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How many overtimes are there in NFL?

What the National Football League rule book says about overtime play and how the rules have evolved, especially in the last 10 years.

How many overtimes are there in NFL?

If a football game is tied at the end of four quarters, overtime is played. In overtime, a coin toss decides which team will hold the ball first. The winner of the coin toss can choose to give the ball or receive the ball. If the receiving team fails to score and loses possession, the game goes into sudden death, and the first to score wins. The scoring team wins if the first possession ends in a touchdown (by the receiving team or by the defensive team on a turnover) or the defensive team scores a safety.

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Nevertheless, suppose the initial receiving team only scores a field goal. In that case, the game is not automatically over, and the other team is allowed to possess the ball as well. The opposite team can win with a touchdown and tie with a field goal, and will lose if they fail to score.

Since the NFL added an overtime period in 1974 to decide regular-season games that end regular time with a tied score, around 600 regular-season games have been finished with overtime play.

The evolution of the rules

The league introduced an adjusted sudden-death overtime system to better determine a winner in a tie game for the 2010 postseason. Two seasons later, the league expanded those rules to cover all NFL games.

During the regular season in the NFL, one overtime period is played (with each team receiving two-time outs). If the game is still tied after the 10-minute overtime, the game formally ends in a tie. Before the 2017 season, there was a 15-minute overtime. In the playoffs, 15-minute overtime periods resume until a winner is resolved. In 2017, NFL owners approved shortening overtime in the regular season from 15 minutes to 10. The rule change is aimed at improving player safety. Overtime follows a three-minute break after the end of the regular game. Before the start of overtime, a coin flip is executed in which the captain of the visiting team calls the toss. The team that wins the coin flip can either receive the kickoff or choose the side of the field they wish to defend. Ties are rare in the NFL.

The current rules allow both teams to possess the ball at least once in overtime unless the team that receives the overtime kickoff scores a touchdown on its first possession. Under the previous rules, the team that won the coin toss would typically choose to receive the ball and gain just enough yardage to win the game by kicking a field goal without the other team touching the ball. The coin toss winner won approximately 60% of overtime games under that rule, rather than the 50% expected by random chance.


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