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NFL Introduces New Regular Season Overtime Rule Changes in 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24:  NFL umpire Darrell Jenkins #76 at Cowboys Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Gary DavenportNFL AnalystMarch 28, 2012

The National Football League announced a change in the league's overtime rules on Wednesday. NFL Network's Albert Breer broke the news via Twitter that the modified rules that were put in place for the playoffs a season ago will now stretch into the regular season as well:

The modified overtime in regular season proposal has passed, as did making all turnovers reviewed.

— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 28, 2012

Chris Chase of Yahoo! Sports expanded on Breer's tweet in a Wednesday article, breaking down how the new overtime rules, which were in effect for all of one play during the Denver Broncos' thrilling victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in last season's Wild Card round, will work:

Each team must possess or have the opportunity to possess the ball unless the team that has the ball first scores a touchdown on its initial possession. Play continues in sudden death until a winner is determined, and the game automatically ends upon any score (by safety, field goal, or touchdown).

In layman's terms: As Tim Tebow and Demaryius Thomas showed in the AFC wild card, a team will win a game if it scores a touchdown on the first possession of overtime. If a field goal is scored, the game continues and begins as sudden death.

The new format is preferable to the old one in that, unless the team that has the ball first scores a touchdown, both squads will have an opportunity in the extra frame. But as Chase points out, the new rule isn't without potential pitfalls of its own:

The downsides of the new system will be evident once the following scenario occurs: The receiving team kicks a field goal, the other team gets the ball back, converts a do-or-die fourth down on the next possession and goes on to win the game with a touchdown. The inherent advantage of going second, and getting four downs to stay in a game, is an advantage on par with receiving the ball first in sudden death.

The league's owners also voted in favor of a modification to the NFL's replay guidelines, as all turnovers will now be subject to automatic review. This rule change should help to eliminate most, if not all, "phantom" turnovers, but the idea of an additional three to four replay challenges per contest isn't going to do anything to improve the flow of games this fall.

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