NFL overtime rules explained: Possession, scoring, timeouts, more


Everyone loves a last-minute drive down the field to win the game. But when an NFL game ends in a tie, the rules of overtime can be confusing and contentious, especially when a spot in the next round of the playoffs is on the line. 

Here’s everything you need to know about NFL overtime ahead of the 2022 season with new postseason rules in place: 

How long is NFL overtime?

As of 2017, regular-season NFL games that are tied at the end of regulation have only one overtime period of 10 minutes. 

In the playoffs, an overtime period is 15 minutes instead of 10. Because a postseason game requires one team to win, multiple 15-minute overtime periods are played if needed until one team scores to win the game.

When does NFL overtime end?

In the regular season, if the first team to possess the ball in overtime scores a touchdown, the game is over -- without the second team even having an opportunity on offense. 

This gives the team that wins the coin toss a huge advantage. Teams that have come out on the losing end of this proposition, like the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2019 AFC Championship, have suggested various rule changes, which are slated to go in place this upcoming campaign – but only in the postseason.

While the rule that a touchdown ends the game is unpopular, it used to be even worse: The game would end if the team that won the coin toss scored a field goal, too. 

As of 2012, if the first team doesn’t score a touchdown, the second team gets possession and the opportunity to end the game.

Here are all the different options depending on who scored what in the first two possessions:

  • If Team 1 had a touchdown, Team 1 wins.
  • If Team 1 had a safety, and Team 2 had a field goal, Team 2 wins.
  • If Team 1 had a field goal, and Team 2 had a safety, Team 1 wins.
  • If Team 1 had a field goal, and Team 2 had a field goal, the next score wins it.
  • If Team 1 had a field goal or safety, and Team 2 had a touchdown, Team 2 wins. 
  • If Team 1 had a field goal, and Team 2 didn’t score, Team 1 wins. 
  • If Team 1 didn’t score, the next score of any kind wins it.

In the regular season, the game ends in a tie if no one has won by the end of the 10 minutes.

What are the new NFL overtime rules in 2022?

The league finally implemented new changes for overtime in 2022 and beyond, but such guidelines will only count in the postseason.

Most importantly, the biggest change is that both teams now have an opportunity to have possession in a postseason overtime period. So if the first team scores a touchdown, as we’ve seen with the Chiefs in recent seasons, the second team will now have a chance to march down the field and tie it. 

The full list of overtime rules in the postseason can be viewed here.

What other rules apply in NFL overtimes?

Each team receives two timeouts during a regular-season overtime and three timeouts in a postseason overtime. 

If the game ends on a touchdown, the extra point is not attempted.

Coaches are not allowed to challenge instant replay calls during overtime. The replay official is the only one who can call for an instant replay review.

The full list of rules for overtime are available here.

How common are ties in the NFL?

Most of the time, the overtime rules lead to one team securing the win. Since the overtime period was shortened in 2017, only five regular-season games have ended in ties, most recently last season in Week 9 when the Detroit Lions visited the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 16-16 affair. 

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