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NFL changes overtime rule for postseason games

ORLANDO, Fla. — Sudden death has gotten a little less sudden in the NFL playoffs.

The league on Tuesday changed its overtime rules for postseason games. Starting next season, if a team wins the coin toss and then kicks a field goal, the other team gets the ball. If that next series ends with another field goal, play will continue under the current sudden-death rules.

If the team winning the toss immediately scores a touchdown, however, the game is over.

Team owners voted 28-4 on Tuesday in favor of the proposal at the NFL meetings. Minnesota, Buffalo, Cincinnati and Baltimore opposed the change.

Passage was helped by commissioner Roger Goodell’s support and by a spate of statistics indicating the coin toss had become too prominent in determining OT winners.

Minnesota lost last season’s NFC championship game in overtime to New Orleans. The Saints won the toss, drove downfield and kicked a field goal to win.

“Modified sudden death is an opportunity to make a pretty good rule … even better,” said Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee. “Statistically, it needed to change. It wasn’t producing the ’fairest result.”’

Those statistics showed that since 1994, the team that won the overtime coin toss won the game on the first possession 34 percent of the time.

Overall, the team that correctly called the coin toss won overtime games nearly 60 percent of the time in the last 15 years, or since kickoffs were moved back 5 yards to the 30.