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An Overtime Scenario You Haven’t Considered

Could the new overtime rules make teams actually defer the kickoff?

Posted by Mike Duffy on Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Categories: Mike Duffy

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Teams rarely, if ever, defer the kickoff after winning the coin flip in overtime because of the sudden death overtime rules. But, now that NFL owners have overhauled the extra period’s rules, deferring the kickoff could be an advantage.

Here’s a quick summary of the new rule: If the first team to possess the ball on offense converts a field goal, the opposition has one possession of its own to score. If they tie the score, the game goes into sudden death. If the opening team scores a touchdown, it’s all over.  For now, the new measure only applies to the postseason.

With that being said, coaches will be faced with the decision to defer the kickoff after winning the coin flip. It could happen more often than you think, and it all comes down to strategically using the number of downs.
 
If a team that begins the extra period with possession logs a field goal, the other squad now has all four downs to drive down the field.  The second team with the ball must get into the end zone to win, so it will go for it on fourth down every time.  
 
With four plays to get 10 yards, that team could essentially run the ball all four times, pick up 2.5 yards a carry and march to paydirt. Or, the extra play might lead the second team to take more offensive chances. And remember, the offensive play-caller won’t have to worry about the game clock winding down and won’t be forced into calling specific plays in a race against time.

There are advantages to the added snap. If the head coach trusts his defense not to allow a touchdown, he may opt to get the extra snap in the second possession.

The new rule may also change the decision to attempt a field goal if an opponent has an explosive offense.

Even if you elect to receive the ball first, you will have to consider going for it on fourth and short if you’re within field goal range.  With only a field goal, the other team will have the opportunity to drive the field with four downs since they can’t punt.  This will result in a high percentage chance of the opponent scoring a touchdown and beating you.  But, if you convert the fourth down, you will have an opportunity to score a touchdown and win the game without giving the ball back.
 
In the end, should the Ravens or any other franchise like the matchup of their defense against an opposing offense, it might make sense to defer the coin flip.
 
Weather conditions, opponent and specific situation will all play into the decision to accept the overtime kickoff, but it can’t be denied that the decision has certainly been made more difficult.  
 
Since 1994, the team that received the ball first in overtime has won the game 60 percent of the time.  The leagues’ hope is that that percentage will decrease moving forward.

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