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Overtime change for the playoffs

With an increasing number of overtime games being won by the team that wins the coin toss, NFL owners today took a step toward addressing that trend by approving a measure to modify the overtime rules for the playoffs.

The new system, which could eventually be approved for regular season games, would not automatically end a game if the receiving team kicked a field goal on its first possession of the extra session. Here’s how it would work:

After a coin toss to decide which team kicks off, the receiving team would win the game if it scores a touchdown on its first possession. However, if the receiving team scores a field goal, the opposing team would get a possession.

If that team then scored a field goal, the game would then proceed on a sudden death basis, with the next team to score declared the winner. If that team did not score on its possession, the team scoring the field goal on the opening possession would win.

The team that kicks off in overtime could also win the game on a defensive touchdown on the first possession, or if it registers a safety.

Regular season overtime would continue with the current sudden death format, with the first team to score the winner. A game ends in a tie if neither team scores in a 15-minute overtime period. However, owners will further discuss the matter in the coming weeks, and could decide as early as late May to include all overtime games under the newly adopted playoff format.

“There was a lot of sentiment in the room to change this rule in the regular season,” said NFL competition committee chairman Rich McKay. “The idea was to go back, study it and then come back to use it. It might be in May, or next year, or whenever. I think people acknowledged that this system, from a numerical standpoint, needed to be changed.”

The vote was 28-4 in favor of the measure. A minimum of 24 votes were needed to adopt the rule. The Giants and Jets both voted in favor; Jets owner Woody Johnson and head coach Rex Ryan had expressed a desire not to change the system, but Johnson was sufficiently swayed at yesterday’s meetings to vote with the majority.

Voting against were the Vikings, Bills, Bengals and Ravens. The Vikings were beaten by the Saints in overtime in last season’s NFC Championship Game in New Orleans.

“We have discussed proposals about overtime over the last several years, and the more you saw the statistics, the more it became obvious we really needed to do something,” said Colts president Bill Polian, a competition committee member. “Once we got here and began to discuss it with people and explain it to them, many more people said we’re concerned this is a problem.”

When overtime was introduced to the regular season in 1974, there was an even split in teams that won the coin toss and went on to win the game. However, when kickoffs were moved back from the 35 yard line to the 30 in 1994, the statistics began to swing in favor of the team that won the toss.

From 1994-2009, 146 of the 244 (59.8 percent) overtime games were won by the team that won the toss, while 94 (38.5 percent) were won by the team that lost the toss. Four ended in a tie.

Since 1958, there have been 27 overtime games in the playoffs, with 13 teams that won the coin toss winning the game and 14 teams losing the toss won. Since 1994, there have been 14 playoff overtime games, with seven teams winning the coin toss winning the game and seven teams losing the coin toss losing.

Because there are so many fewer overtime games in the playoffs, the competition committee felt that the statistical sample from the regular season was greater and decided to stick with that as their guide for yesterday’s decision.

New York Sports