This is the time of year for NFL rules changes. And the league passed a topical change when it voted, by a vote of 29-3, to again modify its overtime rules — but for the playoffs only.
The NFL announced Tuesday that OT procedures will now ensure that both teams will receive one possession in overtime, but only in postseason games.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said of the change: "We're always looking to improve, and I think what really drove the decision was the database, ultimately, and looking at the facts and what's happened. Where we saw that most having an influence, I think, was 12 games in the postseason that have been in overtime, seven of which were won on the first possession.
"When you see that, that's the type of thing that I think our coaches and everyone looked at — this is an issue in the postseason we should deal with."
There was a sentiment among most NFL teams and many fans that something needed to be done to prevent January's Kansas City-Buffalo playoff conclusion, in which the Chiefs won the overtime coin toss, chose to receive, and drove down the Arrowhead Stadium pitch to score the game-winning TD on Patrick Mahomes' pass to Travis Kelce without the Bills offense touching the ball.
The rule change wasn't a foregone conclusion this year since any change has to receive 24 of 32 votes to pass and two proposals were before the clubs regarding one possession for each team in overtime games.
The Jets were one of the 29 clubs that voted in favor of the change, but if they had come down against the rule, it would have been understandable from a historical perspective. The Jets are 10-0 all-time in sudden-death overtime games that they ended with a score on the first series and 3-0 in those games when they scored a touchdown on the opening drive.
Those three wins are Green & White fan favorites — the Ken O'Brien-to-Wesley Walker 51-45 barnburner over Miami in 1985, the Chad Morton two-kickoff-return-touchdowns game at Buffalo in the 2002 opener, and the Ryan Fitzpatrick-to-Eric Decker Meadowlands Leap game vs. New England in 2015.
Those Jets endings all could still occur, of course, just not at the end of the opening drive of a playoff game.
The rule instituted in 2011 that allows both teams one OT possession unless the first possession of the extra period results in a touchdown remains in effect for regular-season games, although as Goodell said of the 32 teams:
"I think they like the overtime rule in the regular season. I don't necessarily believe that just because we're doing it in the postseason, that'll lead to the regular season. There may be a different solution. The overtime rule has been through a lot of changes ... so I think we will continue to look at that and sharpen those rules as we do with every rule."
Only two other rules changes were approved by the league at the annual league meeting in Palm Beach, FL, this week. One change makes permanent the free kick formation change implemented last season that established a maximum number of players in the setup zone. The other allowed clubs to block personnel from taking assistant general manager positions with other teams until after that year's draft.