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Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Packers in Philly: The new OT rule

By Kevin Seifert

Mike Spofford of Packers.com beat us to the punch Wednesday: This weekend will mark the debut of the NFL's new playoff overtime rule, one that should be of particular note to Green Bay fans.

The Packers played two overtime games during the regular season, and as the chart shows, have had four overtime playoff games in the past six seasons. (One, coincidentally, was against this Sunday's opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles.)

To summarize the new rule: A playoff game can no longer be decided by a first-possession field goal in overtime. If the first team to gain possession in overtime kicks a field goal, the second team is guaranteed a possession. Only at that point will the game become a sudden-death situation.

If that first team scores a touchdown, however, the game is over immediately and the second team gets no possession.

The idea behind the rule, enacted last spring, is to avoid the kind of quick endings -- short kickoff and a couple of passes followed by a long field goal -- that are particularly disquieting in the playoffs.

Speaking Wednesday to reporters in Green Bay, coach Mike McCarthy said he has discussed strategic options with Mike Eayrs, his director of research and development. The rule adds a few wrinkles to game management, including whether to push for a touchdown on a first possession or whether to settle for a field goal. (I truly hope no coach will defer the overtime kickoff as a result, but you never know.)

For what it's worth, none of the Packers' recent overtime playoff games would have been impacted by this rule. Two were decided by touchdowns, and both teams had at least one overtime possession in the others.