The NFL has changed its overtime rules.
It formally happened during a Tuesday vote here at the NFL owners meetings, based on a recommendation from the NFL competition committee.
Falcons CEO Rich McKay is the chairman of said committee, which has been evaluating a tweak the overtime rules that allows both teams to have a possession before the game is decided. The committee ultimately modified proposals from the Eagles and Colts to adjust overtime rules for the postseason only.
That was a win for many frustrated by the AFC divisional round contest between Kansas City and Buffalo, where the Bills didn't have an opportunity to respond to the Chiefs initial OT touchdown in an offensive showcase for the ages.
McKay was quick to caution the league didn't do this based on to one moment, instead evaluating data from several overtime playoff games and correcting a competitive imbalance.
"We live by the fact we don't overreact," McKay said in a one-on-one interview with AtlantaFalcons.com. "We did it a couple years ago on instant replay and pass interference, where that was a reaction to one game, one moment, and it did not turn out well for us. As a league, we try not to do that.
"In this case, this is not a result of the Kansas City-Buffalo game. This is the result of 12 playoff games over a 12-year span since we changed the rule in 2010. In those 12 playoffs, the team that won the toss won the game. Only two times did the team that lost the toss win. It's an unfair advantage and, in those 12 games, the team that won the toss scored on the first possession.
"In our mind, the body of work since we changed the rule, says that we needed modification."
The rule was approved by a 29-3 vote, with dissenters preferring the regular-season and postseason rules match or a true sudden-death format. The playoffs-only change was able to pass, but that doesn't mean the issue won't be looked at down the road. There's precedent for that, McKay said.
"We did this before, when we changed over time during the postseason in 2010 and then the regular season in 2012," McKay said. "This will be revisited but, to me, right now, this was the right result.
"…For me, I'm one that believes the stats say the game is evolving and we need to change the postseason. The statistics aren't as compelling when it comes to the regular season. In fact, I know they're not."
McKay also explained what motivates rule changes or modifications. Player safety is one. There are two others.
"Our focus is making the game as competitively fair to the two teams as it can be, and making the game entertaining," McKay said. "Don't forget the second phase: fans matter. Sometimes we will get our own world, but the fans drive our league.
"In our mind, it said this rule is not competitively fair in the postseason. And there's no question that, from a fan standpoint, they like overtime. Every minute of that KC-Buffalo game, the ratings were going up exponentially. And, in their mind, the fans saw an issue with competitive fairness also. That won't drive it in the end, but that has to be considered."
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