NFL overtime: 13 playoff games that have fueled call for change in OT format

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The Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills played one of the greatest playoff games in NFL history on Sunday. 

Yet overtime is the talk in the aftermath of Kansas City's 42-36 victory. Patrick Mahomes II and Josh Allen put on a show, but the Bills did not get a chance to respond after Kansas City scored on the opening possession. 

The NFL's overtime rules and format will be hot topic of discussion again in the league meetings this winter as a result. 

The NFL's postseason overtime format has been questioned for more than 60 years, ever since a controversial, last-second field goal set up overtime in the 1965 Western Conference championship between Green Bay and Baltimore. The big question still today: Should both teams get the ball?

MORE: Fixing NFL OT should be easy

Since that game back in '65, a total of 32 NFL playoff games have gone into overtime. In those games, 19 times (59.3 percent) did both teams get an offensive possession.

But it's the 13 games in which one team did not have a possession that are shaping a potential change in the NFL's overtime rules. We look back at those games below.

  • Los Angeles Rams 19, New York Giants 13

When: 1989-90 NFC divisional playoffs

What happened: The Rams were on the road at Giants Stadium, and Jim Everett led a TD drive in overtime capped with a 30-yard TD pass to Flipper Anderson on first-and-15. The drive was aided by a pass interference call on Sheldon White earlier in the drive.

Controversy: The Giants were 12-4 in the regular season, had Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick on their coaching staff and featured a defense led by Lawrence Taylor. Everett and Anderson made the play in OT. It would be more than a decade before the next overtime postseason game.

  • New England Patriots 16, Oakland Raiders 13   

When: 2001-02 AFC divisional playoffs

What happened: The Patriots took advantage of the “Tuck Rule” in regulation, and Tom Brady marched New England to field goal range after winning the overtime coin toss. Adam Vinatieri launched the Patriots' dynasty with a 23-yard field goal.

Controversy: There has been so much focus on “The Tuck Rule” over the years that it is easy to forget the Raiders did not get a chance to answer in overtime.

  • Tennessee Titans 34, Pittsburgh Steelers 31

When: 2002-03 AFC divisional playoffs

What happened: The Titans had a chance to win in regulation, but they made good in overtime after winning the coin toss. Steve McNair drove Tennessee into the red zone, setting up Joe Nedney for a shot at redemption.

Controversy: Nedney made the first try, but the Steelers called timeout. He missed the second, but Dewayne Washington was called for running into the kicker. Nedney made good once and for all on the third attempt. Pittsburgh never got the ball in overtime.

MORE: NFL overtime rules explained

  • San Diego Chargers 23, Indianapolis Colts 17

When: 2008-09 AFC wild-card playoffs

What happened: The Chargers got the ball first in overtime and drove down the field for the game-winning TD with the help of a defensive holding on Tim Jennings and a facemask penalty by Clint Session. Darren Sproles ended the game with a 22-yard TD.

Controversy: The Colts were on the road, and Peyton Manning didn't get the ball in OT. That trend would be amplified the following season and lead to rule changes.

  • Arizona Caridnals 51, Green Bay Packers 45

When: 2009-10 NFC wild-card playoffs

What happened: This one counts as a technicality, because the Packers had the ball first in Aaron Rodgers' first playoff game, and the Cardinals won despite not getting a possession. Rodgers was sacked on a third-and-5, and Karlos Dansby returned the QB's fumble for a game-winning TD.

Controversy: Some thought a facemask penalty was committed on the sack.  Regardless, the play would help lead to new overtime rules installed after the playoffs.

  • New Orleans Saints 31, Minnesota Vikings 28

When: 2009-10 NFC championship game

What happened: The Saints got the ball first in overtime, and Drew Brees led a drive that set up the game-winning field goal by Garrett Hartley. This was the first conference championship game in which both teams did not have a possession in overtime.

Controversy: Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre did not get an overtime drive with the Vikings in what would be his final postseason game. The NFL changed postseason rules afterward. The receiving team could win the game with a touchdown, but a field goal would allow the kicking team to still get a possession in overtime.

  • Denver Broncos 29, Pittsburgh Steelers 23

When: 2011-12 AFC wild-card playoffs

What happened: This was the first postseason overtime game under the new format, and it took Denver quarterback Tim Tebow one pass to end the game. He hit Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard TD. The Steelers did not get a chance to respond.

Controversy: It's one of the most iconic finishes in playoff history. Tebow finished with 316 passing yards in his only postseason win.

  • Green Bay Packers 28, Seattle Seahawks 22

When: 2014-15 NFC championship game

What happened: The Seahawks scored 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter with the help of a fumbled onside kick by Brandon Bostick, which set up overtime. Russell Wilson led an 87-yard drive in overtime, capped with a 35-yard TD pass to Jermaine Kearse.

Controversy: Packers fans lament the fact that Rodgers did not get a chance to answer, but the Green Bay collapse on the road was the bigger reason for this loss.

  • Arizona Cardinals 26, Green Bay Packers 20  

When: 2015-16 NFC divisional playoffs

What happened: Rodgers tied the divisional playoff game with a Hail Mary to Jeff Janis at the end of regulation, but Carson Palmer needed just three plays to respond in overtime. He hit Larry Fitzgerald for a 75-yard pass, and two plays later, Fitzgerald scored on a 5-yard shovel pass.

Controversy: It was the second postseason in which Rodgers, a two-time NFL MVP, did not get a chance to respond in overtime.

  • New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 28

When:  Super Bowl 51

What happened:  Brady led a 10-play, 93-yard drive to complete a miraculous, fourth-quarter comeback against the Falcons and push the first Super Bowl to overtime. Brady then led an eight-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a 2-yard TD run by James White. NFL MVP Matt Ryan didn't get the chance to respond in overtime.

Controversy: Atlanta blew a 28-3 lead and had no answer for Brady in the fourth quarter, but Patriots fatigue would exacerbate the current debate two years later.

  • New England Patriots 37, Kansas City Chiefs 31

When: 2018-19 AFC championship game

What happened: NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes led a game-tying, field-goal drive at the end of regulation, but Brady silenced Arrowhead Stadium in overtime with a 13-play, 75-yard drive capped with a two-yard TD run by Rex Burkhead.

Controversy: After not getting a chance to possess the ball against the Patriots, the Chiefs submitted a rule-change proposal that would allow both teams a chance to get the ball.

  • Minnesota Vikings 26, New Orleans Saints 20

When: 2019-20 NFC wild card

What happened: The Saints were a popular Super Bowl pick, and they erased a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter behind Drew Brees. Wil Lutz kicked the game-tying field goal.

Controversy: The Vikings marched 75 yards in nine plays to start overtime, and Kirk Cousins hit Kyle Rudolph with the game-winning touchdown pass. This also was the first year the NFL expanded the playoff to 14 teams. 

  • Kansas City Chiefs 42, Buffalo Bills 36

When: 2021-22 AFC divisional round

What happened: Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen put on a show in the final two minutes, where the Chiefs and Bills combined for 25 points and three lead changes. The Bills took a 36-33 lead with 13 seconds left, but Harrison Butker’s last-second field goal sent this instant classic into overtime.

Controversy: Mahomes led an eight-play, 75-yard drive capped with a 8-yard TD pass to Travis Kelce. The Chiefs benefited from the same rule that hurt them against the Patriots three years earlier, but the outcry now is Allen and the Bills should have had a chance to respond.

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