By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL is going to change its overtime rule in the playoffs. It’s time that hardened old-school dinosaurs like myself — people who still foolishly believe in wacky concepts like “defense” and “special teams” and “coaching” — start to face the facts. The tide is turning and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.
That at least seems to be the way Mike Florio from Pro Football Talk is feeling, as he shared some commentary from Cowboys COO Stephen Jones that supports the Chiefs’ efforts to change the overtime rules (after the Chiefs failed three times to stop the Patriots on third-and-10 in overtime, and then failed to limit the Patriots to a field goal or even call a timeout once the drive entered the red zone).
“I certainly tend to lean toward the new rule,” Jones told PFT. “I certainly watched every play of that Kansas City-New England game, and you kind of would have liked to have seen what would have happened if Kansas City got another shot at it, and then how the thing would have ended up. It was football, in my mind, the game at its best. I certainly don’t have a problem with guaranteeing each team a shot at it. … It’s certainly something that had some traction there in the room, and certainly saw some people who were very interested in it. But we’ll get on a call there, take a long, hard look at it, and I’m sure membership’s gonna get to see it.”
Jones repeated the same message that Chiefs GM Brett Veach argued when proposing the rule, that the whole football world deserved to see Patrick Mahomes get the ball in that overtime. That, due to the rules and not due to poor coaching and treacherous defense, the Chiefs and Mahomes were unfairly robbed of an overtime possession in the AFC Championship Game.
Of course, making that case overlooks a lot. A lot of things. A whole lot of things. But that self-evident argument has already been shouted from the rooftops.
So let’s assume that the NFL powers that be don’t care about any of that, that they don’t care that the team that wins the coin flip only wins a hair over 50 percent of the time, that they didn’t seem to notice the Rams playing defense and then winning the NFC Championship Game in overtime just hours before the game in Kansas City.
Let’s assume the rule change gets made: Both teams are guaranteed a possession in overtime of playoff games, no matter what. Even-steven. All fair. An equitable solution for all. Huzzah!
OK. But. What about one major flaw in this new proposal?
The idea, in case you weren’t aware, is simple. If Team A scores a touchdown on the opening possession of overtime, then Team B will still be guaranteed a possession to try to answer the score, tie the game, and keep the game going. The current rule ends the game if Team A scores a touchdown on the opening possession of OT, with Team B only getting a possession if it can limit Team A to either a field goal, a turnover, or a punt.
Putting aside the fact that the current system provides a slight advantage to Team B (which has the advantage of having four downs to gain 10 yards on its response drive, if needed, and never has to contemplate punting or going for it), the NFL appears to be ignoring this scenario:
–Team A scores touchdown on opening drive of overtime.
–Team B scores touchdown on second drive of overtime.
–Team A scores touchdown on third drive of overtime. Game ends. Team A wins.
Now, call me bird-brained if you must. Call me a fool, a nitwit, a dang-old blockhead if you feel that’s appropriate. But, if the entire concept behind this sweeping change to overtime rules is based on fairness, then … how is this scenario any more fair than the current concept? Is it not just postponing the existing grave injustice by a few minutes?
If it’s an absolute atrocity, a crime against football humanity, that Patrick Mahomes did not get the football in his hands in overtime against the Patriots, then how will it be any less abhorrent to the Grace and Honour of professional football if Tom Brady gets two possessions while he only gets one possession? The mere idea is nauseating.
(And God forbid — GOD FORBID! — if Team B gets rascally and goes for two to win the game, thus not giving Team A a chance to respond. How on EARTH could you not give the opponent A CHANCE TO WIN THE GAME?! I shudder at the thought.)
Really — the logic of the new overtime rule proposal suggests that a team that rolls out the red carpet for an opponent to mount a 75-yard touchdown drive deserves to be given an offensive possession immediately after doing so. Fine. That’s pathetic, but fine. People like it.
Why, then, after scoring a 75-yard touchdown of its own, should that team all of a sudden be faced with the cruel reality of actually losing a game by giving up a second 75-yard touchdown drive?
Does our sympathy for poor Patty Mahomes dry up after a pair of scoring drives? Or would those bemoaning his lack of overtime football touching find it fair and square that he didn’t get a second chance to respond?
Would those people finally accept the fact that defense does still have a role and impact on football games? (Ha! Just kidding. We are laughing.)
To be real for a moment, I’ll reiterate the following about the Chiefs’ overtime launch, which was the moment that really propelled this movement forward: The Chiefs allowed the Patriots to convert not one, not two, but three third-and-10’s on the overtime drive. The defensive plan to keep safeties 20 yards off the line of scrimmage on these plays? Turns out it was a bad one. Andy Reid, perhaps asleep at the wheel, didn’t call a timeout to give his defense a breather and a chance to collect itself after that third conversion. The Chiefs then allowed Rex Burkhead (3.3 yards per attempt in the regular season, 2.9 yards per carry in that game prior to the final three plays) to slice through them for 10 yards, then 3 yards, and then 2 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
The saying goes that the Chiefs “didn’t have a chance” to win the game. They actually had at least six chances in overtime to earn that chance to win the game. Even after four failures, the defense could have forced the Patriots to settle for a field goal. Instead, the Chiefs defense laid down and let the Patriots roll into the end zone.
For that, based on the new rule proposal, the Chiefs should have been rewarded.
Again, fine. That’s the way the people want it. Things change. Life goes on.
But to think this new idea solves the fundamental problem of “fairness,” when the same exact scenario could play out in the Patriots’ second possession, thus leaving the football world feeling empty once again? That is typically shortsighted for a major NFL decision.
Maybe instead of changing the rules, people start accepting when they don’t deserve to win a game. Now there’s a proposal.