NFL Football Overtime Rules

football overtime

NFL overtime rules are a set of regulations that govern how an overtime period must be played if a football game remains tied after 60 minutes of regulation.

Overtime games are a semi-regular occurrence in the NFL, however oftentimes games will be decided before regulation ends. For this reason, teams practice the plays they would use in an overtime situation on a regular basis.


Overtime Possession Rules

The NFL overtime rules previously dictated that overtime periods will be played in accordance with a strict "sudden death" format (a score of any kind automatically wins the game). However, the rules were adapted in 2017 to make overtime more fair and exciting.

The Coin Toss

A coin toss decides which team gets to choose either to receive the ball or choose which endzone they want to defend. As is the case with the beginning of the game, the away team gets to call which side the coin will land on. If the away team correctly guesses how the coin will land, they get to choose. If not, the home team will get the option. Especially with the new overtime rules, most teams that win the coin toss will choose to receive the ball first. This is to protect themselves from losing in the sudden death format.

Scoring and Winning

Once they have received the kickoff, the offense takes the field and tries to score. If the offense scores a field goal (worth 3 points) or fails to score entirely, the other team is given a chance to either tie the game with a field goal of their own or win the game with a touchdown (worth 6 points). If the first receiving team scores a touchdown, the game is over and the opposite team does not get a chance to score. Should the game be tied after each team has had a possession, the next score will win the game regardless of what type of score it is. During the regular season, if the score is still tied at the end of the 10-minute overtime period, the game will end in a tie.

Overtime Strategy

Teams have to be a lot more precautious with their play calling in overtime since a turnover in your own half of the field can lead to an easy game-winning field goal. Field positioning is often more important than taking risks.

In terms of clock management, each coach will have two timeouts at their disposal in an overtime period, but will not be able to challenge a call. All video reviews must be initiated by the referees. In the playoffs, teams will get three timeouts for each "half" (two 15-minute overtime periods).

Overtime Period Length

In the regular season, an additional 10-minute period is added to the game for overtime. If there is no score or the game is still tied after the 10 minutes have expired, the game will end in a tie. In the postseason, overtime periods are 15 minutes in length. In the event of a tied score at the end of the first overtime period, additional 15 minute overtime periods will take place until a winner can be determined.

Overtime Clock Stoppage

If a player runs out of bounds with possession of the ball within the final two minutes of overtime, the clock will stop until the next snap. For any other instance earlier in the period, the clock will continue to run on a successful play (running play or completed pass). Generally, clock stoppage in overtime will work the same as it would in regulation.

NFL Regular Season Overtime Rules

The rules for the NFL regular season overtime are slightly different than the postseason playoff games, most notably games can end in ties. Below are the rules for the NFL regular season:

  • A 10 minute period is played to determine the winner.
  • Games can end in a tie after the end of the overtime period.
  • A touchdown or safety on the first possession wins the game.
  • If the score is tied after each team has had a first possession, the next score will win the game.
  • Each team gets two timeouts.
  • Coaches are not allowed to use coach's challenges to review plays.

NFL Postseason Overtime Rules

The rules for the NFL Postseason overtime are slightly different than the regular season. This ensures that there is always a winner to advance to the next round of the playoffs, or be declared champion. Below are the rules for the NFL postseason overtime:

  • 15 minute periods are played until a winning team is decided.
  • A touchdown or safety on the first possession wins the game.
  • If the score is tied after each team has had a first possession, the next score will win the game.
  • Each team gets 3 timeouts for every two overtime periods.
  • Coach's challenges are not allowed. Play reviews happen only by the Replay Official

Summary of NFL Overtime Rules

  • Overtime happens when the score is tied at the end of four quarters of regulation.
  • A coin toss will take place at the start of overtime to determine who will be kicking and receiving.
  • Regular season overtime periods last 10 minutes and postseason overtime periods last 15 minutes.
  • During overtime the clock will stop if a player runs out of bounds during the last two minutes of the overtime period.
  • Each team gets a chance to be on offense, unless the team that receives the ball scores a touchdown or safety during the 1st possession.
  • Multiple overtime periods are only played in the postseason, during the regular season games can end in a tie.
  • Coaches are not able to challenge instant replay decisions during overtime.

FAQ

Can a playoff football game end in a tie?

Since there needs to be a clear winner of a playoff football game to advance to the next round or win the championship, NFL playoff games never will end in a tie. If there is no victor after the first 10-minute overtime period is played, another 10-minute period will be played following a brief intermission. No playoff game has gone past double overtime, but if this were to happen, the teams would play additional 10-minute overtime periods until a winner emerges.

Do NFL teams kick extra points in overtime?

NFL teams do not kick an extra point on game winning touchdowns in overtime. Regardless of the circumstance, a touchdown means an immediate end of the game. Therefore, extra points are not relevant in NFL games that go to overtime.

How long is overtime in the NFL?

In the regular season, NFL overtime periods are 10 minutes in length. In the postseason, each overtime period is 15 minutes. If the score remains tied at the end of the first overtime period in a playoff game, each additional overtime period will also be 15 minutes. This process will repeat itself until a winner is determined.