The NFL’s overtime rules are one of the most controversial in sports. The referee flips a coin and allows the visiting team to call heads or tails. If the first possession results in a touchdown, the game is over before the other team touches the ball. Many people feel that overtime rules must change now because they are simply unfair.
Between 2010 and 2022, 10 out of 11 overtime games were won by the team that won the toss. It used to be even more brutal because a field goal could win the game. However, more changes are needed for a better outcome. There have been several games that have proven that. Check out 20 NFL games that prove overtime rules must change now (via Sporting News).
20. Broncos vs. Steelers (2012)
Pittsburgh was massive favorites prior to this 2012 playoff game but couldn’t live up to the hype. Meanwhile, Denver’s Tim Tebow had the game of his life as he inspired the franchise to its first postseason win in six years. Ben Roethlisberger was also consistent with his passes for the Steelers. In the end, it didn’t matter as the game went to overtime.
The Steelers called tails but the coin came up heads. Denver received the possession and they made it count. Tebow found Demaryius Thomas and the receiver scored an amazing game-winning touchdown by running the length of the field. It was a heartbreaking end for Pittsburgh but they lost momentum (via Denver Post). Losing because of a coin toss is cruel and the rules must change now.
The Saints have endured a lot of misery in the postseason recently. However, they were the Vikings’ worst nightmare during the late 2000s. They faced each other in the NFC Championship game as both teams dreamed of playing in the Super Bowl. But this turned into a long hard slog that went all the way to overtime.
New Orleans targeted Vikings quarterback Brett Favre and tried to take him out of the game. This became part of the Bountygate scandal. Then Favre threw a crucial interception in overtime and the Saints scored a winning field goal. It was brutal because the Vikings lost to a team that pushed the boundaries (via ESPN).
18. New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers (2012)
The 49ers had an unexpectedly successful 13-3 season in 2011 after back-to-back losing years. Then they met the Giants in the NFC Championship Game. It was close but the Niners should have won. After the game went to overtime, New York won the coin toss, yet San Francisco successfully shut down the Giants’ first possession.
Unfortunately, a pair of fumbles cost them the game. New York kicked a field goal and won. This allowed the Giants to reach the Super Bowl against the Patriots. It also shows the excitement of giving both teams a shot in overtime because it makes the matchup fair. One team shouldn’t win just because they correctly guessed which side a coin landed on. But if they win after working for it, it is different (via Mercury News).
Baltimore joined the ranks of teams that won the coin toss and the game in overtime. However, they didn’t do it a normal way. After regulation time ended, neither team scored from the first three possessions. This was unexpected because history typically shows that the first possession results in a score or an interception (via SBNation). The game went to double overtime after a brutal Peyton Manning interception.
Finally, Justin Tucker scored the game-winning field goal to seal the win for Baltimore. It was a great victory after a grueling battle. But it was also fantastic for fans to witness the drama of multiple possessions in overtime. These aren’t guaranteed but the rules must change now so both teams can compete. Many games may have ended and may end differently if that were the case.
16. New England Patriots vs. Oakland Raiders (2002)
This game proves why the coin toss system is brutal for the losers. Oakland experienced a pair of tough breaks in the dying moments of this AFC Divisional Playoff. First, they suffered one of the most hotly-contested officiating decisions in league history. The “Tuck Rule” effectively took the game away from them. Then Adam Vinatieri kicked the Patriots into overtime. Next, to rub salt in the Raiders’ wounds, they lost the coin toss.
Vinatieri scored a second kick to seal the victory. This was a harrowing defeat for the Raiders because they had no control over the outcome. After the officials made their controversial decision, the game ran away. Something must change now because teams should have the right to respond in overtime. Even with the touchdown rule, it’s still not as fair as it could be (via ESPN).
Santa Claus forgot to give the Chiefs a present on Christmas Day 1971. The Chiefs played the Dolphins in the longest game in NFL history. The AFC Championship was a dramatic and grueling affair. This was also a bad day at the office for Chiefs kicker Jan Stenerud as he missed two crucial kicks. One of them came in overtime and cost his team the win (via CBS Sports).
Finally, Garo Yepremian scored from 37 yards to win the game for Miami. The old system before 2010 enabled field goals to automatically win a game. However, there is probably as much chance of them missing because of the pressure on the kicker. Something must change now with the current ruleset because the theme present here is that it’s not fair for both teams.
The Packers blew another vital postseason game in early 2015. It appeared as though they had control of the game but it all changed in the blink of an eye. The Pack intercepted Russell Wilson but Mike McCarthy made a conservative call. Instead of bringing on Aaron Rodgers, he opted to defend the lead. The Seahawks scored a touchdown and Brandon Bostick allowed the ball to bounce through his hands on the following onside kick.
After a Marshawn Lynch touchdown, the Packers tied the game with a field goal. But then Seattle scored from the first play of overtime. Once again, it shows how coin toss winners have an overwhelming advantage. It’s unfair and must change now for the integrity of the competition. Yes, the Packers threw the game away but the fans suffered the sudden ending (via Business Ending).
San Diego won this game most cruelly after a valiant Miami comeback. The Chargers took a 24-0 lead before the Dolphins finally did something. The game kicked into life as the Dolphins went on the warpath in an incredible display of heart, grit, and skill. They tied the score and it went to overtime.
The Chargers won the toss but missed a field goal. They then blocked Miami’s attempt at the same. Finally, San Diego’s placekicker scored the winning kick from 29-yards (via Fansided). This game again shows that overtime rules must change now.
This game defined Gary Anderson’s legacy. The Vikings’ placekicker didn’t deserve that but that’s the peril of his position. Minnesota came into the NFC Championship game off of a brilliant 15-1 season. Everybody expected the Falcons to roll over but they didn’t oblige. The Vikings had a chance to win with a last-ditch field goal. After completing every kick that regular season, Anderson was on fire.
Somehow he contrived to kick the ball wide left. Then the game went to overtime and that was it for Minnesota. The Vikings won the toss but both multiple drives occurred and both teams punted to each other. Finally, Morten Andersen kicked the winning field goal for the Falcons (via Twin Cities.com). It was an unfair way for Anderson’s season to end.
11. Arizona Cardinals vs. Green Bay Packers (2016)
Aaron Rodgers didn’t choke in this big game but it didn’t matter. The Cardinals played the Packers in the NFC divisional round. It took a spectacular Rodgers ‘Hail Mary’ pass to send the game to overtime. But the coin toss raised its ugly head yet again. Firstly, the referee claimed it didn’t flip after it landed on heads. He tossed it again and the same result occurred.
This time, the Cardinals won the crucial exchange. They made it count as Carson Palmer threw to Larry Fitzgerald and the game was over (via AZ Central). But it felt very arbitrary because of the nature of the coin flip. Even if the NFL keeps the outcome the same, the coin toss rules must change now. There’s a fairer way that involves more football skill than just a 50-50 coin toss.
It’s amazing how the Packers produce all-time great quarterbacks who choke in the postseason. Aaron Rodgers has run afoul of this many times over the years. However, Brett Favre was even better at this. Yes, both men have Super Bowl rings but their overall lack of postseason success is pathetic.
The Giants traveled to a frozen Lambeau Field for the NFC Championship game. Green Bay were heavy favorites but couldn’t make it count. The game went to overtime and the Packers won the toss. Then a Favre interception cost the Packers the game. Placekicker Lawrence Tynes scored the winner from 47 yards (via ABC News). The Giants only won because of Favre’s mistake.
9. New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons (2017)
Nearly every football fan knows what happened in Super Bowl LI. The Falcons led 28-3 before they went into utter meltdown. However, it takes total focus to beat the Patriots’ winning machine. Atlanta stumbled and allowed New England back into the game (via Orlando Sentinel). Then they completely choked and the Patriots fought back to send the game into overtime.
After four minutes, the game was over. Tom Brady won the toss and the quarterback inspired his team to victory. They relentlessly drove downfield before they scored the winning touchdown. It only took a single possession because they were clinical. But imagine if the Falcons won the toss. The rules must change now so that the deserving team can win fairly.
The Bills know more about playoff pain than most franchises, but this time they enjoyed one of the great comebacks in NFL history. Houston led 35-3 in the third quarter. Needless to say, many Bills fans left early because they thought the game was over. However, the Oilers suffered one of the worst chokes ever. They allowed the Bills to storm back and send the game into overtime.
Warren Moon won the coin toss and opted to receive the ball. Then the Bills intercepted one of his passes and the tide turned. Steve Christie kicked the game-winning field goal (via History.com). However, if the Oilers won after winning the coin toss it would have been a gross injustice. It proves that rules must change now to remove this from the modern game.
The Saints are accustomed to postseason heartbreak. This game was noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, there was a horrendous officiating call that still haunts the Saints. But it’s also the only game since 2010 where a team that lost the toss won in overtime. This also proves that the rules must change now because it’s ludicrous how the odds are stacked against them.
In the end, a Drew Brees interception made the difference. The Rams scored a field goal on the resulting drive and the Saints went home in tears. Many fans of the current system will say that this is why the NFL shouldn’t change it. Sure, there was drama but it’s extremely rare that it occurs (via Washington Post). Usually, the result is inevitable after the coin toss.
This game showed how ridiculous the coin toss system is. Arizona and Green Bay went to overtime after a buzzer-beater touchdown. Visiting captain Aaron Rodgers called heads but the result was tails. However, there was more drama because the coin didn’t flip when the referee dropped it. Technically, this wasn’t a requirement, but the official called for a redo.
In the end, it didn’t matter because the Cardinals won the toss again. They kept Rodgers off the field and won the game after Larry Fitzgerald’s 75-yard catch and run (via New York Times). Arizona scored a five-yard touchdown and went through to the NFC Championship. It also shows why overtime rules must change now. Tradition is great, but coin tosses are just an unfair way to decide overtime in postseason games.
The Bills deserved to lose this game because they threw away a 16-0 lead. It was a display of beautiful chaos from both sides. A half-cooked Josh Allen delighted and infuriated fans. Meanwhile, Bill O’Brien kept trying to hand the game to Buffalo with terrible playcalls (via Democrat & Chronicle).
In the end, the game found its way to overtime. The Texans won but not in an expected manner. Buffalo stopped them in their tracks but gave away a bad penalty to throw away their shot. This gave the Texans a second chance. Finally, Deshaun Watson sliced through a slack Bills’ defense and the game ended.
4. Minnesota Vikings vs. New Orleans Saints (2020)
This was the second of two brutal postseason defeats for the Saints. They came up against the Vikings in the 2020 Wild Card Round. But this went horrible for New Orleans after they fought back to take the lead. They picked the wrong time to have their first two-turnover game of the season. Fortunately, Will Lutz kicked them into overtime (via The Guardian).
However, this only put off the inevitable. The Vikings won the toss and opted to receive. This game proves that the rules must change now because the momentum shifted. Minnesota’s offense was impotent through the fourth quarter. But they knew that one touchdown would win them the game. A revived Kirk Cousins found Kyle Rudolph in the end zone and Minnesota had knocked New Orleans out of the postseason again.
Many NFL historians call this the greatest game ever (via USA Today). It was also the first time that a playoff game went to overtime. Surprisingly, the Giants received the kickoff first. But they were unable to make use of it properly and lost ground before punting to the Colts. This allowed Johnny Unitas and his Colts an opportunity to drive forward.
It’s rare that this happens in the modern NFL. The overwhelming majority of teams that win the toss win the game. However, giving the opposition a chance to make a play puts pressure on the coin-flip winners. Indeed, that’s not exactly what happened in this classic. Both teams should have a chance to play if the NFL keeps the coin flip.
2. New England Patriots vs. Kansas City Chiefs (2019)
Kansas City hosted New England in the 2018 AFC Championship game. They were big favorites but the game didn’t go their way. Tied at 31 apiece, the game went to overtime. Then Tom Brady won the toss. In the end, the ice-cold quarterback drove his team forward for a game-winning touchdown. This crushed the Chiefs because they were so close to victory.
They said that overtime rules must change now and sent multiple proposals to the NFL (via SBNation). However, the league failed to adopt any of them. Ironically, Kansas City benefited from this scenario when they faced Buffalo two years later. But a classy Andy Reid still said the overtime system was unfair.
This was a quarterback duel for the ages. Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes were electric as they ignited their teams. Allen, in particular, impressed with his ability to rush on full display. After coming from behind multiple times, the Bills finally took the lead with under two minutes left. But somehow, even with only 13 seconds left, there was still time for the Chiefs as Mahomes threw two awe-inspiring first downs to Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill and Kansas City kicked a tying field goal to send the game into overtime as time expired.
Then, Kansas City won the coin toss. With ice in his veins akin to his longtime nemesis Tom Brady, Mahomes led a touchdown drive that will go down in history with a score to Travis Kelce. Many casual NFL fans couldn’t believe that the Bills didn’t receive the chance to respond to the game-winning drive. Critics of the current system demanded that NFL overtime rules must change now. In sum, it was a heartbreaking way for Buffalo to lose (via New York Post).