The New England Patriots entered the 2018 AFC Championship Game as 3-point road underdogs, but they eventually were able to outlast the Kansas City Chiefs to advance to the Super Bowl. While the game was tied at 31 at the end of regulation, New England received the overtime kickoff and marched right to the game-deciding touchdown.
Three years later, the Chiefs were in a similar situation. Their divisional round matchup with the visiting Buffalo Bills also came down to extra time. Once again, the team winning the coin toss ended up moving on to the next round: Kansas City drove 75 yards in eight plays to prevail with a final score of 42-36.
Both games ended after one drive because the NFL’s rules are designed that way. If a touchdown is scored on the opening possession either on offense or defense, the game is over. The Patriots took advantage in January 2019, the Chiefs did the same in 2022.
However, the latter’s game against the Bills might have looked different had a Kansas City rule change proposal in 2019 passed. After that loss to New England that never saw MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes touch the ball, after all, the organization proposed a change to those overtime rules that now helped the Chiefs beat Buffalo.
The proposal read as follows:
By Kansas City; to amend Rule 16 to (1) allow both teams the opportunity to possess the ball at least one time in overtime, even if the first team to possess the ball in overtime scores a touchdown; (2) eliminate overtime for preseason; and (3) eliminate overtime coin toss so that winner of initial coin toss to begin game may choose whether to kick or receive, or which goal to defend.
The Chiefs basically wanted to give each team an opportunity to touch the ball, therefore eliminating an outcome like the one they suffered themselves just a few weeks before the proposal was made. At the end, the owners decided against adopting the proposed change. The rules remain as they are to this day.
From Kansas City’s perspective, and with the power of hindsight, that decision turned out to be a favorable one. While there is no guarantee Buffalo would have scored a game-tying touchdown had Josh Allen and company received the ball again, the team entered overtime with back-to-back touchdown drives in its pocket.
At the end of the day, the Chiefs — just like the Patriots back in 2019 — benefitted from the way the rules are currently constructed. That said, their win might spark another debate about overtime, this time with the Bills and their MVP-caliber quarterback at the center.
It remains to be seen what will happen over the coming weeks, but we do know one thing: the rules are not appreciated by everybody. One prominent voice speaking out against them is Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.
“I think the best part of the football game is the end of the game — whether you take your timeouts, how you manage the game, the last two minutes, getting the ball back, trying to keep the ball away from the other team, whatever it is,” Belichick said back in 2012. “I think that combines all the elements of football.”
Belichick reportedly favors a plan that adds another half-quarter to the game: a tied contest would continue for seven minutes and 30 seconds, without sudden death; whoever leads at the end of the extra period is the winner.
Based on the divisional round game between Kansas City and Buffalo, maybe he and his team will get a new chance to vote on a rule modification during the offseason.