It was deep in the NFL Honors show last month, an annual Super Bowl week extravaganza, and host Keegan-Michael Key sat in the crowd, raving about the energy and entertainment value of the evening.
“This,” Key said, “is so much fun. A show like this, you just want it to go on and on and on and on. Am I right? “
Then the camera zooms out. To the right of Key was a smiling Josh Allen.
“Or,” the Buffalo Bills full-back said, “you just end it in a way that makes sense, is fair and gives everyone an equal opportunity to win.”
Credit Allen for a sense of humor, for an easy comic look at one of the more heartbreaking series of his football career. Perhaps, if the NFL’s overtime rules were different, Allen would not have been in the crowd that night, but rather prepared to lead the Bills to the Super Bowl for the first time in 29 seasons.
Unfortunately, in the defining moment of the Bills season, Allen was left in a similar capacity as he was 11 days later at that Honors show. Just a spectator.
The Bills defense could not stop the Kansas City Chiefs with the first possession of postponement in the AFC division round. Buffalo lost 42-36. Their star full-back, who was electric in throws for 329 yards and four touchdowns, did not touch the ball in overtime.
The game-ending was an 8-yard sudden death pass from Patrick Mahomes to Travis Kelce. But for all intents and purposes, the Chiefs’ match-winning moment may have arrived when Allen mentioned “tails” on the overtime coin. Referee John Hussey’s coin landed with its heads up, and the Chiefs had their opening to keep Allen and the Bills’ red-hot attack off the field.
Eight games, 75 yards, touchdown. Game over.
If ever an adrenalizing match-winning series in a classic playoff game also qualified as a buzzkill, this was it.
In the two months since then, the NFL’s current overtime rule has been hotly debated, leading to serious discussions about possible changes at this week’s league meetings at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida. a potential voice is taken. A door could open for a change that would guarantee both teams at least one possession in overtime.
The Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles have submitted a rule proposal to give both teams a chance to own the football in overtime, no matter what happens during the opening round. In other words, there would no longer be a sudden-death touchdown opportunity on the first series.
The Tennessee Titans, meanwhile, have submitted a slightly modified sheet that has the same intent – unless the team that has the ball first in overtime scores a touchdown and also converts their two-point effort. According to that proposal, a match could still end in a sudden-death manner with the first possession.
For any proposal to succeed, at least 24 teams must vote in favor of change. Traditionally, it was a high standard to clear for many rule proposals in their first year.
“There’s a lot of momentum for change,” said Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Hawks, who also chairs the NFL’s competition committee. “But let’s see what happens.”
One popular suggestion was to stay with the status quo for the regular season, but apply the proposed overtime rule changes to the playoffs. It gets serious consideration at the meetings.
McKay has announced that he’s at least in favor of this week’s live talk, emphasizing that 10 of the last 12 overtime play-offs have been won by the team that wins the coin flip, with seven of those competitions deciding on the first is. possess.
McKay said: “I think the statistics absolutely warrant an inquiry into whether our overtime rules need to be further amended.”
Ryan Poles, general manager of the New Chicago Bears, thinks he has a good read on why those numbers are so skewed.
“It’s because of the quarterbacks,” he said. “When you get to that point in the playoffs, a lot of those backs are at a high level and fully capable of just going down and winning a game for you.”
Poles were, so to speak, on both sides of the coin. Two months ago, as the Chiefs’ executive director of player staff, Poles was inside Arrowhead Stadium when the Chiefs rallied to level the game with a 13-second field goal at the end of regulation before winning in overtime.
At that moment, with the Kansas City crowd furious, Poland was sure the current overtime format was fair and just.
“It worked out,” he said Monday with a smile. “Good on me.”
But three years earlier, Poland had sung a very different tune when the Chiefs lost a 37-31 overtime heartbreaker in the AFC Championship. In that defeat, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots won the coin flip and also marched 75 yards for the match-winning landing.
Mahomes, that season’s MVP, never got his chance to answer.
“You are angry,” Poland said. “It hurts. You feel cheated.”
Poland smiles and understands the mystery.
“Of course,” he said, “my mind changed over time. And I reserve the right to change it again. “
For whatever it’s worth, that Patriots victory in the January 2019 AFC title game came two years after beating the Hawks 34-28 in overtime of Super Bowl LI. Once again, the Patriots won the coin flip and Brady led them to a touchdown. Once again, that season’s MVP, Atlanta Falcons fullback Matt Ryan, never touched the ball in overtime.
The buzz that circulated through the league meetings on Monday was that a change of overtime rules could still be a bit long, in part because the proposals were many and varied. Some wonder with legitimate reason whether a move to give each team a possession in overtime would unleash similar arguments later as teams that win the coin toss eventually score – and win – on their second OT possession without the opponent having a get a chance to answer. What then?
“Do we always make sure that both teams get the same opportunity?” Poland said. “These are the kind of discussions that take place. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. ”
In some pockets, a collection of coaches and league managers prefer to leave things alone. Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, for example, is pleased with the status quo. Tomlin, who is on the league’s competition committee, describes himself as “a traditionalist” and “a proponent of sudden death.”
Leave things alone, he says.
“I’m not afraid of sudden death,” Tomlin said. “And I have never. … I just think (more than) 60 minutes (of regulation) everyone had a fair chance to win the match. If you’re talking about changes related to competitive fairness, I’m talking about the first 60 minutes we all had. That’s how the match wins. “
Yet Tomlin also understands the other side of this argument.
“I definitely feel there is a desire to do something,” he said. “Whether we can land the plane or not remains to be seen.”
In the case of January’s highly-researched Chiefs-Bills finish, many stressed that all Bills had to do in overtime to put the ball back in Allen’s hands was to make a defensive stop. They failed to do so and thus harvested what they sowed.
After all, a week later in the AFC Championship against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Chiefs went overtime again and won the coin again. But the Bengals intercepted Mahomes during the opening drive and turned that takeaway into a match-winning field goal drive – and a Super Bowl trip.
It just added fuel to the argument of traditionalists, who are in favor of keeping things just as they are.
The setback to that way of thinking, however, is basic, with the argument that the Chiefs ‘shaky defense in the AFC division round – which allowed some lead 75-yard touchdown runs on the Bills’ last two series – never had not. to pass the same test, the Bills’ defense failed. And they largely did not have to pass that test because the Chiefs won the coin toss.
By extension, Allen, one of the league’s most exciting full-backs, did not get a chance to continue his hot streak, could not extend a truly entertaining play-off performance and was finally left with a sardonic slap from the seats of to deliver the NFL. Honor.
Perhaps such controversial moments in the future, perhaps as soon as next post-season, will be in the rearview mirror. Perhaps the league will move Tuesday to introduce change and to give teams equal opportunity to score on their first drive of overtime.
Then again, maybe not.
With so many times as Poland has gone back and forth, he sees that he is still favoring the current system. But he admitted on Monday he is close to 50-50 over the matter and will not object to whatever is decided.
“I’m going back to how this conversation is affected by quarterback play,” Pole said. “That is why I understand why there can be a tendency for both teams to have possessions. Ultimately, I think this is what everyone wants to see. From a fan’s point of view, from an entertainment point of view, this is what people want. It’s like, ‘Hey, I want my guy to have the ball.’