I saw the Super Bowl approximately 19 hours later than did the bulk of NFL fans. On tape, of course.
(Kickoff was 12:30 a.m. in Europe; I was in a Barcelona hotel, heavily jet lagged. I woke at 5 a.m., after sleeping right through the game.)
Probably not much original left to say about the game, then, and I certainly am not going to peruse the mountains of verbiage filed on the proceedings in Houston.
I have one issue to raise, and perhaps it has not been beaten to death.
The NFL’s overtime possession rules are a travesty. And it took an otherwise memorable Super Bowl to hammer that home.
The situation: The New England Patriots scored 25 unanswered points in the second half to forge a 28-28 tie. A few minutes later, the game was headed for overtime, to break that tie and produce a winner.
And here is where the NFL’s unfair/capricious overtime rules come into play.
–The captains meet at midfield for a coin flip. The visitors make the flip call — heads or tails.
–The winner of the flip is given a choice between kicking off or receiving. Everyone chooses to receive. In a playoff game, the contest goes on indefinitely. Till someone scores to take a lead.
–If the receiving team fails to score, the ball goes over to the team that kicked off in OT, and if the latter team scores the game is over.
–If the receiving team kicks a field goal on its first possession, it does not win the game. It kicks off to the other team, which can win (with a touchdown), perpetuate the tie (with a field goal) or continue the game by returning the ball to the original receiving side via punt or turnover or on downs.
–However, and this is where Super Bowl 51 comes into view, if the initial receiving team in overtime scores a touchdown, the game is over. Without the kicking team ever running a play on offense.
Which is what happened last night as the Patriots won 34-28.
It clearly is unfair that one team can lose without being able to run a play.
Football administrators at the college level and most U.S. high school federations deal with this by dealing with each overtime as a two-part event. One team attempts to score, then the other tries to beat that score, winning or losing, and a duplicate result to the first team’s effort means another set of downs for each team. Sometimes lasting three or four or five “overtimes” of each side getting the ball.
Both teams attack toward the same end zone, evening the conditions when weather or sun is a factor.
When a moment is reached when both sides have had the same number of scoring chances … and one team has more points, that team is the winner.
It works wonderfully. Hundreds if not thousands of games on the prep and college level in the States are resolved in this way every season. Hardly anyone complains it is unfair because nobody loses in OT without a chance to score.
As interesting and compelling as the game last night was, the idea that the Falcons’ inability to touch the ball started with a coin flip … mars its fairness of the game and the NFL.
Who is to say that if the Patriots did not have a pattern of always calling heads (the OT flip was heads) … the Falcons could have gotten a chance to receive the kick, score a touchdown and win?
Why could the game not continue, as it would in college or high school, assuring that the flip loser gets a shot at the ball?
It bugs me. It bugged me before I saw the game, and it bugged me more after. The Patriots had a great comeback, but the final act of it was unfair, hinging on a the completely random event of heads or tails.
The NFL needs to address this, going forward. No Super Bowl should end the way this one did — with one offense watching the whole of overtime from the sidelines.