply as during a regular-season game. The try is not attempted if a touchdown is scored. Disqualified players are not allowed to return.
  • Instant Replay: No challenges are allowed. All reviews are initiated by the replay official.

Key Definitions:

  • 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.

Following are the Approved Rulings pertaining to postseason overtime as found on pages 111–113 of the 2011 Official Casebook of the NFL, a supplement to the NFL Rule Book:

 

Approved Rulings

RULE 16—SUDDEN DEATH

 

A.R. 16.1    KICKOFF RETURN FOR TOUCHDOWN

Team B receives the opening kickoff and returns it for a touchdown.

Ruling:  Game over. Team B wins.

 

A.R. 16.2    ONSIDE KICK

On the opening kickoff of overtime from the A35, Team A legally recovers the ball at the A46.

Ruling:  A’s ball, first-and-10 on A46. A kickoff is considered an opportunity to possess for the receiving team. Team B is considered to have had an opportunity to possess the ball.

A.R. 16.3    ONSIDE KICK

On the opening kickoff of overtime from the A35, Team A attempts an onside kick. A2 legally touches the ball at the A47, but muffs it and it is recovered by B1 at the A48.

Ruling:  B’s ball, first-and-10 on A48. Team A is not considered to have had an opportunity to possess the ball.

 

A.R. 16.4    MUFFED KICKOFF

Following a successful field goal on the opening possession of overtime, Team A’s kickoff is muffed by B1 at the B35 and is recovered by A2.

Ruling:  Game over. Team A wins. Team B had an opportunity to possess the ball.

 

A.R. 16.5    TOUCHDOWN ON FIRST POSSESSION

Team A drives down the field on the opening possession of overtime and scores a touchdown.

Ruling:  Game over. Team A wins.

 

A.R. 16.6    FIELD GOAL ON FIRST POSSESSION

Team A kicks a field goal on the opening possession of overtime.

Ruling:   Three points for Team A, but the game is not over. Team A must kick off to Team B. If Team B scores a touchdown or does not score, the game is over. If Team B scores a field goal, the game continues in sudden death.

 

A.R. 16.7    MUFFED PUNT

On the opening possession of overtime, Team A punts and B3 muffs the punt at the B20. A6 recovers at the B22.

Ruling:  A’s ball, first-and-10 on B22. Team B had the opportunity to possess the kick. Both teams have met the minimum requirements for possession. The first team to score wins.

 

A.R. 16.8    FUMBLED KICKOFF RETURN

On the opening kickoff of overtime, B3 returns the ball to the B30 where he is hit and fumbles. A6 muffs the loose ball to the B28 where B5 recovers.

Ruling:  B’s ball, first-and-10 on B28. Since the ball was loose from a fumble as opposed to a kick, Team A is not considered to have had an opportunity to possess the ball.

 

A.R. 16.9     BLOCKED PUNT

Fourth-and-5 on A45. On the opening possession of overtime, Team A’s punt is blocked by B3 at the A35. A2 picks up the loose ball at the A40 and runs to the 50 for a first down.

Ruling:  A’s ball, first-and-10 on 50. Team B is not considered to have had an opportunity to possess the ball because it did not touch the ball beyond the line of scrimmage.

 

A.R. 16.10    BLOCKED PUNT

Fourth-and-5 on A45. On the opening possession of overtime, Team A’s punt is blocked by B3 at the A35. B4 attempts to pick up the loose ball at the A40, but muffs it to the A33 where it is recovered by A4 who runs to the B40 for a first down.

Ruling:  A’s ball, first-and-10 on B40. Team B is not considered to have had an opportunity to possess the ball because it did not touch the ball beyond the line of scrimmage.

 

A.R. 16.11     BLOCKED PUNT

Fourth-and-5 on A45. On the opening possession of overtime, Team A’s punt is blocked by B3 at the A35. The ball hits the ground beyond the line at the B48 and bounces back to the A43 where it is recovered by A4 who runs to the B40 for a first down.

Ruling:  A’s ball,  first-and-10 on B40. Team B is not considered to have had an opportunity to possess the ball because it did not touch the ball beyond the line of scrimmage.

 

A.R. 16.12     BLOCKED PUNT

Fourth-and-5 on A45. On the opening possession of overtime, Team A’s punt is blocked by B3 at the A35. The ball bounces beyond the line to the A48, where B4 muffs the loose ball to the A45 where it is recovered by A4.

Ruling:  A’s ball, first-and-10 on A45. Because Team B touched the punt beyond the line of scrimmage, a new series is awarded to Team A. Since Team B had the opportunity to possess the ball, both teams have met the minimum requirements for possession.

 

A.R. 16.13    FUMBLE

Third-and-5 on A30. On the opening possession of overtime, A2 takes a handoff and runs to the B35 where he fumbles the ball. B2 recovers the ball and runs to the B40.

Ruling:  B’s ball, first-and-10 on B40. Both teams have had an actual possession.  The first team to score wins.

 

A.R. 16.14     FUMBLE

Third-and-5 on A30. On the opening possession of overtime, A2 takes a handoff and runs to the B35 where he fumbles the ball. B2 recovers the ball and runs to the B40 where he is hit and fumbles. A5 recovers at the B41.

Ruling:  A’s ball, first-and-10 on B41. Both teams have had an actual possession.  The first team to score wins.

 

A.R. 16.15    INTERCEPTION

Third-and-5 on A30. On the opening possession of overtime, B2 intercepts a pass at the 50 and returns it for a touchdown.

Ruling:  Game over. Team B wins. Each team has had an actual possession.

 

A.R. 16.16     FUMBLE

Second-and-10 on A30. On the opening possession of overtime, A2 takes a handoff and runs to the A38 where he fumbles the ball. B2 muffs the loose ball at the A35 and it is recovered by A5 at the A33.

Ruling:  A’s ball, third-and-7 on A33. Since the ball was loose from a fumble as opposed to a kick, Team B is not considered to have had an opportunity to possess the ball.

 

A.R. 16.17     TOUCHING OF A PASS

Third-and-5 on A30. On the opening possession of overtime, A1 drops back to pass and throws the ball from the A23. The ball is tipped by B4 at the A25 and is caught by A3 at the A34. A3 runs to the A40 where he is tackled.

Ruling:  A’s ball, first-and-10 on A40. Touching of a pass by Team B does not constitute an opportunity to possess the ball.

 

A.R. 16.18    INCOMPLETE PASS

Second-and-5 on A30. On the opening possession of overtime, A1 drops back to pass and throws the ball from the A23 toward A2 at the B40. B4 jumps up to intercept the pass and lands with his left foot inbounds and his right foot on the sideline.

Ruling:  A’s ball, third-and-5 on A30. An incomplete pass is not considered an opportunity to possess.

 

A.R. 16.19     SAFETY

Third-and-5 on A7. On the opening possession of overtime, A1 is tackled in his own end zone for a safety.

Ruling:  Game over. Team B wins. Both teams have met the minimum requirements for possession.

 

A.R. 16.20     FIELD GOAL

Fourth-and-5 on B25. On the opening possession of overtime, Team A’s field-goal attempt is blocked by B3 at the line of scrimmage and lands at the B28 where it is recovered by A4 who runs to the B18 for a first down.

Ruling:  A’s ball, first-and-10 on B18. Team B is not considered to have had an opportunity to possess the ball because it did not touch the ball beyond the line of scrimmage.

 

A.R. 16.21    FIELD GOAL

Fourth-and-5 on B25. On the opening possession of overtime, Team A’s field-goal attempt is blocked by B3 at the line of scrimmage. The ball hits the ground beyond the line at the B22 and bounces back to the B28 where it is recovered by A4 who runs to the B18 for a first down.

Ruling:  A’s ball, first-and-10 on B18. Team B is not considered to have had an opportunity to possess the ball because it did not touch the ball beyond the line of scrimmage.

 

A.R. 16.22    FIELD GOAL

Fourth-and-5 on B25. On the opening possession of overtime, Team A’s field-goal attempt is blocked by B3 at the line of scrimmage. The ball bounces beyond the line to the B20, where B4 muffs the loose ball to the B18 where it is recovered by A4.

Ruling:  A’s ball, first-and-10 on B18. Because Team B touched the kick beyond the line of scrimmage, a new series is awarded to Team A. Since Team B had the opportunity to possess the ball, both teams have met the minimum requirements for possession.

 

A.R. 16.23    FOUL ON B PRIOR TO CHANGE OF POSSESSION

Trailing 13-10 after the first team to possess the ball in overtime kicks a successful field goal, Team A receives the kickoff and is downed at the A30. On its first play from scrimmage, QBA1 throws a pass that is intercepted at the 50 by B1, who is tackled immediately. B2 is called for roughing the passer during the play.

Ruling: A’s ball, first-and-10 on A45. Team B did not gain possession of the ball legally; therefore the game is not over, and Team A’s initial possession will continue.

 

A.R. 16.24    FOUL ON B PRIOR TO DOUBLE CHANGE OF POSSESSION

Trailing 13-10 after the first team to possess the ball in overtime kicks a successful field goal, Team A receives the kickoff and is downed at the A30. On its first play from scrimmage, QBA1 throws a pass that is intercepted at the 50 by B1, who continues to run with the ball. B1 fumbles at the A20, where A2 scoops it up and runs for a touchdown. B2 is called for roughing the passer during the play.

Ruling: A’s ball, first-and-10 on the A45. Team A must accept the penalty, since that is the only way its initial possession will continue. If A declines the penalty and takes the result of the play, the game is over since A’s initial possession ended when the pass was intercepted.

 

A.R 16.25    FOUL ON B PRIOR TO DOUBLE CHANGE, OPTION FOR A

First-and-10 on A20. On the opening possession of overtime, QBA1 throws a pass that is intercepted at the A49 by B1, who continues to run with the ball to the A30 where he is hit and fumbles. A2 recovers the ball and is downed at the A30. B2 is called for roughing the passer during the play.

Ruling: If A accepts the penalty for roughing the passer, it will be A’s ball, first-and-10 on A35, and Team B is not considered to have had its opportunity to possess the ball.  If A declines the penalty, it is A’s ball, first-and-10 on A30, Team B has had its possession, and the first team to score will win the game.

 

A.R. 16.26    FOUL ON B AFTER CHANGE OF POSSESSION

Trailing 13-10 after the first team to possess the ball in overtime kicks a successful field goal, Team A receives the kickoff and is downed at the A30. On its first play from scrimmage, QBA1 throws a pass that is legally intercepted at the 50 by B1, who continues to run with the ball and is downed at the A30. B2 is called for holding during B1’s return.

Ruling: Game over, Team B wins. Since Team A’s possession ended legally, both teams have met the requirement for possession, and the game is over.

 

A.R. 16.27    DOUBLE FOUL WITH A CHANGE, GAME OVER

Trailing 13-10 after the first team to possess the ball in overtime kicks a successful field goal, Team A receives the kickoff and is downed at the A30. On its first play from scrimmage, QBA1 throws a pass that is legally intercepted at the 50 by B1, who continues to run with the ball and is downed at the A20. Team A is called for holding prior to the interception, and Team B is called for an illegal block above the waist after the interception.

Ruling: Game over, Team B wins. Since Team A’s possession ended legally, both teams have met the requirement for possession, and the game is over.

 

A.R. 16.28    DOUBLE FOUL WITH A CHANGE, GAME NOT OVER

Trailing 13-10 after the first team to possess the ball in overtime kicks a successful field goal, Team A receives the kickoff and is downed at the A30. On its first play from scrimmage, QBA1 throws a pass that is intercepted at the 50 by B1, who continues to run with the ball and is downed at the A20. Team B is called for holding prior to the interception, and Team A is called for a low block after the interception.

Ruling: Fouls offset, and Team A’s initial possession continues. A’s ball, first- and-10 on A30.

 

A.R. 16.29    DOUBLE FOUL AFTER CHANGE, GAME OVER

Trailing 13-10 after the first team to possess the ball in overtime kicks a successful field goal, Team A receives the kickoff and is downed at the A30. On its first play from scrimmage, QBA1 throws a pass that is legally intercepted at the 50 by B1, who continues to run with the ball and is downed at the A20. After the interception, Team B is called for holding, and Team A is called for a facemask.

Ruling: Game over, Team B wins. Since Team A’s possession ended legally, both teams have met the requirement for possession, and the game is over.


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