Sunday, January 31, 2010

NFL Overtime Playoff Games since 1970

The overtime result of the NFC Championship Game has stirred up the usual complaints about the 'unfairness' of the overtime rules.

With that in mind, I decided to look through's database to see how many playoff games went to overtime since 1970 (the year the NFL and AFL merged). Here's what I found (winning teams are listed in bold):

Date Visitor HomeNote
25Dec 1971 Dolphins27,Chiefs24 Longest NFL game played to date
24Dec 1977 Raiders37,Colts31 Ghost to the Post
9Jan 1982 Chargers41,Dolphins38 The Epic in Miami
3Jan 1987 Jets20,Browns23
11Jan 1987 Broncos23,Browns20 The Drive
3Jan 1988 Seahawks20,Oilers23
31Dec 1989 Steelers26,Oilers23
7Jan 1990 Rams19,Giants13
3Jan 1993 Oilers38,Bills41 The Comeback
8Jan 1994 Steelers24,Chiefs27
17Jan 1999 Falcons30,Vikings27 Gary Anderson's first miss of the season
30Dec 2000 Colts 17,Dolphins 23
19Jan 2002 Raiders 13,Patriots 16The 'tuck rule' game
11Jan 2003 Steelers31,Titans 34
4Jan 2004 Seahawks27,Packers 33
10Jan 2004 Panthers29,Rams 23
11Jan 2004 Packers 17,Eagles 20 4th and 26
8Jan 2005 Jets20,Chargers 17
15Jan 2005 Jets 17,Steelers 20
14Jan 2007 Seahawks24,Bears 27
20Jan 2008 Giants23,Packers 20
3Jan 2009 Colts 17,Chargers 23
10Jan 2010 Packers 45,Cardinals51
24Jan 2010 Vikings 28,Saints 31


  • Of the 24 games listed, 17 (70.8%) were won on a field goal.

  • Notice that from 1993-2010, 12 of 16 games (75%) were won by the home team. Which suggests that playing at home is a much more important advantage than winning the coin toss.

  • From 1970 to 1998, 10 of the 269 playoff games (3.7%) went to overtime. From 1999-2009, 14 of the 98 playoff games (14.3%) went to overtime. Clearly, overtime games have become much more common; this issue isn't likely to go away.

  • This suggests it would be interesting to look at the rate of overtime games in the regular season during this era. However, I gathered part of this data "by hand"; there are way too many regular season games to look at unless the process is fully automated. I will eventually get to it, but not before the off season.

  • The result of the first overtime drive for games from the 2001 season to present are detailed here.