Under new OT rule: Falcons still make Super Bowl XXXIII

 Minneapolis, MN - Atlanta Falcons' coach Dan Reeves does the 'Dirty Bird' with teammates Jamal Anderson (32) and Rau Buchanan (34) after accepting the NFC trophy at the Metrodome Sunday, January 17, 1999. (DAVID TULIS/AJC staff)

Minneapolis, MN - Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Reeves does the 'Dirty Bird' with players Jamal Anderson (32) and Ray Buchanan (34) after accepting the NFC trophy at the Metrodome Sunday, January 17, 1999. (DAVID TULIS/AJC staff)

BIRDLAND — It will be interesting to see how the new modified sudden death rule plays out in the playoffs next season.

The strategy will be absolutely intriguing.

Under the rule, which was passed 28-4 on Tuesday at the NFL league meetings in Orlando, a team could win on the first possession of overtime by scoring a touchdown, but if the team scores a field goal, the opposing team would receive the ball with a chance to tie with a field goal or win with a touchdown.

If the second team ties with a field goal, the game would revert to the first-to-score  sudden death rule.

If the score is tied after both teams have a possession, the team next scoring by any method shall be the winner.

Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis believes that coaches will gamble more on fourth down under the new rule. Coaches may turn their noses up at that 45-yard field goal and go for the touchdown to end the game.

“If you hold them to a field goal you’re going to get the ball and you have that opportunity,” Lewis said. “There’s some strategy involved where it’s different than the (old rule.) It’s more like the end of the game where it’s a close or tied football game and there’s two minutes to go.”

Under the modified sudden death rule, maybe some teams will elect to kick if they win the overtime coin toss.

The coaches, who reportedly are not happy with the rule and how it was passed, haven’t worked  through all  of the strategy yet.

Minneapolis, MN-Atlanta Falcons Chris Chandler, left and Eugene Robinson, right with the NFC Championship trophy. (AJC Staff Photo/Marlene Karas)

Minneapolis, MN-Atlanta Falcons Chris Chandler, left and Eugene Robinson, right with the NFC Championship trophy. (AJC Staff Photo/Marlene Karas)

“A lot of the coaches say they don’t like the fact that a coach gets to use four downs against you,” Lewis said. “I say, right now I’ll trade you. You spot me the field goal in overtime and kick off to me right now. Let’s take our chances. I think we feel pretty good about that. There are a lot of elements that come into play.”

Based on several tweets from my colleagues who are in Orlando for the meetings, the coaches were not real happy with this passage. The coaches were out playing golf when the execs rushed the vote through.

The stats used to justify the vote were stats from regular season games, but the new rule only applies to postseason games.

The always astute Bob Glauber from Newsday tweeted: “Playoff stat: Since 1994 (kickoffs back to 30), 14 OT playoff games. 7 teams that won toss won game; 7 that lost toss won game.”

The problem they were trying to fix –  (59.9 percent) of coin toss winners win the games — was a regular season problem, not a postseason (50 percent) problem.

Tom Silverstein, my former beat-mate on the Green Bay Packers, tweeted that: “(Packers) Pres Mark Murphy made final call for Packers OT proposal. (GM Ted) Thompson and (head coach Mike) McCarthy preferred it be for reg and postseason not just post.”

Silverstein, who’s affectionately called “Spoon” later tweeted, “Most thought OT vote would be Wed when coaches were around. But just execs were present during vote. Some reports say coaches aren’t happy.”

In the NFC championship game on Jan. 17, 1999, the greatest win in Falcons history, both teams had already had a least one possession so Morten Andersen’s field goal to make it 30-27 would have stood under the modified sudden death rule.

Therefore, Minnesota quarterback Randall Cunningham and dangerous wide receiver Randy Moss would have not have received another shot to score a touchdown with the 3:22 left.

The Falcons’ defense had already stopped the Vikings twice in overtime and had held Moss to six catches for 75 yards and one touchdown.

Just think, coach Dan Reeves was already on the rebound from his quadruple by-pass surgery. These rules wouldn’t have helped his recovery. At least he still would have been able to do the “Dirty Bird” after Andersen’s field goal.

16 comments Add your comment


March 24th, 2010
7:36 am

Should make for interesting tv in January.


March 24th, 2010
7:45 am

Bob Glauber is less astute than you think if he’s trying to infer a trend from only 14 OT playoff games. That’s too small a sample to be meaningful. Think about it: if 8 teams had won the coin toss and the game in the playoffs instead of 7, then your statistics would indicate that the coin toss winner also wins the game 57% of the time – practically the same as for the regular season. If one game can shift the percentages by that much then the sample size is too small to be useful. The 59.9% statistic for the regular season is persumably based upon a much larger number of games.

That said, it’s fair to wonder why the rule change is only for the playoffs and not the regular season as well. I think they’re just trying to be incremental in their approach.


March 24th, 2010
7:50 am

That 2nd photo really encapsulates that post season–Chandler pouring out his life’s blood and Chandler hollering like a john on the strip looking for some…well, we all know the rest.
Personally, I like the rule change. It beats what we’re doing now and is at least a step toward reform…
p.s. thanks for the memories and hopefully a preview of things to come….


March 24th, 2010
7:52 am

Obviously I meant Robinson when referring to the hooker-hollering–sorry Chris….


March 24th, 2010
7:55 am

Dang I miss Morten Andersen– the GREAT DANE…..


March 24th, 2010
8:39 am

Since it’s just you & me so far this morning, I have a totally unrelated question about our assistant coaches. If there is a lockout, how are we going to treat our staff? Full pay? Percentage? P .King on SI.com has a piece on this today which got me wondering. I know you’re not privy to internal contractual manouvering, but I like our staff(overall) and want to keep them here and happy. It’s all speculation at this juncture, but what do you THINK we’ll do?


March 24th, 2010
8:49 am

FalconFanin VA -
Previous posts had Rich McKay telling of a 20% difference in all games since around ‘94. In all OT games from around that period, the team that won the toss, won the game about 20% more often than the toss losers. If that’s the case, I like this format – but only for playoff games.

I know it's the Cahmpionship Trophy...

March 24th, 2010
9:04 am

…but that picture of Dan Reeves makes it look like he is wearing the WCW championship belt…

C H A M P I O N S H I P...

March 24th, 2010
9:05 am

…duh – my bad…


March 24th, 2010
9:07 am

I also wanted these changes for regular season as well.


March 24th, 2010
9:14 am

I like it – it takes most of the element of chance out of OT. Please, folks, watching the coin toss winner revert to a 35 yard game plan is a BORING way to determine the outcome of a game.

D-Led, what happens if the first possesion score in OT is a safety?


March 24th, 2010
9:23 am

It means that the first possession team will not be considering field goals once they get past the opponent’s 30. They’ll know they could still get beat if they only score a FG. So, they will be playing 4 down football from the 50 on in, more than likely, unless they have a magnificient defense.

The NFL probably won’t even see an overtime playoff game next year… but, I’ll laugh my glutes off if the coin toss winning team takes the ball down the field, gets a 1st down conversion on a couple of defensive penalty calls, converts two or more 4th and shorts, and eventually scores a touchdown on the Vikings!

Geaux Saints!!!!


March 24th, 2010
10:23 am

MIke Golic had the best OT idea I have heard. Let them play an extra 10 minute period. Just play football with no scoring changes. If it’s tied ad the end of the period play another 10 minute period.

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D. Orlando Ledbetter

March 24th, 2010
12:09 pm

Just got out of “Responding to Readers” class. Should go pretty smoothly today for us.

Waynester: Not know about percentage of coaches pay. All I know is that BVG extension was to bring everyone in line. Would suspect they are covered in the event of an lockout that Mr. Blank will do what’s reasonable and fiscally proper.

DJ: Haven’t seen that scenario addressed. I do know if you score the field and then do an onsides kick and recover, game is over.

Vafalconfan: Why not sudden death with no field goals. First TD wins. Keep it simple.


March 24th, 2010
11:40 pm

marvin Lewis is about to be run out of Cincy. What does that tell you about his coaching, I mean we are talking cinncinati