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Buffalo Bills fans cannot be leading the “change the NFL overtime rules” revolution

Thirteen seconds remained.

Just thirteen seconds separated the Buffalo Bills from their second AFC championship game appearance in three years, as well as their first Super Bowl appearance since the 1993 season. (Sure, those pesky Cincinnati Bengals would have still stood in the way, as the road opponent, but why make things any less dramatic?)

Leading by three points, Sean McDermott’s team celebrated as if it were 1999. The heroic Josh Allen did it again, this time finding Gabriel Davis for the duo’s second touchdown hookup since the two-minute warning hit (and for a remarkable fourth time that night).

All the Bills had to do was hold on.

All the Bills had to do was not give up one of the most inexcusable leads in NFL playoff history.

All the Bills had to do was not kick it in the end zone.

Yet, that’s exactly what they inexplicably did.

The Chiefs then tied the game with no time remaining (field goal) and ultimately scored on the opening drive of overtime. Ball game.

Whether or not Tyler Bass intended for the kick to result in a touchback, matters very little. It happened, and it set the stage for the greatest two-play choke job in NFL history.

This is why Buffalo Bills fans need to sit this one out. This is why the Bills fan has very little to scream about as it relates to the NFL’s current overtime setup.

Make no mistake about it: The NFL overtime rules most definitely need a tune-up. Two things can be true at the same time …

  1. The NFL overtime rules need an update.
  2. Bills fans cannot be the ones leading the revolution.

The problem comes when the immediate reaction features a 99-1 ratio that points to the cruelties of the NFL’s overtime rules.

If I’m a Bills fan, I’m, first and foremost, livid that my team kicked that ball in the end zone. I’m then beyond annoyed at how defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier handled the last drive.

Not until those two things are first dealt with could I finally get on the NFL for its rules—if I actually rooted for a New York-based team located in the middle of nowhere.

NFL overtime does need to change

The amateur proposals put forth by many a Twitter account, following one of the greatest games in NFL history this past Sunday, are hilariously unrealistic. Coming up with the perfect proposal means factoring a bunch of things into account.

First, any change cannot significantly extend game time. It’s bad enough that the NFL changed the regular-season overtime rules from 15 to 10 minutes—which increases the likelihood of a tie—but that does mean we cannot play three or four extra sessions in the postseason simply because fans would love to see it.

Did the NFL world not witness just how tired those two teams were towards the end of regulation? My goodness, gracious, each defense looked as though they were equipped with Homer Simpson’s body and Mick Jagger’s lungs.

So, anything featuring a full quarter just will not do. The games would take too long and NFL offenses would really pour it on, making a complete mockery of the sport.

The simple fix would be as follows:

  • Eliminate all extra points.
  • If the team that possesses the ball first, scores a touchdown, the other team still has a chance to score.
  • If both teams are still tied after the first two possessions, it then goes to sudden death.

Eliminating the extra point and forcing teams to go for two will automatically shorten the overtime period. Traditionally, two-point conversions are successful between 40 and 55 percent of the time.

These days, nearly 50 percent is a solid success rate for the two-pointer, which edges out the 2021 season’s fourth-and-two situation success rate (39 percent).

No matter the actual percentage, it’s much more of a 50-50 shot than extra points (above 90 percent success rate).

Usually, I’d play the role of a traditional stickler and say, “Hey, make a big defensive stop if victory is what you crave.” But cooler heads prevail—a calm demeanor that realizes we’re living in a nonsensical football world.

Today’s game is all offense, all the time. The greatest defense in football today is a conservative offense, as it’s usually the play-it-safe guys who cause the most self-inflicted offensive harm.

No truer evidence for that exists than what we witnessed in the final two minutes of the Kansas City Chiefs‘ thrilling divisional-round victory. Once the offensive play-callers and quarterbacks decided to throw caution to the wind, the defenses didn’t know what to do.

So, both teams deserve to possess the ball at least once in overtime. If the team who receives the ball scores first, they must go for two and allow it to be a six or eight-point lead, only to have to play defense at least once more.

True sudden death would not commence until a third possession comes our way.

Everybody, including Bills fans, could agree with this. I just can’t have Bills fans making the most noise—not after what we just witnessed.

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An epic collapse

It wasn’t a painfully humiliating Greg Norman collapse (circa 1996 The Masters), or a slow-burn-like New York Yankees choke job (circa 2004 ALCS). Instead, the Bills stunning display of ineptitude happened with a blink of an eye, yet it carries historical weight like none other.

As previously stated, all they had to do was not kick the ball in the end zone. Case closed.

For those calling for a squib kick … nah.

A squib isn’t the right call either. Taking a chance that one of the Chiefs’ up-men pounces on the ball and falls to the ground in a great spot while wasting no time just wasn’t worth it.

The call there was to kick it off normally, with as much height as possible, without having it go into the end zone. Sure, it’s admittedly easier said than done, and perhaps that was the call they had on, but anything within the 10 or even 15-yard line would have sufficed. Even anything within the 20-yard line would have forced the returner to make a tough decision: fair catch and save time or return it and leave the offense with nothing.

It would have forced the Chiefs returner to either fair catch it in a terrible spot—one where one mistake hands the ball to Patrick Mahomes with just one play at his disposal (Hail Mary time).

On top of that malfeasance, Buffalo called a timeout prior to each of the Chiefs’ two plays on the game-tying drive and still played it all wrong.

You simply cannot play that lagged against Tyreek Hill and a team with all three timeouts remaining.

You simply cannot play outside technique—thinking sideline—against a tight-split standing tight end (Travis Kelce) when a team has one play to get into field goal range with a timeout remaining (Kansas City still had two timeouts left).

Yet, that’s exactly what the usually well-coached, incredibly crisp Bills defense did.

Why?

This collapse is just as epic as Greg Norman at The Masters, the 2004 Yankees, or, dare I say, the Music City Miracle (hello, kickoff). This one’s even much more inexcusable than the current overtime rules that do not totally prevent a defense from making a stop once in a while.

In the end, there’s no question the NFL will tweak the overtime rules, as they should. It’s a new ball game and offenses are running down defenses just like Sasquatch used to do with the not-so-innocent civilians who constantly messed with him.

So, go ahead and get loud. Scream about the unfair cruelties of professional football’s overtime rules.

Just please don’t let it be Buffalo Bills fans who are screaming the loudest.

Or, if Bills fans want to join the charge, make sure “epic choke job in 13 seconds” is screamed about with just as much vigor and volume.

The overtime rules need to be changed, but fans of the Buffalo Bills should either sit this out or at least hold back the passion just a bit.

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Robby Sabo is a co-founder, developer and credentialed New York Jets content creator for Jets X-Factor | Jet X, which includes Sabo's Sessions (in-depth film breakdowns) and Sabo with the Jets. Host: Underdog Jets Podcast with Wayne Chrebet and Sabo Radio. Member: Pro Football Writers of America. Coach: Port Jervis (NY) High School. Washed up strong safety and 400M runner. Founder: Elite Sports NY - ESNY (sold in 2020). SEO: XLM Email: robby.sabo[at]jetsxfactor.com
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Psi
Psi
8 months ago

I’ve always felt that the OT rule should allow both teams to possess the ball at least once. Afterwards sudden death. I don’t think that approach would necessarily require forcing 2 pt. conversions to minimize the length of the game. That change could be introduced if game length became an issue.

DHB
DHB
8 months ago

I’m a bit of a traditionalist and don’t feel that the OT rules should change at all. I believe the winner of the OT coin toss wins the game about 52% of the time (and not necessarily on the first possession) so each team already has an almost equal chance. In CFB the team taking the ball second knows what they need to do and can run plays on fourth down as required leading to a 62% win rate (according to Rich Eisen the other day). So each team getting the ball won’t necessarily make it fair.

I think if there were to be any rule changes I’d like to see the defence have some of their powers restored. As much as we all like to see teams combine for 90+ points and throw more TD passes than incompletions it happens too much for my liking now and could do with some adjustment.

In cricket, a bat and ball game played in England and her former colonies, the authorities constantly contrive to maintain the competitive balance between batting and bowling. I feel that the NFL needs to do similar as defences have been hamstrung a great deal and restoring some of the balance would give the defence more of a say in the outcome of OT.

Bruno
Bruno
8 months ago

In agreement also, I didn’t understand the kickoff. It ked to the downfall of Brain fart defensive calls.. At the least you make them field it inside the 10 and either they down it or again have a brain fart and try to run it out of bounds.

Jets71
Jets71
8 months ago

I couldn’t agree more about the Bills on this one. This is a major self inflicted wound. I also with you on the “pop fly” over squib kick. You’re right. Pop it to the 15, making sure it won’t bounce into the end zone with nobody touching it, force them to fair catch it there or try to run for as many yards as possible. It’s no-man’s land and the Bills failed to do that, so they get what they deserve. I am also a bit exhausted with the “it’s not fair” crowd after their team doesn’t get the ball in OT. Then say “we lost on a coin flip.” No, you lost because your special teams did nothing special and your defense didn’t show up. Then you got beat. The one thing I’m not in total agreement on is the OT rules need to change. Everybody knows the deal going in, so if you put yourself in that situation then you get what’s coming. I am not insensitive however, my change isn’t really with OT. I think the problem can be solved with the opening coin flip. You can win the toss and defer but whoever receives the opening kick also receives the opening kick in OT. This won’t change the OT rules but will force teams to strategize late in game knowing what is happening in OT. For instance: Buff might have gone for 2 with 13 secs left to try to avoid a long FG that can tie the game. Knowing their gassed D would be back on the field. I think this is a bit knee jerk reaction.