How does overtime work in the NFL? The rules of overtime in American Football

How does overtime work in the NFL? The rules of overtime in American Football

Grace Waruguru
updated at August 9, 2023 at 9:30 AM

The NFL constantly reviews its rules to accommodate the interests of all stakeholders. You might wonder, ''How does overtime work in the NFL?'' The American football extra time guidelines are in place to ensure fair play for all teams at the playoffs. Here are the current rules and how they have changed in the recent past.

how does overtime work in the nfl
Cordell Volson of the Cincinnati Bengals in the huddle against the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on January 22, 2023, in Orchard Park, New York. Photo: Cooper Neill
Source: Getty Images

How does overtime work in the NFL playoff game? NFL playoffs determine which teams from the National Football Conference (NFC) and American Football Conference (AFC) will battle it out at the Super Bowl Championships.

How does overtime work in the NFL?

As we get into the rules governing it, let us start by answering the question, ''How does overtime work in NFL football? The competing teams take extra time to determine a winner whenever a game ends in a tie. Overtime starts with a coin toss called by the visiting team captain, not the referee. The team that wins the coin toss chooses whether to defer the kick, to kick off and which goal to defend.

How does overtime work in the NFL regular season?

how does overtime work in the nfl 2023
Buffalo Bills Quarterback Josh Allen (17) hands off to running back Zack Moss (20) in an NFL football game with the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct 10, 2021, at GEHA.Photo: Scott Winters
Source: Getty Images

During the regular season, if a game ends in a tie, overtime continues for up to 10 minutes. This starts after a three-minute intermission.

Each team gets two 30-second timeouts to plan and re-strategize. If a team scores a touchdown or safety, it is declared the winner, and the game ends. Additionally, the other team moves to the offence if a field goal or turnover happens.

However, if the scores remain the same even in overtime, the replay official calls a tie, and the game ends. For example, on December 4, 2022, the game between the New York Giants and the Washington Commanders ended in a 20-20 draw.

How does overtime work in the NFL football league?

how does overtime work in the nfl regular season
San Diego Chargers defensive end looks on during their American Football Conference West Division game against the Kansas City Chiefs on 8th December 1991. Photo: Tim DeFrisco
Source: Getty Images

Before the establishment of the new rules, the NFL playoffs overtime rules were as follows:

  • The overtime period was 15 minutes
  • Each team got three 30-second timeouts
  • Both teams got a chance to be on the offence
  • Teams played multiple overtime periods so that the game does not end in a tie
  • Overtime periods had two-minute intermissions
  • Teams changed their field end zones after the first and third overtime periods
  • A new coin toss took place after the fourth overtime period

How does overtime work in the NFL now?

Several netizens have wondered, ''How does overtime work in the NFL 2023?'' The guidelines were revised to incorporate the interests of all competing teams. While the overtime rules for the preseason and regular seasons remain the same, the rules underwent some changes.

How does overtime work in the NFL during the playoffs?

how does overtime work in the nfl playoff game
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Running Back Giovani Bernard (25) rushes the football into the defence during a game with the Atlanta Falcons on January 8, 2023, in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo: David J. Griffin
Source: Getty Images

The NFL playoff season now operates under the newly constituted overtime rules. These rules include the following:

  • Post-season or playoff games cannot end in a draw. The game will continue for as many 15-minute periods until a winner is determined.
  • Both teams must get at least one ball possession, even if the team that had the first possession scores a touchdown. However, if the team that had the ball first does not score a touchdown, or if the scores match, the next score ends the game.
  • Like the regular season, if the team with the first possession scores a safety, field down, or touch down, the kickoff team wins the game, ending it. This is also known as a sudden death play.
  • The replay official will initiate all overtime replays.
  • Each team will get three timeouts each half (two overtime periods) instead of two taken in the regular season. However, there is no half-time remission taken after the second.
  • The intermission before the overtime period is three minutes, with a two-minute break between overtime periods.
  • At the start of the third overtime period, the captain who lost the first coin toss will choose to either possess the ball or select which goal to defend unless the team that won the coin toss deferred.
  • The teams do another coin toss if there is no winner after the fourth overtime period.
how does overtime work in the nfl football
Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) taking the field with teammates before a game vs Buffalo Bills at Arrowhead Stadium. Kansas City. Photo: David E. Klutho
Source: Getty Images

The longest overtime period took place on December 25, 1971, in a match between the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs that lasted 82 minutes and 40 seconds. The teams played the first overtime period without converting a field goal.

During the second overtime, the Dolphins scored a 37-yarder, earning them a 27-24 victory. In addition, only six playoffs have played multiple overtimes.

Why did the NFL change the overtime rules?

After the 2021/22 season, the overtime rules were rewritten. This came after the AFC Championship game between Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills where the Chiefs won the overtime coin toss.

The players scored the possession, getting a direct ticket to the Super Bowl, which eliminated the opponents despite not handling the ball during the extra time. In turn, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Indianapolis Colts presented a proposal to the NFL owners to propose some amendments to ensure fairness for all teams. They agreed after a 29-3 vote.

how does overtime work in the nfl during the playoffs
Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Genard Avery of Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the match against Seattle Seahawks at Allianz Arena on November 13, 2022, in Munich, Germany. Photo: Roland Krivec
Source: Getty Images

Previously, the team that won the coin toss chose to receive the ball in most cases, which meant that they would score a touchdown and end the game without their opponents possessing the ball. This happened 10 out of 12 times since 2010. Seven out of these scored at the first possession.

If you have been asking, ''How does overtime work in the NFL playoffs?'' Ensure you get acquainted with the new rules and guidelines to keep you updated as you cheer your favourite team.

READ MORE: A list of all NFL teams in alphabetical order

Sportsbrief published a list of all NFL teams. The NFL is the highest professional level of American football, with several players from 32 teams, most of whom are from the same region.

Teams like the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears come from the North Division, while Houston, Texas and Atlanta Falcons come from the South Division. Get acquainted with all the American Football teams in the article above.

Grace Waruguru photo
Grace Waruguru
Grace has over 4 years of experience in article writing and digital media content creation for various local and global brands. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Communication (Public Relations) from Daystar University, Kenya.