March 23, 2010

ORLANDO -- In a move that will at least remove the NFL's nightmare scenario of a Super Bowl that's unduly impacted by the flip of a coin, the league's owners on Tuesday surprisingly approved a modified sudden death overtime proposal.

The new rule, which will be in effect for the NFL's postseason only, allows the team that loses the coin flip at the start of overtime to have a possession unless a touchdown is scored -- either offensively or defensively -- on the first possession.

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Twenty-eight of the owners voted to approve the proposal, with four voting against it -- Buffalo, Minnesota, Baltimore and Cincinnati. Twenty-four votes were needed to approve the proposal.

The league's coaches were said to be overwhelmingly against the measure, but the owners were swayed by the weight of statistics showing that 59.8 percent of the games since 1994 -- when kickoffs were moved back to the 30-yard line -- were won by the team winning the overtime coin toss.

In the game that may have been the catalyst for change, the Vikings lost last season's NFC Championship Game in overtime to the Saints, which won the toss, drove downfield and kicked a field goal to win.

"Modified sudden death is an opportunity to make a pretty good rule ... even better," said Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee. "Statistically, it needed to change. It wasn't producing the 'fairest result."'

The new rule applies only for playoff games, but McKay said several owners expressed interest in further discussions at their May meetings in Dallas.

"Plenty of people on the committee, myself included, are so-called traditionalists," Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian said. "I am proud to be one. But once you saw the statistics, it became obvious we had to do something."

McKay and Polian both said the Vikings-Saints game had little role in passage of the rule change.

"That's interesting," McKay said. "One of the teams that voted against was in the game and, last I checked, I don't think they won."

Vikings owner Zygi Wilf said Monday he was inclined to vote against the modification.

"You need consistency of the regular season and the postseason," Wilf said.

Polian said overtime rules already are different during the season, when games end in ties after a 15-minute OT, and the playoffs, when a winner must be determined.

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