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Remember the critical play in last year's NFC championship game? The one that tipped the momentum in favor of the New Orleans Saints once and for and all and gave them a clear path to victory? The one that was arguably the single most important of the season?
No, I'm not talking about Brett Favre's drive-killing interception at the end of regulation. The play that decided the game—and ultimately the season—was the overtime coin toss.
Once the coin flipped in the Saints' favor, they took possession, marched down the field and kicked a game-winning field goal to earn their spot in Super Bowl XLIV. The Minnesota Vikings never had a chance to respond.
The Saints' 31-28 win once again exposed the NFL's Achilles' heel, its antediluvian overtime rules that often leave the outcome of a tightly contested football game subject to the whims of 'head or tails.' Fortunately, a new system set to debut in the playoffs this season finally brings the league closer to an equitable approach to extra time.
Since the league first contemplated the idea of overtime in 1941, NFL games that go into extra time have been decided by the sudden death format—whoever scores first wins. The method of deciding which team gets the all-important first possession of overtime has been set in stone for just as long: a coin toss, identical to the one that occurs at the beginning of each game. The team that wins the toss chooses whether they want to receive the ball or kick off to the other team. Teams often choose to kick it away at the beginning of games, but in overtime, when scoring first is all that matters, they choose to receive virtually every time.