Why “Sudden Death” Overtime is the right way to go in the NFL.

On Tuesday, the NFL announced that the Overtime period will be shortened from 15 to 10 minutes. 

This move came with mixed views from everyone including myself. Overtime is one of the most exciting formats in all of sports and shortening it kills essence of Overtime itself. The NFL decided to make this move because of the health of players, which really isn’t that big of an issue. Since 1997, there’s only been nine tied games in the NFL, three of them happening in the last three seasons.

With recent ruling, many teams could end up with that ugly (0-0-1) 1 in their record. Bringing back the original concept of  “Sudden Death” will be the best way to go because the league has tried to fix their OT problems but none of them has worked to the fullest. “Sudden Death” football is one of the purest forms in the history of football, and we should enjoy it rather than change it. Here are some of the OT games that have impact the NFL.

 The Greatest Game Ever Played.” 

December 28, 1958

Baltimore 23

New York 17 

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Colts QB Johnny Unitas attempts a pass during the game. The HOF Signal caller went for 26/40 completions , passed for 349 yards and tossed 1 TD and 1 INT in the landmark game.

The first time the league ever adopted the “Sudden Death rule” was during the 1958 NFL Championship Game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts. Then league commissioner Bert Bell just created the rule for this game.  Hall Of Fame Colts signal-caller Johnny Unitas stated that many of players and officials never heard of “Overtime”.

“When the game ended in a tie, we were standing on the sidelines waiting to see what came next. All of a sudden, the officials came over and said, ‘Send the captain out. We’re going to flip a coin to see who will receive.’ That was the first we heard of the overtime period.” – Johnny Unitas 

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This TD marked the beginning of a new era in American football

Baltimore won the coin toss and went on a 13 play 80 yard drive which was led by a Unitas, RB Alan Ameche and HOF WR Raymond Berry who had record day (12 rec ,178 yards 1 TD) had two critical catches to push the drive. The legendary drive was finished off by a legendary 1 yard run by Ameche which clinched the championship for the Colts. About 45 million people watched the game and it led to the mass popularity of American Football and the creation of Lamar Hunt’s American Football League which merged with the NFL to create the Super Bowl. Before Super Bowl LI, this is only championship game to go into overtime in modern history.

The Epic In Miami”

January 2nd, 1982

San Diego 41

Miami 38 

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Chargers QB Dan Fouts makes the call before the snap. The Future HOF QB passed for 433 yards and 3 TDs in the classic bout.

Just in the second day of the new year, many thought that the Dolphins vs Chargers divisional bout wouldn’t be interesting, they were completely wrong. In the a thrilling, action packed game both teams racked up 79 points, 1,036 yards and most passing yards by both teams which are still NFL playoff records. Many fans remembered that San Diego was up 24-0 at the end of the first quarter but Miami marched back with gusty performances from QB Dan Strock (29/43 403 YDS 4 TD INT) and from RB Tony Nathan who amassed 162 total yards (48 rushing, 114 passing) and two TDs to tie the score at 38 in the end of regulation. When the game went into OT, both teams were exhausted and dehydrated which to a series of blocked FGs attempts by both teams and it concluded with a game-winning 29 yard FG from Chargers kicker Rolf Benirschke.

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Career backup Don Strock shined in the NFL spotlight for one game.

“The locker-room celebration was more low key than other locker rooms I’d been in. It was more of ‘Thank God that’s over. Thank God we got out alive.” – Chargers RB Hank Bauer 

Another reason why this game is remember is Kellen Winslow epic performance. The Hall of Fame TE had 13 receptions for 166 yards and a TD. He also made a key block to force the game into OT. Winslow was playing with numerous injuries including a pinched nerve, severe cramps, dehydration and a gash on his lip that stitched up 3 times. Both teams put their heart and souls out in a legendary game at the Orange Bowl.

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Winslow being helped off by teammates after his amazing performance. This photo and the game will live on in NFL Lore.

The “Christmas Day Bout”

December 25th, 1971

Miami 27

Kansas City 24 

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Miami’s Jim Kiick scored on a 1 yard run on this play.

In the 1971 divisional playoffs, One team will make itself into a powerhouse throughout the decade while the another team’s dominant run died that Christmas. The divisional bout between Kansas City and Miami is a game that no one expected to take so long. The game lasted for 82 minutes and 40 seconds, which is the longest contest to date in NFL history.

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Kansas City halfback Ed Podolak had the game for the ages.

Many players from both contributed in a huge way in this classic. Halfback Ed Podolak racked up 350 all-purpose yards (8 catches , 110 yards, 17 carries 85 yards and 154 return yards) in a historic game which he ranks 4th all time in total yards and still holds the playoff record most yards in a losing effort. His teammate Wendell Hayes added 100 yards from the ground and rookie WR Elmo Wright added 104 yards from the air. Future HOF WR Paul Warfield hauled in 7 catches for 140 yards, a postseason high and his Hall Of Fame teammate LB Nick Buoniconti amassed 20 tackles in the game.

“My history and legacy were defined by that one kick,” – Jan Stenerud 

“I was planning what I was going to do with my off-season, The chances were one in a million he would miss that kick.” – Nick Buoniconti 

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Miami’s place kicker Garo Yepremian clinched the game with this kick.

Kansas City had a chance to seal the game in regulation. After a 78 yard return from Podolak, HOF Kicker Jan Stenerud missed a 31 yard game winning score which eventually sent the game to extra time. After both teams kickers failed to capitalize to seal the game in the first OT period (both kicks were blocked), Miami’s goofy kicker Garo Yepremian sealed the contest with a 37 yard FG which was the last play at Municipal Stadium. This legendary contest decided the fate for two franchises, as for Miami they punch a ticket to the Super Bowl that season and completed the” perfect” season in 1972. As for Kansas City, they haven’t recovered from this crushing loss.

Looking at theses games made me think, “Why would the NFL want to change this?”. Sudden Death Overtime speaks for the soul for any fan that loves the history of the game. The three games that I wrote about all have a different story to tell. One tells the story of the beginning of the modernization of the league, one tells the story of the grit and will to see another day and the last one tells about the formation of a dynasty and the death of a another. Shortening the OT period really takes the mystique out of football, and takes the thrill and excitement we all love. Many people could say adding a “College Format OT” rules would help bring the excitement level  back is gimmicky rubbish. Sudden Death Ot is what made the NFL great and the league shouldn’t change that. As the great broadcaster Bryant Gumbel said.

“If you don’t love this game, then you don’t love sports” – Bryant Gumbel, NBC Sports

 

 

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