NFL overtime rules need a CFL-style tweak

Before the start of overtime in Super Bowl LI, the “visiting” New England Patriots listened intently to the referee’s instructions and made the call that won them the NFL championship.


It was heads.

Game over.

Seriously, NFL, look at the Canadian Football League’s rules. Or college football rules. Or any sport that uses overtime.

No other sport gives the ball or the puck to one team and says, “Here, score and you win.” It’s like saying in an NHL overtime shootout between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, “Sidney Crosby can shoot, but Alexander Ovechkin only gets to shoot if Crosby doesn’t score.”

But in Houston on Sunday night, long after Lady Gaga’s boots stole the halftime show, New England won the decisive coin toss, took possession of the football after the ensuing kickoff and marched downfield for the overtime touchdown that gave it a 34-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.

It was truly a masterful drive by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who set a Super Bowl record for passing yards, won his fifth championship, was named the game’s outstanding player and rallied his team from the largest deficit in 50 preceding contests.  

The Falcons admittedly put themselves in that situation by blowing a 28-3 lead that dwindled to 28-9 at halftime. Atlanta allowed 19 fourth-quarter points and ran a series of stupid, late-game offensive play calls — trying to pass and getting sacked instead of running the ball – that took them out of range of a field goal that should have clinched their upset victory.

Because of Atlanta’s ineptitude, Super Bowl LI was the first matchup to require overtime. And the NFL’s asinine rules kept Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, the league’s outstanding player, from coming onto the field in overtime.

NFL aficionados love to proclaim the U.S. loop superior to the CFL. They insist a championship team should have a defence capable of stopping its opponent once in overtime. Hogwash! Offences and defences win football games.

It may be fair to say the NFL has superior athletes, but some of the American game’s rules are vastly inferior, such as touchbacks on kickoffs, fair catches on punts and allowing the last 44 seconds of a game to expire without a play being run. Both leagues provide entertaining spectacles and true football fans should enjoy both products.

But the absolute worst rule comparison between the NFL and CFL comes in overtime.

When a CFL game is tied after regulation time, one team scrimmages on its opponent’s 35-yard line. Regardless of whether that team scores a single, field goal or touchdown (which must be followed by a two-point convert attempt), the other team’s offence gets the same opportunity. If the first team getting possession in overtime surrenders a defensive touchdown, the game is over. That seems fair. So does the notion that each team gets an equal number of opportunities to score the winning point.

The NFL, which doesn’t have single points (other than converts) does grant a small concession — if the first team scores only a field goal, the second team gets an opportunity to send its offence onto the field. Change that rule: Give the second team an opportunity. Matt Ryan should have had the opportunity to match or beat the Patriots. Or else every NFL team should spend the end of each practice rehearsing the most important part of OT:




Darrell Davis

Darrell Davis

Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.
Darrell Davis
Darrell Davis
About Darrell Davis (124 Articles)
Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.

19 Comments on NFL overtime rules need a CFL-style tweak

  1. Lennywasout // February 6, 2017 at 9:44 am //

    Have to agree…I like our rules better…in fact I’d really rather see another full quarter played and then if still tied, go to our rules of overtime.

    • Marc Lebut // February 6, 2017 at 2:38 pm //

      “It may be fair to say the NFL has superior athlètes…”

      If this was true, ex-NFL players would be widely dominant in CFL. And all-Ex-NFL DL lines would bash hardly on CFL O lines. Truth is they don’t. So it means that at elite level, players are more suited to play in one style rather than the other. Few succeed in both.

      Year in and year out, about 10,000 new players are available for all pro-leagues. About 300 of them will find a spot. That’s 3% of the stack. So that so called better atheltes is true only for the tip top of this 3%. As for most of the players, quality and talent can compare.

      • Marc, but there is always the Canadian ratio/content to consider. Look how dominant the all Americans Baltimore Stallion teams were in the two years in the CFL

    • Marc Lebut // February 6, 2017 at 2:42 pm //

      Didn’t mean to reply to Lennywasout. It just happened that way.

      As for the NFL rule itself, it’s way outdated and needs to upgrade. It’s completely stupid to lose in OT not touching the ball offensively.

  2. I watch little NFL but usually the Superbowl which was highly entertaining until the OT. What a joke as is the fair catch. I liked that the game flowed without tons of flags like ours usually have. I saw what I thought several opportunities for a CFL flag but none thrown. Having said all that I can hardly wait for the CFL season to start again. Hopefully by then the Riders will have their **** together.

  3. To be fair, Jake, you’re only sampling the championship game.
    Remember our grey cup game was refereed vastly different – and much better – than all the games in the regular season. Hardly any flags and very quick replay decisions.

  4. I agree with Darrell 100%
    Winning a Superbowl via the coin toss is absurd.
    Both sides should be afforded an equal chance.
    For once the CFL is “heads” above.

    • I agree with your comment. It seems totally unfair that both teams don’t have an opportunity to score in OT even if the first team who has possession of the ball does score a TD. It seems that winning the coin toss is almost a guarantee of winning the game. I like the CFL overtime rules MUCH better!

  5. Eddy Rayner // February 6, 2017 at 11:59 am //

    Couldn’t have thought of a least fair ending to the game. If the teams were good enough to be tied going into OT, they should both at least get a chance to touch the ball. Instead, MVP and offensive star of the league doesn’t even get to see the field.

  6. Uncanny game,once Atlanta got the large lead we never seem to see Matt Ryan, again.Then all the time on the playing field was Brady and then extended Brady time in over-time.Indeed, this Superbowl was the Brady show.
    Atlanta’s inability to secure the game winning field-goal at the end of the game appeared to be stooge-like bungling.The Brady superbowl win started to look, as predetermined, as a Mythical hero Brady acted out his only destiny, the greatest win of all time.

    The Greek Gods alive and well, thousands of years in the future,displaying their fantastic skills in a new garb,in a new world.Including a fatal flaw,the flip of a gold coin.

  7. I am an American high school football referee… Since its inception I have been saying that the NFL overtime rule is totally unfair… Both teams should get a chance at scoring… A member of my crew is a Canadian and we talk about rules all the time … More interesting and more action-packed

    • Ron Bates // February 6, 2017 at 3:23 pm //

      Hi Roy can’t agree the play it again rule for FG’s is in place and Sudden Death does add the emphasis on it is all the line now! Tough rule but a game has to end this way in OT.

  8. Dirty Thirty // February 6, 2017 at 1:36 pm //

    Not only do the NFL overtime rules need a CFL-style tweak, all the rules do. What a boring 4 down fair-catch game!

  9. Lindsay Wilcox // February 6, 2017 at 1:39 pm //

    Strongly agree re OT NOT FAIR as it stands now. The ref told both captains at OT coin toss that if the winner of the coin toss scores only a FG then the other team gets a chance. Loved the ending to this blog !

  10. Ron Bates // February 6, 2017 at 3:18 pm //

    No matter a very competitive game that probably shouldn’t have gone to OT but did and then even the winning TD questionable knee down and ball location should have set up one more play after the stopped ruling. So none of that resulted in a stop call and forced one more play. Now we ask notice the schools the players hailed from, same scouting as the CFL. Same schools too. If there is superiority it is in training, conditioning and focus. The CFL allows so called career time during the season but seems an excuse to waste practice time and thus questionable on field performance. Antagonizing for fans! So we do have quality, we don’t know all the League Souths secrets but they seem to have clued into our game with zeal. So after all the Bowl LVI reached a high level of interest even for switching from Pulp Fiction and back again! I liked what I saw and TSN provided cash!

  11. Ron Bates, so true about the last play. Even Brady was concerned that it could have been on the 1 yard line for another play. That’s how focused he was and started to get the field cleared for a few seconds, to no avail
    Have to hand that to him, though I think few saw that

  12. What is this “Superbowl” you speak of???

    Football season ended in November.

  13. Eddiefelson // February 6, 2017 at 4:16 pm //

    The CFL o.t. rules need to get tweeked back to two five minute halves.

    • RabidTicat // February 7, 2017 at 11:05 am //

      I agree, as a minimum at least for the playoffs. Real football gets played that way, ball possession keeps its importance. In addition, you don’t lose the most exciting plays of the game, a minimum of two kick-off returns. I don’t have an issue with the college OT we use now, but I do miss the excitement and strategy of those old five minute halves. (I’m only forty years old, too.)

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