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NFL playoff overtime rules as the Chiefs-49ers go into overtime in Super Bowl 58

We go over the rules for overtime in the postseason considering the game can’t end in a tie.

A detail view of the NFL shield logo painted on the field before the NFL Super Bowl LVIII football game between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers at Allegiant Stadium on February 11, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images

If you hate the NFL’s overtime rules in the regular season, good news: they have been changed for the playoffs. In the regular season, if the team who gets the ball scores a touchdown, that is it, the game is over. In the playoffs, among other tweaks, both teams will get a possession.

Let’s take a look at the NFL’s updated overtime rules adopted in 2022.

  • If the score is still tied at the end of an overtime period — or if the second team’s initial possession has not ended — the teams will play another overtime period. Play will continue regardless of how many overtime periods are needed for a winner to be determined.
  • There will be a two-minute intermission between each overtime period. There will not be a halftime intermission after the second period.
  • The captain who lost the first overtime coin toss will either choose to possess the ball or select which goal his team will defend unless the team that won the coin toss deferred that choice.
  • Each team will have an opportunity to possess the ball in overtime.
  • Each team gets three timeouts during a half.
  • The same timing rules that apply at the end of the second and fourth regulation periods also apply at the end of a second or fourth overtime period.
  • If there is still no winner at the end of a fourth overtime period, there will be another coin toss, and play will continue until a winner is declared.

The Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills played a slugfest of a game in the AFC Divisional round in 2022. It went into overtime, and the Chiefs scored a touchdown on the opening drive, ending the game. Fans and executives alike were not happy that Buffalo didn’t get a chance to score. This was the spark that led to the rule changes that are now implemented.

Thus, each team now must have one possession in overtime. If Team A scores a touchdown to open the overtime period, Team B will still get their shot. If Team B scores a touchdown on their first possession, then the game would progress to sudden death rules.

Since 2010, 12 playoff games have gone into overtime. Seven of those games ended with a first-drive touchdown. There had been calls to change the postseason overtime rules to allow for each team to have a possession since the 2018 season, but the result of the Chiefs and Bills game in 2022 was the final straw that convinced enough executives the vote needed to pass.

Playoff overtime games since 2010

2021: Bengals over Chiefs, 27-24 in AFC Championship
2021: Chiefs over Bills, 42-36 in AFC Divisional Round
2019: Vikings over Saints, 26-20 in NFC Wild Card Round
2019: Texans over Bills, 22-19 in AFC Wild Card Round
2018: Patriots over Chiefs, 37-31 in AFC Championship
2018: Rams over Saints, 26-23 in NFC Championship
2016: Patriots over Falcons, 34-28 in Super Bowl
2015: Cardinals over Packers, 26-20 in NFC Divisional Round
2014: Seahawks over Packers, 28-22 in NFC Championship
2012: Ravens over Broncos, 38-35 in AFC Divisional Round
2011: Giants over 49ers, 20-17 in NFC Championship
2011: Broncos over Steelers, 29-23 in AFC Wild Card Round