Overtime fairness and outrageous calls
(Coin flips, challenges and playoffs – Oh my!)


There are a number of things we need to mention before diving into the NFL championship games that took place between New Orleans and Los Angeles, and Kansas City and New England. Things that need to be said, because the hype machines have been running all over the map.

First up… relax.

Let’s all take a step back before demanding quick and definitive solutions.

Yes, it’s absolutely possible that incidents can arise in sporting events exposing problems that should be corrected as soon as they can be addressed. This does not mean that each and every scenario should be handled immediately.

Far too often the action-reaction process is forgotten in the desire to see action-satisfaction. And then, over time, it is recognized that the pendulum was swung far too heavily in the opposite direction.

Second… yes, the call was horrendous. But again, relax.

The Saints actually took the lead in the game following the incident. The game went into overtime, and Drew Brees did in fact bring the offense out to the field in the extra session. You might want to argue the Saints didn’t win the football game because of the missing call. There’s a foundation for building such a belief. But the Saints did not lose the football game because of the missing call. In fact…

We’ve all seen bumbled, fumbled, blooper moments in football games. Called or not, there is no guarantee the Saints would have scored a touchdown, or even made the field goal with things playing out differently. An offsides penalty pushing the Saints back… plays called not to score but to run the clock… a botched snap resulting in a botched field goal attempt. Suddenly you don’t have a game going to overtime at all, as the Rams final drive in regulation becomes an attempt to win (not tie).

The game continued after the penalty wasn’t called. The Rams scored twice as it continued. The Saints turned the ball over. Meanwhile… in Kansas City… with a tremendous young quarterback aching to head out to the field in overtime, all the Patriots did to respond to the fourth quarter fireworks set off by the Chiefs was march down the field and stuff the ball into the end zone while denying the Mahomes any opportunity. If the Saints stop the Rams after their field goal… if they march for a touchdown… this moment is not nearly the same magnitude of a story.

Yes… blown call didn’t help. It was one of the worst performances from a crew of officials I’ve ever seen in an NFL game. The Saints quite likely would have advanced if it was made. Still, there is a very long list of teams that are not happy when comparing the actual-end-results of a game to the quite-likely-results during the game.

And third… most importantly… the real crime here is how the NFL has been completely silent on all items championship worthy. No publicly released comments on Patrick Mahomes not touching the ball in overtime. No publicly released comments on a pass interference non-call. As a result, lingering stories and issues are hanging around and making news as the Super Bowl approaches.

So, before we open the door, drink the potion, and fall down a rabbit hole… let’s all take a deep breath and recognize a few things about these situations. Quick actions sometimes create worse problems… the no-call event did not end the game… and the NFL apparently is hoping you’ll all forget about it if no one says anything.

And now…


About nine years ago, I offered a thought on the subject—“A solution for overtime in the NFL”—that came to a simple conclusion.

Play an entire extra period. A full fifteen minutes.

The original essay needs a lot of work, and it does expand on the concept. But the thoughts behind the content, for me, hold true.

In one realm, it mentions not playing overtime at all during the regular season and how that isn’t an option… a combination of ideas around ties being an option in non-playoff scenarios though too many hitting the standings is a worry, with a nod to the assumption that injuries go up with additional play. (Mind you, I still can’t find any information showing that injuries increase in overtime. That said… if you watched the Patriots drive on the Chiefs to end the AFC Championship game, you know there is no doubt that these players are exhausted by the time overtime begins.)

No overtime during the regular season isn’t an option. That direction isn’t going to be explored. Which leads me back to…

Play the full period.

I think all of us could figure out a way that a team trying to run a 15-minute drive might be able to do it. Might. Almost definitely will never happen. Not only would it involve keeping a drive active and clock running for a ridiculous number of plays, chances are good that a few unpredictable (and simply bizarre) moments would be needed.

The longest NFL drive to date in history went roughly thirteen and a half minutes. In college play, a drive spread over two different quarters ran for fourteen minutes and twenty-six seconds. A lot of crazy things would need to happen. But theoretically, it could, and if a team figured out how to do it, then I say more power to them even if it means both teams didn’t get a possession.

Playing the full extra period would bring in strategy beyond the match-me-if-you-can approach. It almost certainly does give both teams at least one possession. But anything with a sudden-death approach is open to questions, regardless of how it is set up.

In the past three NFL seasons, the Patriots advanced to a Super Bowl in one season and won a championship in another by getting into overtime and not letting the opposing offense take the field at all.

The greatest call never made

I actually think the answer here is pretty straightforward.

The NFL has decided that reviews on scoring plays, along with play after the two-minute warning, should be handled off the field. No challenges from coaches necessary. Certain scenarios allow for automatic review.

So here are two approaches that I’ll suggest…

First, adjust the policy to allow for some type of defined clear and obvious impact upon play review that can be automatically triggered by the replay official. It could be something that occurs throughout the game, or something that happens in a defined timeframe such as the final two minutes of a half. (I prefer the final two minutes approach, as those are periods where the ability to recover or adjust becomes more limited. But, a full-game approach could be fine depending on how it is applied.)

Second, add a third challenge for each coach/team that is based only on the same concept of an out of the ordinary impact upon play situation. (I’m not as big a fan of this one, as I think it could become an excuse to throw the flag hoping something gets spotted as any close game winds down. But we are talking about an unusual scenario. And, for instance, I don’t like that coaches are limited in their number of challenges if they continue to be correct. If you’re right, and the call was wrong, why are you told you can only challenge a specific number?)

The problem with all of this is the idea that people right now are screaming for anything to be reviewable. I’m not going to tell you that I don’t want the game called properly. I am not a person that thinks human-error needs to be accepted when there are opportunities and methods to get calls right. But there are times when things happen that don’t change the course of events, and don’t create unfair situations. And while this blown interference call was beyond horrendous, in part it was the timing of the situation and when it happened during the game that raises it to unreal heights of inexcusable. The solution shouldn’t create a scenario where every play is suddenly being reviewed, nor should it create a situation where every play is reviewed for everything taking place on the field.

Ok, message to the NFL, these issues are now yours to address. (The only thing I can say is that your silence so far is quite telling.)


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com