When the final gun sounds in the fourth quarter of an NFL playoff game, the visiting team almost always leaves with a loss. Unless they’re the 1943 Toronto Argonauts. As improbable as it may seem, a tie is not completely out of the question in a football game. In fact, it has happened more than once in NFL history — and not just in preseason play. Since 1990, there have been seven recorded instances of an NFL playoff game ending in a tie. The primary reason for this is that NFL overtime rules are different from other professional sports leagues. Read on to learn more about what happens when an NFL Playoff Game ends in a tie:
Can A NFL Playoff Game End In A Tie?
Yes, it’s possible for an NFL playoff game to end in a tie. This can happen if both teams are tied at the end of regulation and end regulation in a tie. In the NFL, postseason games that are tied after regulation and overtime are decided by a sudden-death one-minute period. The team that scores first wins the game unless the team that scores first kicks a field goal and the other team answers with a touchdown, in which case the game is a tie.
Why Do Pro Bowl Games End In A Tie?
1. Poor game conditions
The Hawaii-based Pro Bowl is played on a synthetic playing surface with no head protection. This is to prevent the game from being played at full speed, with the risk of injury to the players being much higher than during the regular season. Unfortunately, though, this leads to a much slower pace of the game, and often it is very hard to differentiate between the offensive and defensive teams. The poor conditions of the pitch have led to the game being played in a monsoon on occasion, with players’ cleats even getting stuck in the turf. The AFC and NFC teams have shared the pitch in Honolulu on five occasions, with the most recent (and bizarre) game being played in 2009. This game was ultimately decided by a safety on the final play, after a poor surface and lack of passing opportunities meant the two teams had to settle for a draw.
2. Much more is riding on the regular season
The Pro Bowl is played in a vacuum, with no bearing on the Super Bowl, and no individual records or team standings being at stake. This is why players like Rob Gronkowski, Richard Sherman, and J.J. Watt have refused to participate in recent years, with the former two have been outspoken about the gap between the game and the real thing. There is no reason to risk injury or go all-out in a game that really means nothing in the end, and the Pro Bowl is obviously played without any pressure. As opposed to a regular season game, where players’ future earnings and their team’s playoff chances are at stake, the Pro Bowl is a very low-pressure situation. This is why NFL teams can and do rest players during the regular season, but they don’t have that option during the Pro Bowl.
3. The game is for people to have something to talk about
The Pro Bowl has always been a place for players to showcase their personalities and general goofiness on the field. The AFC and NFC squads are often mixed up, and players change uniforms like they change their cleats, playing their position in their team’s colors but wearing the opponent’s socks, gloves, and helmets. The game has become a place for players to show off their other skills, whether it’s slam dunking, kicking, or trick shots. These moments are extremely entertaining and are often the game highlights for many football fans. There’s a reason the Pro Bowl is shown on the same weekend as the Super Bowl, and it’s because many of the players’ skills are better showcased when the score isn’t tied up.
4. Defense dominated in the early years
The Pro Bowl was played under very different rules in the early 1950s, and while they have been tweaked over the decades, there have still been some ties in the past. From 1950-1955, the game was played to only one touchdown, meaning that if the scoring team had reached six points, the defending team must score a touchdown to win. This could have been the case on many occasions, but these ties were resolved in a way that would be strange in today’s game; each team would kick a field goal and the game would finish in a tie. This happened in 1954, when the two teams tied 20-20, with the Washington Redskins’ George Blanda (who kicked for both teams) and Baltimore Colts’ John Unitas sharing the honor of being the first two players to kick for each team in the same game.
5. When everyone’s equally uninterested in winning
The Pro Bowl is played in Hawaii and only lasts as long as it takes for the two teams to play two full 20-minute halves. On one occasion, in 1990, the game was tied 14-14 at the end of the second half and the normal rules would have then kicked in, with each team kicking a field goal to decide the winner. However, the players were so disinterested in winning that they agreed to end the game in a tie, with the NFC team even electing to kick first. This was obviously seen as a ridiculous decision at the time, with some even arguing that the NFC had broken the rules by kicking themselves. This game also proved that the rules could be altered mid-game, with the Pro Bowlers agreeing to a change that meant the team kicking first would win the game.
How Does An NFL Playoff Game End In A Toss?
- Since the start of the 20th century, there have been 18 instances of the regular season ending in a tie. Every time, the game was replayed at the end of the season.
- Since 1990, there have been only seven instances of the regular season ending in a tie. In all of these cases, the game was replayed at the end of the season. And that brings us to the NFL playoff tie. In most sports leagues, the rules are different when it comes to a tie in a playoff game.
- Whereas in the regular season, the game would be replayed, in the playoffs, it is not. Instead, the game ends in a tie.
Which Games Have Ended In A Tie Since 2000?
- We’ve already mentioned the two games that ended in a tie in the 2000 NFL regular season. In addition to those, there have been three other playoff games that ended in a tie since 2000.
- The first came on Wild Card Weekend in 2003 when the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers played each other in a game that ended in a tie. In the Divisional Playoff Round that same year, the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders battled to a tie in a game that was played in Oakland.
- Finally, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots battled to a tie in the 2016 AFC Championship Game.
How Can An NFL Playoff Game End Without A Winner?
- In the NFL rules, there’s a specific scenario where a game can end without a winner. If both teams are tied with 16 total points at the end of an overtime period, and if both teams succeeded in scoring a touchdown and a two-point conversion and two-point conversion attempt, then the game is a tie.
- This is rare, as it has happened only three times in NFL history — and never since the implementation of the current rules (since 1994).
- The odds of both teams scoring 16 points in one overtime period, especially considering that each team only gets one possession, are so astronomical that most fans probably aren’t even aware it can happen.
A tie in a football game doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it’s usually due to the NFL’s overtime rules being somewhat different than other professional sports leagues. In the Super Bowl and regular-season games, if neither team can break the tie after an overtime period, the game ends in a tie. In other pro sports like hockey and baseball, teams keep playing until there is a winner; tossing aside any ties along with additional regulation time. In the NFL, if nobody wins after an initial period of overtime play and both teams remain tied at zero points apiece, then it’s game over. Although it doesn’t happen very often, you should now have a better understanding of what happens when an NFL Playoff Game ends in a tie.