Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews summed up the problem with the NFL’s current overtime rule quite nicely when not even Aaron Rodgers’ latest heroics could save the Packers from yet another playoff loss.
“When you are on the losing side, you want to see it changed,” Matthews said.
Rodgers never touched the ball after two amazing throws to get the Packers to overtime at Arizona. Once there, Rodgers watched helplessly from the sideline as the Cardinals ended Green Bay’s title hopes 26-20. The loss prompted yet another wave of calls for the NFL to make its overtime rules more equitable, even if it means simply following college football’s lead to give both teams a chance to score.
“Yeah, let’s go college rules,” Matthews said. “Start at the 25-yard line or whatever it is and go at it. I’m sure it will be talked about, but it (stinks) we didn’t have an opportunity.”
The NFL created sudden-death overtime rules for preseason and regular season in 1974, needing only a field goal to win on any possession. The league tweaked the rules for the 2010 playoffs and incorporated the changes into the regular season in 2012. Now both teams get a chance to possess the ball — unless the team receiving the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on that series.
Since the 2010 playoffs, five postseason games have gone to overtime with three won on the opening possession.
Rodgers and the Packers — yes those guys again — lost two of those three. Seattle won the NFC championship last year 28-22 while scoring less than 3 1/2 minutes into overtime while Rodgers was stuck on the sideline.
Green Bay guard TJ Lang isn’t so sure the rule should be changed, and he has plenty of company around the league.
“Everyone knows how it goes,” Lang said. “You have to stop them from getting a touchdown when you get a chance and (we) didn’t get it done. I’m not going to complain about the rules.”
For some NFL players, ending the game as quickly as possible is almost equally important. So forget copying college football, where the overtime rules seem very even-handed compared to the NFL. Each team is guaranteed one possession starting at the opponent’s 25 yard line. If the game goes to a third overtime, teams must attempt a 2-point conversion instead of kicking the extra point after touchdowns.
The result since its institution in 1996? Only three games have gone as far as seven overtimes.
“No way, man,” Denver offensive lineman Ryan Harris said Wednesday. “This is the NFL. You have to earn everything you get. You can’t be put on a yard line and say, ‘Hey, here, play the game.’ That’s part of the joy of the NFL. Every single inch has to be earned.”
Arizona visits Carolina on Sunday night for a berth in the Super Bowl after the Cardinals’ OT win. Four of the past eight NFC championship games have gone to overtime, though count Cardinals president Michael Bidwell among those fine with the current rules.
“Some days you get the toss and you’re able to drive down the field, other days you’re not,” Bidwell said Tuesday on Arizona Sports 98.7.
Part of the reasoning is that scoring touchdowns in overtime usually isn’t easy, at least not this season. According to STATS, teams scored TDs on 51.7 percent of drives reaching the 25 in regulation in 2015. That number plummeted to 13.3 percent in overtime.
New England visits Denver for the AFC championship game after missing out on the AFC’s No. 1 seed partly because of an overtime decision by Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Dec. 27. He chose to kick after winning the coin toss in overtime, then lost 26-20 to the Jets with quarterback Tom Brady never touching the ball in overtime.
But Belichick never has liked the NFL’s current overtime rule.
His solution? Simply add more time to the clock, just like basketball.
Continue the game from where regulation concluded? Perhaps. But no more coin toss and decisions whether to kick or receive or which goal to defend in overtime.
Belichick sees that keeping strategy a part of the game.
“We’ve lost that with the rules that we have now, and the rules in college have lost that too,” Belichick said in October 2012 on WEEI radio.
“So if that’s something we want to take away from the game, we’ve taken it away. We’ve added something else. If that’s better, maybe some people think it is. I personally like the end of the game strategy that football has. I think it’s one of the greatest parts of the game, and I hate to see that given up for a different set of rules in overtime.”
AP Sports Writers Jimmy Golen, Pat Graham, Bob Baum and Genaro C. Armas contributed to this report. AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker