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Football Overtime Rules: NFL Vs. College

Overtime rules in the NFL are different from the overtime rules in college. The two formats are different, which forces teams to strategize their approach differently.

In the NFL overtime period, teams will play another football period until one team scores a touchdown or kicks a field goal. In the college overtime period, both teams get an opportunity to score. If one team does and the other doesn’t, the game is over.

Let’s learn more about overtime rules in the NFL & College.

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NFL Overtime

In the NFL, overtime is the entire 15 minutes of play. There is no sudden-death period or two-minute warnings. The game continues as long as both teams have a chance to score.

Both teams will meet at midfield for another coin toss. If the team wins the coin toss, they can kick or receiver, similar to how they did at the beginning of the game.

Once the team receives the football, they must score a touchdown to win and end the game. If a field goal is kicked, the other team can kick a field goal or score a touchdown to win the game.

The first team to score a touchdown wins the game in overtime in the NFL. If a game is tied at the end of regulation, it will end in a draw.

Teams will often elect to receive the football if they win the coin toss, giving them the best odds of scoring.

However, most notably in a playoff game of the Broncos vs. Patriots, Coach Bill Belichick elected to defend a side of a field, as he wanted to have the wind on his side.

This strategy is scarce, as you allow the other team to strike first and get points on the board.

However, the wind in Foxboro was blowing hard that night, and it was more beneficial for the defense to take the field first.

According to – NFL Media research notes that, in the 33 overtime games played under the new rules, just five have ended on the first possession with a touchdown.

This ultimately paid off, as the Patriots ended up winning the playoff game against the Broncos.

Learn more about rules in football on our rules page here.

College Football Overtime

College football overtime is a bit different from overtime in the NFL.

Teams will meet at midfield again for a coin toss. During this coin toss, teams will decide which end zone they want to defend, as well as if the team wants to start with the ball or not.

The main difference between these overtimes is the ball will start on the 25-yard line, going into the opponent’s end zone.

Teams have the opportunity to gain one first down. If the team that starts with the ball scores a touchdown or kicks a field goal, the other team has a chance to score. The other team must match the scoring total or beat the opponent’s score for the game to end.

If both teams score the same points or fail to score, they will keep playing. The ball will be reset at the 25-yard line.

If both teams fail to score or tie, the possessions will be flipped. If Team A started with the football in overtime, they would begin on defense in the second overtime.

Another big rule difference is the PAT (Point After Touchdown). After the first overtime in college football, teams are forced to go for 2 points after a touchdown. This is to make it more difficult for the offenses to score points.

High School Overtime

High school overtimes are similar to college overtimes. They follow the same rules and the same format for scoring.

Every school besides Texas plays by NFHS rules. These overtime rules can be found here on the NFHS website regarding overtime.

What Happens If The Defense Scores In Overtime?

If the defense scores a touchdown on a play from scrimmage in the NFL and college, they will win.

An interception for a touchdown or a fumble recovery for a touchdown will immediately end the game.

While this scenario is rare, it did happen in the NFL when the Seattle Seahawks lost to the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs.

This was after Matt Hasselback famously said that his team was going to win after the coin toss.

Keep Learning

Below are articles to help you learn more about the rules of football.

Rules Of American Football – Beginner’s Guide

Difference Between Legal & Illegal Blocks In Football

Illegal Contact With Wide Receivers Explained

What Is A Flag In Football? Penalty Flags Explained

Can A Football Game End On A Penalty?

Understanding the 5 Yard Contact Rule In The NFL

Learn Offsides, Neutral Zone Infraction, and Encroachment

Complete Guide To Referee Signals In American Football

What Is A Safety In Football? Explained

College overtimes and NFL overtimes are different in the time format, as well as the scoring format.

A touchdown will end the game in the NFL, and the other team won’t have a chance to rebuttal.

In college, each team has an opportunity to score more points or as many points as their opponent. Some may argue that the college overtime is more exciting, as each team has a chance to end the game from a short distance.

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