The NFL's overtime rules ruined one of the all-time great Super Bowls

HOUSTON, TX – FEBRUARY 05: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts after defeating the Atlanta Falcons 34-38 in overtime during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The New England Patriots pulled off the greatest comeback in NFL history to win Super Bowl 51.

After trailing 21-0 in the third quarter, the Patriots stormed back, tying the game at 28-28 in the final minute to go to overtime.

The NFL’s overtime rules have long been a gripe with fans: If the team who gets the ball on the opening drive scores a touchdown, it’s game over. If they kick a field goal, the other team gets a chance to tie or win it.

Perhaps the Atlanta Falcons did not deserve a chance after blowing such a massive lead, particularly with some baffling late-game play-calling on offence. Nonetheless, to see a Super Bowl end without giving the opponent, the better team for 45 minutes, a chance, is disappointing.

Sure enough, on the opening drive of overtime, the Patriots marched down the field, cutting up an exhausted Falcons defence. Eventually, a hand-off to running back James White got them in the end zone to win the game.

It’s not a knock on the Patriots and their stunning comeback to call the finish disappointing. To not give the opponents, with the league’s MVP in Matt Ryan, a shot to tie the score in the biggest game of the year feels ill-conceived.

During last season’s playoffs, ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt argued for a rule change, saying even after an opening-drive touchdown, the opponent should get a shot to tie the game. In last year’s playoffs, it was Aaron Rodgers who did not get a shot at redemption after the Arizona Cardinals scored a game-winning touchdown in overtime. This year, it’s Matt Ryan.

It seems unlikely the NFL will address the rule, especially since it helped cap off an historic, breathless comeback by the Patriots. However, the potential for further drama remains with just a slight tweak of the rules.


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