The NFL has instituted a new overtime rule which will prevent a team from winning by kicking a field goal on the opening possession of the extra session.
As of now, the rule will only be instituted for the playoffs, although Rich McCay, the co-chair of the NFL competition committee, said there's a chance that when the owners meet again in May, they will decide to expand the rule to the regular season as well.
The vote on the proposed changes, which took place today at the owners meetings in Orlando, passed by a 28-4 margin. The Ravens were one of the teams opposed to the new overtime rule, as were the Bills, Vikings and Bengals.
Under the new rule, the team that gets the ball first can still win the game on the opening possession if they score a touchdown, but it guarantees the opposing team a crack on offense if they don't allow a TD.
If the first team with possession kicks a field goal, the opposing team will now get a possession of their own.
If that team also kicks a field goal, the game will continue under the current sudden death policy, but they can also earn the win by reaching the end zone.
Meanwhile, if the team with the ball first does not score, the opposing team can win the game merely with a field goal.
Basically, if a team scores a touchdown at any time, they will win the game. In a sense, that still makes overtime "sudden death".
"The game can end on one possession at any time," McKay said. "We preserved that."
However, the new rule protects the team that does not get the ball first by allowing them a possession as long as they stop their opponent from reaching the end zone.
The changed rule is not a one-year fix; it is permanent. Again, however, the policy only applies to the postseason as of now.
McKay also said that the rule means that no portion of the game will be rendered useless. Special teams will still be valuable because a team can win at any time on a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown, and the kicking game will be vital because of field position and long field goal attempts.
Since 1994, 34 percent of overtime games were won on the opening possession, but 60 percent of teams that won the coin toss won the game.
The toss will still determine which team gets the ball first, but the league believes that this new rule should give both teams a fair chance to win the game, regardless of who starts with possession.
Talking with Jamison Hensley of The Baltimore Sun, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti said yesterday that while he hadn't completely made up his mind, he was likely to vote against the rule change.
"We've been on the winning and losing side of overtime games," Bisciotti said. "It's what I'm used to and what I expect. I don't know if there is a compelling argument to change it."