Paul Zeise: NFL overtime format is fine the way it is
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Paul Zeise: NFL overtime format is fine the way it is

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Two of the four NFL playoff games went into overtime this weekend. You wouldn't know this by listening to NFL fans and analysts today who are arguing about how the overtime rules aren't fair and need to be changed.

The story line is that the Saints are the victims of a bad overtime system and not a bad defense. They say the Saints were jobbed because they lost to the Vikings, 26-20, in overtime and never got to put their offense on the field in the extra period. This is unfair according to many people because the Vikings won the game essentially because of a coin toss.

Forget that the Saints had 60 minutes to win the game and had multiple opportunities to win in regulation; it is unfair they didn't get the ball in overtime. Forget that the Vikings, after winning the coin toss, had to then drive nine plays and 75 yards to score a touchdown and do so with the Saints defense on the field.

Heck, let's even forget the fact that the Saints fumbled on first and 10 at the Vikings' 20 with about four minutes to play. And forget the fact that they had to settle for a field goal to tie the game on second down at the end of regulation because they mangled basic clock management so badly.

Let's forget all about that and blame a coin flip.

Of the all the phony outrages that have come up in sports in recent memory, this may be the silliest. If you are angry that that Saints didn't get the ball, don't be - it is their own fault they didn't get the ball.

And if you don't understand that, I have to question if you actually understand the sport of football. People try to compare the overtime format to every other sport, and it is ridiculous. Both teams did take the field in overtime, and the Vikings' offense beat the Saints' defense. That's life.

It is funny to me people are all outraged about a "coin flip" in the Saints overtime loss but nobody seems to be talking about it in the Texans-Bills game. Tthe Texans actually did win the coin toss in that game and then won the game, so we must be on to something with that nonsense. Or not.

The reason that nobody is talking about the overtime format or the coin toss in the other game is the Texans got the ball and the Bills actually stopped them and forced a punt.

Wait, you mean that is allowed? You mean a defense is allowed to stop the opposing offense from scoring? You mean the offense needs to make plays and drive the field in order to win the game, and if they don't they have to punt and give the other team the ball?

And here is just how flawed this outrage logic is: Let's say the Vikings score a touchdown. Then the Saints get the ball and score a touchdown to tie the game. OK, so now the Vikings get the ball back and drive the field and kick the game-winning field goal.

How is that any different? The Vikings in that scenario would have still won the game because they got an extra possession handed to them by the coin toss. The only difference is they got two possessions and the Saints got only one, as opposed to them winning on their first possession of overtime.

It is the same thing and it comes down to this - make plays, win games. Period. That is the essence of sports. Football has three sides of the ball, so to speak: offense, defense and special teams. All three have equal value and all three are charged with making enough winning plays to win games.

The fact that the Saints' defense couldn't come up with one play to get off the field and force a kick of some sort is on the Saints. The Saints are going home because their defense didn't make enough winning plays, not because of a coin flip, not because of a bad rule and certainly not because of a missed pass interference in the end zone.

That's all excuse making, and excuses are for losers. There have been 10 overtime playoff games since the rules changed to this current format, and only six of them have ended with the first team to touch the ball winning on a touchdown. That means the defenses in the other four all made stops to give their offense a chance, and that means it is more than possible for a team to lose the coin toss and get the ball.

The NFL overtime format is perfect. It used to be flawed when a team could win by kicking a field goal on the first drive, as that was a little bit too easy. The fact that a team must score a touchdown on the first drive to win and prevent the other team from getting the ball is just fine. It isn't easy to score touchdowns, and a lot has to happen for a touchdown drive to take place.

Visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at www.post-gazette.com

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