NFL adopts playoff overtime rule for the regular season

Last season, the N.F.L.’s postseason overtime rule got its first and only tests in two games, when the Denver Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers with a touchdown pass on the first play of overtime in their playoff matchup and the Giants beat the San Francisco 49ers with a field goal in the N.F.C. championship.

That small sample size was apparently enough to convince owners that they liked the new format. On Wednesday, the owners changed overtime for the regular season so that it will mirror the postseason rule, which mandates that the team that wins the coin flip cannot win the game on its first possession with a field goal.

“It should be consistent,” said John Mara, the Giants’ president and a member of the competition committee.

The most significant of the other rule changes for next season calls for all turnovers to be automatically reviewed by replay officials without coaches having to use a challenge flag. The league does not believe that will add time to games because the clock already stops for turnovers. But owners rejected a proposal to have all instant replays reviewed by those in the booth rather than officials on the field.

The owners approved three more rules changes: the foul for having too many men on the field will now be a dead-ball foul with the clock stopping; a team will lose a down if a player illegally kicks a loose ball; and the recipient of a crack-back block is now considered a defenseless player, resulting in a 15-yard penalty.

A proposal to extend protection against horse-collar tackles to quarterbacks was rejected because it was determined that the risk of being injured by such tackles was not the same for a quarterback standing in the pocket as it was for a player running in the open field.

“We just didn’t see the injury risk,” said Rich McKay, the president of the Atlanta Falcons and the chairman of the competition committee.

Owners tabled until their May meeting proposals to expand the training camp roster to 90 players from 80; to move the trade deadline back two weeks, to the eighth week of the season; to allow one player to come off injured reserve during the season after an eight-week recovery time; and to create a roster exemption for a player with a concussion. Mara said he expected the bylaws to pass when owners reconvened in Atlanta.

This article was written by Judy Battista and appeared in the New York Times.

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