In the wake of the Chiefs’ 25-22 win over the 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII, much of the talk since has been about the playoff overtime rules.
We finally got to see those rules, which passed in March of 2022, in action for the first time in Las Vegas on Sunday night.
In a story from The Ringer, it seems like the Chiefs were extremely prepared for playoff overtime, while the 49ers were … well … not so much.
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While the Eagles didn’t get very close to the big game on Sunday, that playoff overtime rule was spearheaded by two folks with close ties to the organization:
You obviously know Reich. The former Eagles offensive coordinator has since been an NFL head coach twice and back in March of 2022 was still the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. Ferrari is now one of two Eagles’ assistant general managers but that spring was still the Eagles' vice president of football operations and compliance.
In an April 2022 episode of the Eagles Insider Podcast with Dave Spadaro, Ferrari explained how the rule change came to be.
Ferrari said that the Eagles and Colts had proposed rule changes that were nearly identical in 2022 so the two clubs teamed up. They figured they’d have strength in numbers if they presented together. Ultimately, the proposal at that year’s league meetings came from both Indianapolis and Philadelphia.
The Eagles and Colts met at the Combine that year to merge their proposals and then began working with the league to shore up the language of the proposal for the upcoming league meetings.
“Even something as simple as giving a second possession in overtime can create a waterfall, a cascade of unintended consequences if you’re not making sure your language is totally buttoned up. So that’s what we did,” Ferrari said on the podcast. “We felt really good about it going into the league meeting. We felt like we had support. You’re never quite sure. A lot of people liked it for postseason only. Our proposal was for postseason and regular season. The thinking being that you don’t want the game to be different in the regular season and the postseason. You want to keep it as similar as possible.”
Ferrari said that the proposal was initially for the regular season and the postseason and the league office ran analytics that suggested the new rule would add about 30 plays to a total of 41,000 during a season. So they didn’t feel like it was going to be a player safety concern.
But when the rule change proposal was presented at the league meetings, it was amended to be for the playoffs only. This was just a couple months after the Chiefs beat the Bills 42-36 in a divisional round game in OT; the Chiefs won the toss and scored first as Josh Allen watched on.
Eventually, as a playoff-only rule, the proposal passed 29-3.
On Sunday, the 49ers won the toss before OT and head coach Kyle Shanahan elected to receive the football. That was fine with the Chiefs, who preferred to get the ball second anyway. Shanahan has since received plenty of scrutiny for his decision because after the 49ers kicked a field goal, the Chiefs knew exactly what they needed to do. They ended up driving down the field and scoring a game-winning touchdown.
It’s unclear what the Eagles’ strategy would have been. The Chiefs and Andy Reid wanted to get the ball second. Shanahan said he wanted the ball first because it would have potentially given them the first crack at sudden death on the third possession.
But you can bet that if the Eagles found themselves in the first playoff overtime game since the rule change, they would have had a plan. Even back in April of 2022, Ferrari seemed excited about the strategic elements the rule change presented.
“You win the coin toss, you can choose to receive the ball, you can choose to kick the ball or you can choose which goal to defend. It’s the same as the start of the game,” Ferrari said. “It’s interesting. It presents a lot of different strategy options. If you receive the ball first and you go down and score a touchdown and then Team B goes down and scores a touchdown and the game is tied after those two possessions, that third possession you can win the game in sudden death with a field goal, so there’s an advantage there.
“But there’s also an advantage to kicking off and getting the ball second and knowing what you have to get. 'Oh, A went down and scored a touchdown. I’m B, I’m playing four-down football. I’m not kicking field goals, I’m not punting. I know what I need to do.' There’s some strategic advantage to that knowledge. So both receiving the ball, kicking the ball and then there’s weather. And maybe the goal to defend becomes the most important thing because of the weather and some other winds, some other considerations. There’s a lot from strategic opportunities presented by the rule.”