GREEN BAY – Mike McCarthy was able to laugh about it Wednesday, but the Green Bay Packers coach will definitely have to brush up on the NFL’s overtime rules for playoff games.
McCarthy was asked Wednesday how the overtime rules, which are different than the run-of-the-mill sudden death used in the regular season, affect his planning.
“The overtime rule in the playoffs becomes another really sub-topic in my view of the coin toss. It kind of lines up in the same conversation. It's a game-management decision, whether you take the ball or don't take the ball,” McCarthy said. “To me, I think that's probably the most important variable involved in making that decision. But gameplan-wise, it's not going to change the way you call plays. What happens up to that point in the game, if you were in that situation, is going to factor on how you approach it, offense, defense and special teams."
When it was pointed out by WBAY-TV sports director Chris Roth, who asked the original question, that if the first team scores a touchdown, the opponent does not get a possession, McCarthy replied: “I think each team gets a series, as I understand it. Is that not right? Well, I've got a week to check it out.”
After the chuckles died down, Roth suggested that McCarthy not take his word for it. McCarthy smiled and replied: “I hate to hurt your guys' feelings, but we really don't ever go on your guys' accounts. We appreciate the input, though. It keeps us on our toes."
Here is how the postseason overtime rules, which were actually put into effect last year and were in play during the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV championship run, are explained in the official NFL Rule Book:
NFL owners voted in 2010 to install a modified sudden-death system to determine the winner when the score is tied at the end of regulation playing time of postseason NFL games. The system guarantees each team a possession or the opportunity to possess, unless the team that receives the opening kickoff scores a touchdown on its initial possession.
• At the end of regulation time the Referee will immediately toss coin at center of field in accordance with rules pertaining to the usual pregame toss. The captain of the visiting team will call the toss prior to the coin being flipped.
• Following a three-minute intermission after the end of the regulation game, play will be continued in 15-minute periods until a winner is declared. Each team must possess or have the opportunity to possess the ball unless the team that has the ball first scores a touchdown on its initial possession. Play continues in sudden death until a winner is determined, and the game automatically ends upon any score (by safety, field goal, or touchdown) or when a score is awarded by Referee for a palpably unfair act. Each team has three time outs per half and all general timing provisions apply as during a regular game. Try is not attempted if touchdown scored. Disqualified players are not allowed to return.
In simplest terms, that means that if you win the coin toss, take the ball and score a touchdown, you win, without the opposing team having had a chance to touch the ball. If you take the ball and settle for a field goal, the opposing team gets a possession, too. If the opposing team scores a touchdown, it wins; if it settles for a field goal, play continues in sudden death; if your defense stops the opposing team, game over.
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