Seattle’s 28-22 overtime victory against Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday should be the catalyst for more change to the NFL’s still patently unfair overtime rules.
The NFL modified the rules after the Saints defeated the Minnesota Vikings in overtime to win the 2009 NFC Championship.
At issue – then and now – is the possibility that a team can lose a game – and in these cases a trip to the Super Bowl – without ever possessing the football in the decisive overtime.
Five years ago, the Saints won the coin toss, received the kickoff and drove to Garrett Hartley’s game-winning field goal. Brett Favre and the rest of the Minnesota offense watched helplessly as New Orleans drove to the winning points.
The circumstances of the outcome shined a bright light on the unfairness of a sudden-death overtime. First score wins, period.
The rule in no way detracted from the Saints’ worthiness as NFC champions, and they went on to beat Indianapolis in the Super Bowl. But it did place an inordinate amount of impact on the outcome of a coin toss, something that has nothing to do with either team’s worthiness.
So the NFL rightly tweaked the rule, but wrongly stopped short of fixing it.
The only change was that a team could not win simply by kicking a field goal on the first possession of overtime – as the Saints had done – but a team could still win by scoring a touchdown on the first possession of overtime – as the Seahawks ultimately did.
The folly of the change was that the NFL acted as though the problem was that New Orleans won on a field goal, not the fact that a team lost without having an equal opportunity to possess the football.
Simple fairness and common sense say that a game that must be decided in overtime because the teams are dead even at the end of regulation must also provide equal opportunities in the extra period.
We’ll never know if a gimpy Aaron Rodgers would have led the Packers to a touchdown in overtime, but we do know this: the Seahawks got an opportunity that the Packers didn’t get simply because they won a coin toss.
That’s no way to decide a conference championship.
This Seattle-Green Bay game will long be remembered for being one of the most improbable comebacks/choke jobs – depending on your perspective – in NFL playoff history.
It should also become known as the game that finally convinced the NFL to fix its still-unfair overtime format.