NFL Overtime Rules Explained: Possession, Scoring, Timeouts, More

Here's how NFL overtime rules work in the regular season and playoffs

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NFL overtime rules explained: Possession, scoring, timeouts, more originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The NFL's inaugural 17-game season could see the record for most overtime games being broken.

The Baltimore Ravens' Week 9 overtime victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday was the 12th time a game went into OT this season. With one game remaining in the first half of the 2021 campaign, there would need to be 14 more overtime games to break the NFL record, which was set back in 2002 with 25 OT battles.

Before the next overtime game, here's everything you need to know about the rules of the extra period:

How long is NFL overtime?

As of 2017, regular-season NFL games that are tied at the end of regulation only have one overtime period of 10 minutes. 

In the playoffs, an overtime period is 15 minutes instead of 10. Because a postseason game requires one team to win, multiple 15-minute overtime periods are played if needed until one team scores to win the game.

When does NFL overtime end?

If the first team to possess the ball in overtime scores a touchdown, the game is over -- without the second team even having an opportunity on offense. 

This gives the team that wins the coin toss a huge advantage. Teams that have come out on the losing end of this proposition, like the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2019 AFC Championship, have suggested various rule changes, to no avail so far.

While the rule that a touchdown ends the game is unpopular, it used to be even worse: The game would end if the team that won the coin toss scored a field goal, too. 

As of 2012, if the first team doesn’t score a touchdown, the second team gets possession and the opportunity to end the game.

Here are all the different options depending on who scored what in the first two possessions:

  • If Team 1 had a touchdown, Team 1 wins.
  • If Team 1 had a safety, and Team 2 had a field goal, Team 2 wins.
  • If Team 1 had a field goal, and Team 2 had a safety, Team 1 wins.
  • If Team 1 had a field goal, and Team 2 had a field goal, the next score wins it.
  • If Team 1 had a field goal or safety, and Team 2 had a touchdown, Team 2 wins. 
  • If Team 1 had a field goal, and Team 2 didn’t score, Team 1 wins. 
  • If Team 1 didn’t score, the next score of any kind wins it.

In the regular season, the game ends in a tie if no one has won by the end of the 10 minutes.

What other rules apply in NFL overtimes?

Each team receives two timeouts during a regular-season overtime and three timeouts in a postseason overtime. 

If the game ends on a touchdown, the extra point is not attempted.

Coaches are not allowed to challenge instant replay calls during overtime. The replay official is the only one who can call for an instant replay review.

The full list of rules for overtime are available here.

How common are ties in the NFL?

Most of the time, the overtime rules lead to one team securing the win. Since the overtime period was shortened in 2017, only four regular-season games have ended in ties, most recently last season when the Cincinnati Bengals visited the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3.

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