Overtime rules in the NFL explained

Here's a current rundown of the modern overtime rules for both the regular season and the postseason.
Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs
Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Some of the most thrilling games in NFL history have come down to an overtime period—or have a heightened level of excitement because of it. From Tim Tebow's crazy touchdown toss to Demaryius Thomas to the Tuck Rule game to the 13 Seconds game between the Chiefs and Bills, overtime provides a thrilling final chapter to games between two evenly-matched competitors.

Overtime rules, however, can be tough to remember and rule changes don't exactly help. The league has made several adjustments over the years to how overtime works in the league, and it can be hard for fans to recall how things work.

Here's a current rundown of the modern overtime rules for both the regular season and the postseason.

Regular Season Overtime Rules

Length of OT

A single 10-minute overtime period is played if an NFL game is tied at the end of regulation (60 minutes)

Coin Toss

The coin toss before the start of overtime features the visiting team captain calling the toss. The team that wins the toss can choose to receive the ball, kick it off, or select which goal to defend. The team that loses the toss gets the remaining option.

First Possession in OT

If the team that receives the ball first scores a touchdown on its initial possession, that team wins the game. If the receiving team scores a field goal on its initial possession, the game continues with the other team getting a possession. If the second team then scores a touchdown, it wins the game. If it scores a field goal, the game continues as sudden death.

Subsequent Possessions

If the team with the first possession does not score, or if the game continues after both teams have had one possession, the game goes to sudden death. The first team to score in sudden death wins the game.

Time Management in OT

Two timeouts are given to each team to start overtime. The two-minute warning also applies in overtime, and standard timing rules apply after the two-minute warning.

What happens after the end of OT?

If the game remains tied at the end of the overtime period, the game ends in a tie.

Differences in Postseason Overtime Rules

There are some significant variations on overtime rules once the NFL calendar enters the postseason, since ties are no longer an allowable outcome. Here are the key differences.

Length of OT

Multiple 15-minute overtime periods are played if necessary until a winner is determined. The game continues until a team scores, ensuring there is always a winner.

Intermissions in OT

There will be a two-minute intermission between each overtime period. The captain who lost the first overtime coin toss will either choose to possess the ball or select which goal his team will defend, unless the team that won the coin toss deferred that choice.

Further coin tosses in OT

If there is still no winner at the end of a fourth overtime period, there will be another coin toss, and play will continue until a winner is declared.

Timeouts in OT

Each team gets three timeouts per half.