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Change Overtime, End Ties

Sports should always have a winner and a loser. The only exceptions should be sports with a point system like soccer; however, even instances like those are vastly more entertaining and enjoyable when there is a distinctive winner and loser. Ties take all the excitement away from the game, especially in a sport like football. All the back and forth drama that goes on during a game needs a satisfying resolution, whether that be a crushing loss or an emotional win.

Of all the professional sports in the United States, the NFL has the least number of games played at only sixteen. Football is a sport where every game is extremely meaningful and the fact that a game can end with no clear winner is ridiculous. Nobody ends up a winner during a tie game, as fans on both sides end up unhappy, all the players are confused, and there is no real satisfaction to gain. Ties are terrible for football from a competitive standpoint and the current overtime rules are a significant reason for why they occur.

Back in 2017, the NFL decided to change their overtime rules by reducing the period from fifteen minutes to ten minutes. This adjustment was done to reduce the risk of injuries; however, it allowed less time for teams on both sides to score. Other than this minor critique to the rules, the rest stayed the same, which is the problem.

With the current rules in place, each team has an opportunity to score if the team that initially receives the ball does not score or only kicks a field goal. However, if there is a safety or touchdown, the game immediately ends. Therefore, gaining possession first is a huge advantage, with the winner of the coin winning the game 52.7% of the time as of 2019.

That number does not seem too drastic, but it is enough, considering the loser of the coin toss does not win the other 47.3% of the time because of the possibility of a tie. There is a glaring edge that goes to the winner of the coin toss and these rules have proved costly throughout the history of the league.

Should an NFL game, specifically a playoff game, be potentially decided by a coin toss? That is what essentially happened during the 2019 AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. New England ended up winning the coin toss, marched down the field and scored a touchdown. Patrick Mahomes, that season’s MVP and one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, never got to touch the ball.

Maintaining balance is always a vital aspect of sports. That is why rule changes are implemented and the fact that Mahomes never even got the opportunity to match the Patriots seems unfair. There needs to be a better system that is not based off the flip of a coin. Because of this, winning can become more based on probability then a team’s actual performance.

AFC Championship highlights: Relive the Patriots' thrilling win over the  Chiefs - Pats Pulpit
Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports

Come playoff time, there are no ties, as there will just be another overtime until a victor is decided. The last double overtime game came in 2013 when Joe Flacco and the Ravens upset Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos in a thrilling upset. It was an amazing game, which also proves that the NFL does not need ties. Most overtime games are fantastic contests by themselves and a winner will find itself eventually if allowed to play out.

Basketball is a sport that will go numerous overtimes, while sports like baseball can go countless extra innings. Football is a much more grueling sport with injury risk being the largest concern; however, with the way the rules are set up, securing a victory in overtime is not an impossible task. If neither team scores in their first possession, then the next score is what decides who wins.

It is common that games that have ended in ties have had missed field goals and poor late game decisions to cause the tie. Without the ability to tie, coaches’ game plans would certainly alter and then overtime could become more about the football, compared to just battling the clock.

There has only been one tie this season, with a few other games coming close. That tie came between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals. Both teams have struggled mightily this season, but this Week 3 game was close and there was a crucial decision that Eagles head coach Doug Pederson made during overtime.

He decided to punt the ball, instead of going for it on fourth down to play for the tie. Definitely a more conservative approach that was questioned by the media after the game ended in a draw. Ironically for Pederson, that decision that he was scrutinized for may end up benefiting Philadelphia because of the horrid division they play in.

They currently sit atop the NFC East at 2-4-1 (.357 win percentage), which is a dreadful record, but it is working for them now. This situation is one of the incredibly rare times where a tie may benefit a team as a result of the atrocious division; however, they generally play a minimal role in the final standings.

This past Sunday night is an example of a possible tie being the worst-case scenario. The Arizona Cardinals were hosting their division rival Seattle Seahawks in a very highly anticipated game. Both teams played phenomenally with Arizona coming back late to force overtime. Seattle’s Tyler Lockett had the game of his life, while quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson were going shot for shot in maybe the game of the year.

In that extra period, the Cardinals kicker Zane Gonzales missed a field goal on their first drive. Arizona was then able to stop Seattle from scoring again and gave Gonzales another chance to redeem himself. He was able to convert, though had he missed the kick again, this game probably would have ended in a tie.

A draw should not even be in the realm of possibility, especially with a game like this one. The stakes felt too high for no winner to be declared. It would have been disgraceful to the sport of football had a game like this ended without a definitive winner, yet that possibility was on the table.

Cardinals piling up prime-time wins, but also some injuries
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Overtime in the NFL is not fair. It is sometimes feared so much that teams will attempt to go for the win in regulation, even if that means risking a loss because they do not want to leave their fate up to a coin toss. Even if both teams end up receiving the ball in overtime, there is still the risk of the tie.

Statistically it may be better for the standings, but motivationally it is puzzling. How do players recover mentally from a tie? Nobody is trained to react to an even score. Players are supposed to either bounce back from a tough loss or use the momentum from a win to continue to thrive. Ties do nothing for anyone’s moral. An NFL tie is almost the equivalent to not playing the game at all. There is nothing to gain from it and that needs to be changed.

Fixing the most important stretch of the game should be simple. Give each team an opportunity to match one another until the defense gets a stop. Sudden death is good because it speeds up the extra period, but it needs to be modified to counteract for fairness. Both teams should have an opportunity to get the ball.

In baseball, the home team can hit a walk-off and the game is over, but the away team still got the chance to hit in the half-inning prior. The NFL just needs to provide an equal opportunity to both sides and many of the current issues with the overtime system would be resolved.

Ties should also be eliminated because they provide such little value. They are more of a burden than a loss. Teams do not play for the tie; football is not meant to be played that way and the NFL should understand that. Overtime can be one of the most exciting parts of NFL football, but the rules are broken right now, and adjustments need to be made.

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