The Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills played one of the best playoff games in NFL history on Sunday.
However, overtime is the talk of the town after Kansas City’s 42-36 win. Patrick Mahomes II and Josh Allen put on a show, but the Bills didn’t get a chance to respond after Kansas City scored on the opening possession.
As a result, the NFL’s overtime rules and format will once again be a hot topic of discussion at league meetings this winter.
The NFL postseason overtime format has been questioned for more than 60 years, since then a controversial last-second field goal set in overtime in the 1965 Western Conference championship game between Green Bay and Baltimore. The big question still today: Should both teams receive the ball?
Since that game in ’65, a total of 32 NFL playoff games have gone to overtime. In those games, 19 times (59.3 percent) both teams got offensive possession.
But it’s the 13 games in which a team didn’t have possession that is shaping a potential change to the NFL’s overtime rules. We look back at those games below.
- Los Angeles Rams 19, New York Giants 13
1989-90 NFC Divisional Playoffs
The Rams were on the road at Giants Stadium, and Jim Everett led an overtime TD drive capped with a 30-yard TD pass to Flipper Anderson on first-and-15. The drive was helped by a pass interference call on Sheldon White formerly in the unit.
The Giants were 12-4 in the regular season, had Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick on their coaching staff and featured a defense led by Lawrence Taylor. Everett and Anderson made the play in OT. It would be more than a decade before the next postseason game in overtime.
- New England Patriots 16, Oakland Raiders 13
2001–02 AFC Divisional Playoffs
The Patriots took advantage of the “Tuck Rule” in regulation, and Tom Brady marched New England into field goal range after winning the coin toss in overtime. Adam Vinatieri launched the Patriots’ dynasty with a 23-yard field goal.
There’s been so much focus on “The Tuck Rule” over the years that it’s easy to forget the Raiders didn’t get a chance to respond in overtime.
- Tennessee Titans 34, Pittsburgh Steelers 31
2002–03 AFC Divisional Playoffs
The Titans had a chance to win in regulation but did well in overtime after winning the coin toss. Steve McNair drove Tennessee into the red zone, setting up Joe Nedney for a chance at redemption.
Nedney made the first down, but the Steelers called timeout. He missed the second, but Dewayne Washington was called for running into the kicker. Nedney delivered once and for all on the third try. Pittsburgh never got the ball in overtime.
- San Diego Chargers 23, Indianapolis Colts 17
2008–09 AFC Wild Card Playoffs
The Chargers got the ball first in overtime and rallied down the field for the game-winning TD with the help of a defensive hold on Tim Jennings and a face mask penalty from Clint Session. Darren Sproles finished the game with a 22-yard TD.
The Colts were away from home and Peyton Manning didn’t get the ball in overtime. That trend would be amplified the following season and lead to rule changes.
- Arizona Cardinals 51, Green Bay Packers 45
2009–10 NFC Wild Card Playoffs
This counts as a technicality, because the Packers had the ball first in Aaron Rodgers’ first playoff game, and the Cardinals won despite not having possession. Rodgers was sacked on third-and-5, and Karlos Dansby returned the quarterback’s fumble for a game-winning TD.
Some thought a face mask penalty was committed on the sack. Still, the play would help get new overtime rules installed after the playoffs.
- New Orleans Saints 31, Minnesota Vikings 28
2009–10 NFC Championship Game
The Saints got the ball first in overtime, and Drew Brees led a drive that set up Garrett Hartley’s game-winning field goal. This was the first conference championship game in which both teams did not have possession in overtime.
Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre did not get overtime with the Vikings in what would be his last postseason game. The NFL changed the postseason rules afterward. The receiving team could win the game with a touchdown, but a field goal would allow the kicking team to still gain possession in overtime.
- Denver Broncos 29, Pittsburgh Steelers 23
2011–12 AFC Wild Card Playoffs
This was the first postseason overtime game under the new format, and Denver quarterback Tim Tebow needed a pass to end the game. He hit Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard touchdown. The Steelers didn’t get a chance to respond.
It’s one of the most iconic finishes in playoff history. Tebow finished with 316 passing yards in his only postseason win.
- Green Bay Packers 28, Seattle Seahawks 22
2014-15 NFC Championship Game
The Seahawks scored 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter with the help of a Brandon Bostick fumble, which set up overtime. Russell Wilson led an 87-yard drive in overtime, capped with a 35-yard TD pass to Jermaine Kearse.
Packers fans lament the fact that Rodgers didn’t get a chance to respond, but Green Bay’s collapse on the road was the biggest reason for this loss.
- Arizona Cardinals 26, Green Bay Packers 20
2015–16 NFC Divisional Playoffs
Rodgers tied the divisional playoff game with a Hail Mary to Jeff Janis late in regulation, but Carson Palmer needed just three plays to answer in overtime. He hit Larry Fitzgerald for a 75-yard pass, and two plays later, Fitzgerald scored on a 5-yard shovel pass.
It was the second postseason in which Rodgers, a two-time NFL MVP, didn’t get a chance to respond in overtime.
- New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 28
Super Bowl 51
Brady led a 10-play, 93-yard drive to complete a miraculous fourth-quarter comeback against the Falcons and take the first Super Bowl into overtime. Brady then led an eight-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a 2-yard TD run from James White. NFL MVP Matt Ryan didn’t get a chance to respond in overtime.
Atlanta blew a 28-3 lead and had no answer for Brady in the fourth quarter, but the Patriots’ fatigue would exacerbate the current debate two years later.
- New England Patriots 37, Kansas City Chiefs 31
2018–19 AFC Championship Game
: NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes led a game-tying field goal drive late in regulation, but Brady silenced Arrowhead Stadium in overtime with a 13-play, 75-yard drive capped with a Rex Burkhead’s two-yard touchdown.
After not getting a chance to get the ball against the Patriots, the Chiefs submitted a proposed rule change that would allow both teams a chance to get the ball.
- Minnesota Vikings 26, New Orleans Saints 20
2019-20 NFC Wild Card
The Saints were a popular Super Bowl pick and erased a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit behind Drew Brees. Wil Lutz kicked the tying field goal.
The Vikings drove 75 yards in nine plays to start overtime, and Kirk Cousins hit Kyle Rudolph with the game-winning touchdown pass. This was also the first year that the NFL expanded the playoffs to 14 teams.
- Kansas City Chiefs 42, Buffalo Bills 36
2021–22 AFC Divisional Round
Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen put on a show in the final two minutes, as the Chiefs and Bills combined for 25 points and three lead changes. The Bills took a 36-33 lead with 13 seconds remaining, but Harrison Butker’s last-second field goal sent this instant classic into overtime.
Mahomes led an eight-play, 75-yard drive capped with an 8-yard TD pass to Travis Kelce. The Chiefs benefited from the same rule that hurt them against the Patriots three years earlier, but the protest now is Allen and the Bills should have had a chance to respond.