Overtime changes set for vote

The NFL’s competition committee will make a number of rule-change recommendations to the league’s owners next week in Orlando, many of which, quite frankly, nobody really cares about. But there are a couple that will be worth following.

One is a proposed modification of the current overtime system (for postseason games only) that would give both teams a possession opportunity if the team that won the coin toss scores on a field goal rather than a touchdown on its first possession. If the team that won the coin toss scores a touchdown on its first possession, the game would be over. If both teams kicked field goals on their first possessions, the game would revert to the old sudden-death formula.

The proposal would need the approval of 24 of the league’s 32 teams to be adopted. Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, who is co-chair of the competition committee along with Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, said he has no sense for whether the owners will green-light it.

But he said the dramatic improvement in field-goal accuracy in the league has given the team that wins the overtime coin toss a big edge.

``From 1974 to 1993, it was literally 50-50 as far as winning the coin toss and winning the game,’’ McKay said. ``Since ’94, the numbers have changed dramatically. Teams that win the (overtime) toss have won 59.8 percent of the time and teams that lose it win just 38.5 percent of the time.

``In our minds, we’re trying to rebalance the advantage that’s been gained since ’94 based on field goal accuracy being greatly improved and drive-start position being improved.’’

A couple of other times, the competition committee has proposed modifying the overtime system. Both times it was shot down. One proposal would have guaranteed both teams at least one possession even if the first team with the ball had scored a touchdown. The second proposal suggested moving the kickoff from the 30 to the 35-yard line in overtime.

In a proposal much more likely to be passed, the competition committee will propose an expansion of the rule protecting a defenseless receiver.

Currently, a defender is prohibited from launching himself into a receiver with his helmet, face mask, shoulder or forearm until the receiver has possession of the ball and both feet on the ground. The competition committee has proposed changing the language of the rule to prevent that kind of hit until the receiver has a chance to protect himself.

``We’ve seen cases where players have caught the ball and have had no opportunity to protect themselves in any way before he’s become a runner,’’ McKay said.

``If you look back at (the hits on) defenseless receivers and where we were in ’94, we’ve come a long way. But there’s more we’d like to limit.’’

To read our previous posts on a busy day with the Eagles, click here.