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In the NFL, What is Wrong With a Tie?

We have had a tie game each of the last two weeks in the NFL. Lots of fans and media outlets are calling for some kind of rule change to prevent ties from ever happening again. As with many issues in sports, this is an overreaction. No one likes a tie, but they do happen once in a while. It is better than the alternatives. Here is why it is okay to tie.

Ties do not happen often- Since 1974 when the NFL started using an overtime period to break regular season ties, there have been just 22 games that have ended in ties. That is about one tie every two years. The drama in a tie game is the same as any other. If the ending is a little crumby once every two years, I can live with that. We have all seen a good movie with a bad ending or two. What is the difference? Also, prior to 1974 if a regular season game was tied after four quarters, it simply ended in a tie. No one died then, and I am certain everyone will be okay this time.


Overtime rules in the NFL are as fair as they have ever been- College football’s overtime system is a joke. With teams starting at the opposing 25 yard line, gaining a single yard is not necessary for a legitimate chance at a field goal. The first team that does not match or beat its opponent’s result on the previous “drive” loses. Now that is a terrible way to decide a football game.


The only thing worse was the NFL’s true sudden-death format prior to 2012. The team that won the coin toss could throw one 60 yard pass that drew a pass interference penalty and kick a chip shot field goal to win. Personally, I would rather have games end in ties than be decided by either of these two broken systems. Thankfully, the current NFL system allows both teams to possess the ball, unless the first offensive drive of overtime results in a touchdown or any type of defensive score. A field goal on the first drive does not cut it anymore. Perfection does not exist when it comes to rules in sports, but at least this system gives both teams a fair shot. It also lessens the importance of a coin flip and forces the offense to actually move the ball in order to win.


In the two most recent ties, the games were right there to be won for both teams. The box scores of the Cardinals/Seahawks and Bengals/Redskins ties show a combined total of five kicks that would have resulted in a clear winner, including kicks in regulation. Four of them were kicks from inside 40 yards, which were all missed. These games were laid at the feet of each team involved on multiple occasions. It is not the fault of the rules or the NFL that no one could bend over and pick them up.

photo from

photo from

photo from si.mmqb .com
photo from si.mmqb .com

I hate ties as much as anyone, but I hate determining a winner in a cheap way more. Rather than focus on eliminating the possibility of a tie, perhaps fans and coaches around the league should focus on eliminating the comically bad kicking plays that often lead to them.





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