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.
NFL overtime rules force both teams to play until one team scores a touchdown. If the team who starts with the football in overtime kicks a field, the other team gets a chance to score points. The game ends when any team scores a touchdown.
In college football overtime, both teams get an opportunity to score. If one team scores and the other doesn’t, the game is over.
Let’s learn more about overtime rules in the NFL & College.
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What Is Overtime In Football?
Overtime is when the game is tied at the end of regulation. Unlike other sports, football doesn’t end in a tie after regulation, the game is continued by an overtime period.
Similar to how both teams started the game, the captains of each team will meet at midfield for the coin toss to determine who will kick or receive. Whoever wins the coin toss, will more than likely receive the football. This is because the first team to score a touchdown in overtime will win the game (NFL rules).
College football overtime rules, however, the team who wins the coin toss will more than likely start on defense. This is to play defense, to get a stop, then they can score and end the game. We’ll discuss this further down in this article.
First, let’s start with NFL rules.
NFL Overtime Rules
In the NFL, the overtime period is 15 minutes long. There is no sudden-death period or two-minute warnings.
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.com – 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 Rules
College football overtime rules are different from overtime in the NFL. In college overtime, both teams will get a chance to score a touchdown or a field goal. Whoever has the highest amount of points after both possessions, will win the game. If the game is tied, both teams will have another chance to score.
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.
For college football overtime rules, 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 each drive.
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 a two point conversion after a touchdown. This is to make it more difficult for the offenses to score points. By the third overtime period, teams will continue to go for two.
It’s also important to note that college football overtime rules state that no game can end in a tie. Both teams will possess the ball until one of them stops the other from scoring.
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High School Overtime Rules
High school overtimes are similar to college football overtime rules. 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 football overtime rules, 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.
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College overtime rules and NFL overtime rules 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 football overtime rules is more exciting, as each team has a chance to end the game from a short distance.
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