Super Bowl Overtime Rules
Since the Super Bowl cannot end in a tie, there is a special set of rules that applies to overtime in the big game. These rules are similar to those used in other playoff games. Read on to learn more about the overtime rules in the Super Bowl.
How to Win the Super Bowl in Overtime
Each team gets the chance to possess the ball in overtime in the Super Bowl. This means that each team will get a chance on offense in an attempt to score. A team wins in overtime by scoring points that their opponent is unable to match on their first drive, or scoring any points after each team has possessed the ball once.
For example, if the receiving team scores a touchdown on their opening drive, and the opposition is unable to score a touchdown on the following drive, they will be declared the winner. If both teams remain tied after they have possessed the ball once, the next team to score will be declared the winner.
Super Bowl Overtime Length
Overtime periods in the Super Bowl are 15 minutes long. However, the game can be won before the end of the period, which will result in the period being shorter. On the other hand, if the game is still tied at the end of the first overtime period, a second 15-minute overtime period will be played.
Teams are allowed three timeouts per half in overtime, the same as during regulation. A “half” in overtime is defined as two 15-minute overtime periods.
How Many Overtime Periods Can There Be in the Super Bowl?
There is no maximum amount of overtime periods in postseason play, including the Super Bowl. Theoretically, teams can play an unlimited number of overtime periods until a winner is decided. This is extremely unlikely, given that only one Super Bowl has ever gone to overtime, and that game ended in one overtime period. However, the rules do state that up to four overtime periods may be played. If, after the fourth overtime period, the score is still tied, a second coin toss will occur, and then play will continue through a new cycle of four overtime periods until one team scores, with that team winning the game.
Super Bowl Overtime Possession Rules
As of 2022, the NFL Rulebook states that each team must have the chance to possess the ball on offense in postseason overtime. This means that even if the team that receives the ball first scores a touchdown, the other team will receive a kickoff and have the chance to match the touchdown.
Prior to 2022, the Super Bowl could end with the receiving team winning the game on the first possession of overtime via scoring a touchdown. However, the rules changed after the 2021 postseason to allow both teams a chance to possess the ball on offense.
Super Bowl Overtime Scoring
Scoring in overtime in the Super Bowl is the same as it is in regulation time, with each team being able to gain points via a touchdown, field goal, or safety. However, because both teams must get a chance to possess the ball in the first overtime period, if the team with first possession scores, the game continues. After that, if the other team scores as well, tying the game, play goes on, but if they do not tie, the team with first possession wins.
Super Bowl Overtime Rules Summary
- Overtime periods are 15 minutes long in the Super Bowl.
- After the first and third overtime periods, teams must switch goals (the direction in which they move downfield).
- If a team scores a touchdown or a field goal on the opening drive of overtime, the other team will receive a kickoff and have a chance to match the score.
- If a team scores on the opening drive and the opponent is unable to match the points on their drive, the game will be over and the team that scored will be declared the winner.
- If a team is unable to score on the opening drive and the opposition is able to score on their first drive, the game will be over, and the team ahead will be declared the winner.
- After each team has gotten a chance to possess the ball, the first team to score will be declared the winner.
- A new cycle of overtime periods will be played if the score remains tied after four overtime periods.
- There are two-minute breaks in between each overtime period.
- Each team receives three timeouts per half in overtime.
How long is overtime in the Super Bowl?
In the Super Bowl, overtime consists of as many overtime periods as are necessary to declare a winner, with periods occurring in cycles of four. Going beyond four overtime periods is, of course, a highly unlikely outcome, as scoring becomes sudden death if both teams remain tied after their first possessions, meaning that the first team to score after both teams’ first possessions wins the game.
Is overtime scoring sudden death in the Super Bowl?
In the Super Bowl, overtime scoring becomes sudden death only after both teams have had an initial chance to possess the ball, and if those possessions have resulted in the game still being tied. Once both teams have possessed the ball, if the score is still even, the team that scores next will win the game. If neither team scores for four overtime periods, a new cycle of four overtime periods begins.
How many Super Bowls have gone to overtime?
Thus far, only a single Super Bowl game has ever gone to overtime, that being Super Bowl LI, which was held on February 5, 2017. In that game, the New England Patriots faced the Atlanta Falcons, with the Patriots mounting a record-setting comeback from a 28-3 deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the game and go to overtime. Because of the older overtime rules used by the NFL in 2017, the Patriots, who received the ball first in OT, could win by scoring a touchdown on their first drive, which they did to clinch the championship 34-28.