How overtime rules from regular season differ in the NFL playoffs

In the NFL playoffs, there can be no ties.

That's why overtime rules in postseason games are slightly different compared to the regulations in the regular season — chiefly, in the ways that play goes on.

First, a quick recap of the regular season rules.

There's a mid-field coin toss that's exactly like the one at the start of the game. The winning team can either choose to receive or kick the ball, opt to defend a certain goal post or defer.

There's a three-minute intermission that follows and then a 10-minute period, in which each team gets two timeouts.

Both teams will have the chance to possess the ball, with one exception. If the team that receives first scores a touchdown on its first possession, the game ends with that score. If the possession of the team that receives first results in anything but a touchdown, the other team will get the chance to field a kickoff.

At that point, it becomes sudden-death play, where any score ends the game. The exception there is if the first team to receive converts a field goal and the team that receives second ties the game later in the overtime period with its own converted field goal.

The NFL's overtime rules differ in the postseason. (Photo: Gene J. Puskar, AP)

If the score remains tied at the end of the overtime period, the game ends in a tie. All replay reviews are initiated by the officiating crew.

In playoff overtimes, essentially, a tie does not end the game.

"Play will continue regardless of how many overtime periods are needed for a winner to be determined," the league says on its NFL Operations website.

If the score is still tied at the end of the 10-minute period, or if the second team hasn't completed its second possession, there is a two-minute intermission, followed by another overtime period.

At the end of the second overtime period, if the game is still tied, there is no halftime, but another two-minute intermission. Each team gets three timeouts per "half." The captain on the team that lost the first overtime coin toss will then get the chance to possess the ball or pick which goal he wants his team to defend, unless the other team deferred that choice.

The second and fourth overtime periods in the playoffs act similarly to the second and fourth quarters of all games; timing rules like clock stoppages on plays that end out of bounds apply in the same fashion. 

Then if, after the fourth overtime period, there is still no winner, there will be another coin toss and play will continue on and on until one team emerges victorious.

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