DANA POINT, Calif. – Last season’s Super Bowl was seconds away from being the first to reach overtime. If not for Ben Roethlisberger’s touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes in the final minute of Pittsburgh’s 27-23 win over Arizona, the Steelers would have opted for a game-tying field goal.

That would have set up a scenario where a coin flip could have determined the result of football’s ultimate game.

Never has the result of the coin toss had such influence over the outcome of overtime as it did last season. Almost half of the league’s overtime games (47 percent) were won on the session’s first possession of the sudden-death session.

Since the NFL instituted overtime in 1974, 30 percent of overtime games were decided on the first possession. The accuracy and range of the league’s kickers is higher than ever and could account for the increased percentage.

The league will not act on the matter for at least another year. There’s nothing regarding overtime on the agenda for NFL owners, who on Sunday began four days of meetings at a seaside resort in California.

“It does concern me, but it also is a system that everybody knows the rules of and everybody does have an opportunity to play defense,” said Falcons president Rich McKay, co-chair of the NFL’s competition committee. “It’s not as though the coin flip decides the game. The accuracy of the kickers and the length of the field goals I thought was going to be a big factor. But when you look at the numbers, it’s amazing that . . . I think the average (overtime winning) field goal was something like 37 yards. So it means the team had made it all the way to the opponent’s 20-yard line and obviously had a real drive, not a 55-yard field goal, which would be my fear.

“I think that we are comfortable with that in the sense that I think people inside the league like the system, the system is built for excitement and we have an opportunity to play defense. So I think for now that’s the system we’re going to stay with.”

When Carl Peterson was their president and general manager, the Chiefs on more than one occasion sponsored a proposal that would provide each team at least one possession in overtime. The proposal failed each time, and the Chiefs made no effort to change the rule this year.

“No club proposed a change,” McKay said. “I think overtime still achieves its major goal, which is it breaks ties. We think it achieves a second goal, which is it is extremely exciting. Our current system does resolve ties. This year is the first time we had a tie probably in about five years, and our system works well from an excitement standpoint.

“There are some statistics that I say otherwise concern some of us, but at this time there will be nothing proposed and I don’t expect there to be much discussion about the topic, other than I’m sure we’ll have a little open discussion-for that topic of overtime.”

The NFL’s concern in moving to a system where each team gets at least one overtime possession is in turning games into marathons. NFL executive vice president Ray Anderson said league surveys show players to be against a change because of concern for injuries.

“I myself was a little surprised at how adamant the players were about not wanting to change the current overtime system and agreeing with Rich’s assessment that they say, look, the excitement is there, everyone has got an opportunity to win this thing in regulation,” Anderson said. “They were pretty adamant that extended play time, when you’re playing 20 games, exposes you to injury risk, and they’d just as soon say, let’s battle it out during regulation, and if you can’t win it in regulation, you take your chances in overtime.”

SCHEDULE: The NFL has no plans to alter the 20-game format currently in use (16 regular-season games, four exhibitions). However, the league could eliminate one or two preseason matches to accommodate more regulation games.

The owners will be given information this week by the competition committee regarding competitive issues with a 17-game or 18-game regular season, but NFL executive vice president Ray Anderson contemplates no action until a collective-bargaining agreement is reached.

PLAYOFF SEEDING: The Jacksonville Jaguars have proposed reseeding the playoffs so that a wild-card team with a superior record to a division winner will be at home in a first-round matchup between those teams. Last season, the Colts (12-4) played at the Chargers (8-8) and the Falcons (11-5) were at the Cardinals (9-7). Both home teams won.



(c) 2009, The Kansas City Star.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-03-22-09 1949EDT


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