Donovan McNabb is long gone from Philadelphia, but these are still the Eagles, and so it behooves us all to remind Andy Reid and company going into these playoffs that this is the first year in which the new overtime rules will take effect for all playoff games.
In case you weren’t aware (Donovan?), there IS overtime in the playoffs and it will not be sudden death. It will be MODIFIED sudden death, which can still be quite sudden if you play your cards right. If the team that wins the coin toss in OT marches down the field and kicks a field goal, the other team will have an opportunity to answer that score on a subsequent possession. If they fail, game over. If they score a touchdown, they win. If they kick a field goal, then it’s real sudden death from there on out. If the team that wins the coin toss on the opening possession scores a touchdown, the game is over.
Now, this rule is fairly simple, but it does change the strategy of how you play in overtime. Do you even bother to elect to receive the ball first if you win the toss? If you win the toss and you’re in field goal range, do you still aggressively go for the touchdown and the win? (YES.) These are all strategic gray areas. And if Andy Reid is your coach, up that grayness by about 36 percent. Brian Billick wrote into the NFL’s website to explain the predicament:
The problem for coaches is that there is no tried and true blueprint for the new overtime rule. There’s no history behind it, no data. The coaches are nervous about it, because they don’t want to be the first ones to make the wrong decision.
It’s true. Without a proper data set, coaches are forced to rely on instinct. And if you’ve seen a challenge call butchered, you know how dangerous that is.
So hold your breath if the game is tied late on Sunday afternoon. It could be the beginning of a wild new ride.