Last night, both the NFC and AFC Championship games went into overtime. The NFC Championship game ended in an unusual way, but it wasn’t the OT that made it in any way controversial.
It saw one of the most egregious Pass Interference no-calls in recent history, from any angle, and any viewpoint. It was clearly a play on the receiver and not a play on the ball, and he hit him before the ball was in a catch-able range. If that wasn’t PI, nothing is; but that’s not what this article is about.
This article is about the unabashed embarrassment that is the NFL’s over-time rules. There are many reasons to disagree with the rules philosophically, but there is absolutely no way you can stand by them after Super Bowl 51.
Super Bowl 51 took the rules in their worst form and put it on display in front of the largest audience in American pro-sports. You would think that would be a convenient time to make the rules more logical and balanced, but no. The league simply cannot help themselves.
The NFC Championship game thankfully ended in a hectic but competitively reasonable fashion. The Saints had the ball, messed up, and the Rams capitalized. But that game, too, could have ended like the AFC title game. The Saints could easily have won the game on that drive, and we’d be sitting here talking about the entire Super Bowl hanging in the balance of a coin toss.
There is an argument to be made that sudden-death style rules make over-time more exciting. The reality is, they simply don’t. Nothing kills a tense competitive atmosphere more than a game ending out of nowhere, with half of both teams not getting a say in the matter. There is even an argument to be made that sudden-death makes it a better spectator experience, but this is also false. Watching the game last night, with multiple people of varying interest in football, not a single person felt the rules made any sense, even people who don’t follow football and were watching purely as a casual spectator.
It doesn’t make it more hype. It doesn’t make it a better watch. It leaves you with nothing except a sense of anti-climax and frustration.
Aside from the bad taste OT often leaves in peoples’ mouths, there simply is no excuse for one team to end the game on the first possession of a period. The reason the game went into over-time was the full roster, offense and defense, of both teams were so evenly matched that the game was tied after 4 quarters. For it to be possible for only half of each team to fight for the W, in a game where most players only play on one side of the ball (unlike hockey or basketball in which offense and defense more or less happen simultaneously) is purely inexcusable and moronic.
It’s not like this is a non-issue either, this NFL season had an unprecedented amount of over-time games, including some that were similarly decided because of a coin-toss, Eagles/Cowboys being a notable example. More importantly, this has happened multiple times in the past 3 years, including a Super Bowl. If the Super Bowl is supposed to be the crowning achievement of professional sports, and the pinnacle of competition, how can it possibly be decided by a coin-toss?
The NFL does a lot of things questionably. PI rulings are unusually inconsistent, roughing the passer is apparently constituted as brushing Tom Brady’s sternum with your hand, and pulling Nick Foles by his horse-collar and hurling him to the ground isn’t. But nothing, and I mean nothing, is as frustrating, illogical, embarrassing, anti-climactic, and as overdue for a reboot as the NFL’s over-time rules.