Overtime in football is used to determine the winning team if the score is tied at the end of regulation. The rules of overtime and the coin toss options are slightly different for high school football, college football, and the NFL.
NFL Regular Season Overtime Rules
There are different rules for overtime in the NFL regular season and playoffs. In the regular season, a game may end in a tie if the score is still tied at the end of overtime. There is only a single 10-minute period of overtime, in which both teams get a chance to be on offense unless a touchdown is scored. Once both teams have possessed the ball, sudden death scoring is in effect, where a safety, field goal, or touchdown will win the game.
If the first team on offense scores a touchdown or concedes a safety, the game immediately ends without the second team having a chance to possess the ball.
Both teams get two timeouts each during overtime, and there are no coach challenges. There are no PATs in NFL overtime because a touchdown ends the game; there is no need for an extra point or 2-point conversion.
NFL Playoffs Overtime Rules
In the NFL Playoffs, games cannot end in a tie, so if the score is tied at the end of an overtime, another is played. The same scoring rules apply.
In the playoffs, teams get three timeouts for every two periods of overtime, and another coin toss is held after a fourth overtime.
There are also 2-minute warnings during the second and fourth overtimes, just like the second and fourth quarters of a game.
NFL Overtime Coin Toss
We've already learned about the coin toss. The coin toss will determine the setup of overtime. Teams get to choose from the following coin toss options:
- To kick or to receive the opening kickoff
- Which goal to defend (also known as choosing wind)
- Defer choice to the start of the 2nd half of overtime
College Football Overtime Rules
Each overtime period lasts two possessions. Both teams get a chance to be on offense. The team that scores the most points during their possession is the winner. When on offense, a team gets the ball on their opponent's 25-yard line. Kickoffs are not used in college football overtime. The order of which team is on offense first alternates each overtime period.
Teams will alternate playing offense when a turnover happens, a score is made, or a field goal is missed. The game may also end on a defensive touchdown or safety, although these are rare.
College Football Overtime Coin Toss
In college overtime, there are advantages and disadvantages to choosing offense or defense. Some teams like choosing defense first because they will know how much they will need to score once they are on offense. Others like playing offense first because scoring first will put pressure on the opponent's offense to do the same.