2 ties down, many more could be com­ing

Greenwich Time - - NFL -

Two weeks, two ties. OK, let’s get this out of the way now: Yes, the NFL is fit to be tied.

Fit tighter than most folks might think, too.

In a slopfest of an opener, the Steel­ers and Browns drew 21-21 . The first game of the sea­son of­ten can be messy and painful to watch, par­tic­u­larly when so many key play­ers don’t take the field much, if at all, in pre­sea­son. This one was all of that, even if a tie was a big step in the right di­rec­tion for Cleve­land, which lost 31 of 32 con­tests en­ter­ing this sea­son.

Yet the Browns sounded more an­gry with the dead­lock than did the Steel­ers.

“There’s no way that we shouldn’t have won this game,” safety Jabrill Pep­pers said. “We didn’t win. It is all about win­ning. No­body cares about draws or ties, what­ever you guys call it. We were in a (po­si­tion) to win this game count­less times. We just have to make the plays.”

A week later, in a more artis­tic af­fair — mi­nus the ugly kick­ing by the nowre­leased Daniel Carl­son for Min­nesota — the Vik­ings and Pack­ers fin­ished 29-29. Like the other tie, it was a di­vi­sional game. Un­like the other one, both of these clubs should be in the play­off hunt.

So as­sess­ing a draw left them per­plexed.

“I don’t know what to feel af­ter a tie,” Vik­ings quar­ter­back Kirk Cousins said. “It’s a unique place to be and proud of the way that the whole team — when I say the team, the coach­ing staff, the play­ers, the sup­port staff — the way ev­ery­body stayed in it and fought. There were times where we thought we should have won it, there were times the Pack­ers feel like they should have won it. And it was a great game, and un­for­tu­nately we didn’t get the win.”

Green Bay’s re­ac­tions were sim­i­lar.

“It’s gross,” kicker Ma­son Crosby of­fered. “I don’t like it. Ob­vi­ously, you hate los­ing. A tie is just weird. You just don’t get them a lot.”

Ah, but you just might this sea­son. Two in two weeks could be a harbinger.

The NFL re­duced the length of over­time from 15 min­utes to 10 be­fore last sea­son. Stun­ningly, there were no ties.

But the odds of more re­sults with­out a win­ner are vastly in­creased. And league ex­ec­u­tives un­der­stood that when they made the change.

“What it came down to was re­ally a player safety dis­cus­sion,” said Dean Blandino, head of the league’s of­fi­ci­at­ing depart­ment when the rule change was made in 2017 and now an NFL an­a­lyst for Fox. “The year prior to change, you had sev­eral games that went the full over­time pe­ri­ods and ended in a tie, or a game ended on a field goal at the last sec­ond. That’s an ad­di­tional how­ever many plays in that game. We had one in­stance when a team had to come back on Thurs­day night and play, so that’s a very short week for rest and then play­ing again.

“So we asked, ‘Are we push­ing our play­ers to play an ex­tra quar­ter and hav­ing to come back, cre­at­ing a chance for more in­juries?’

“Yes the po­ten­tial for more ties would be there in a shorter over­time, but the mem­bers of the (com­pe­ti­tion) com­mit­tee and the own­ers didn’t think a tie was nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing.”

Maybe yes, maybe no. But are the al­ter­na­tives worth­while?

The NFL could adopt the col­lege rule (won’t ever hap­pen), which de­trac­tors have said is like hav­ing a home run derby de­cide a tied base­ball game; too much of the nat­u­ral game is elim­i­nated. So is the sud­den death el­e­ment, al­though even that has been di­luted by the cur­rent NFL over­time rule in which the team re­ceiv­ing the kick­off must score a touch­down for the game to end im­me­di­ately.

Not that we are ad­vo­cat­ing for get­ting rid of that and re­turn­ing to the coin toss be­ing even more in­stru­men­tal in de­cid­ing a game.

The op­tion of con­tin­u­ing to play un­til there is a win­ner doesn’t work in the reg­u­lar sea­son for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. Player safety — player ex­haus­tion — is the main rea­son, but there are broad­cast con­sid­er­a­tions on a busy Sun­day af­ter­noon, too. And fan com­fort, par­tic­u­larly in Lam­beau or Sol­dier Field or Gil­lette Sta­dium in De­cem­ber.

The NFL also senses that with the shorter over­time, teams will at­tack more dur­ing the ex­tra pe­riod. That seems to have been the case at Lam­beau Field last Sun­day. In the other tie, play was so chaotic it was dif­fi­cult to tell if ei­ther side had a plan for win­ning.

“There were a lot of things dis­cussed and on the ta­ble,” Blandino said of com­pe­ti­tion com­mit­tee meet­ings about over­time. “This goes back if you look prior to 2012, the coin toss was such a big part of OT. We had less ties un­der that sys­tem; just, look at the stats from 1994-2011, and there were only four ties. Since 2012 and the chance to have both teams get­ting pos­ses­sion, in the next five years, we had five ties in that pe­riod.”

And in 2018, we al­ready have two. Get ready for more.

Ron Schwane / As­so­ci­ated Press

Cleve­land Browns de­fen­sive back Da­mar­i­ous Ran­dall (23) tack­les Pitts­burgh Steel­ers tight end Jesse James dur­ing the first half of a game in Cleve­land. In a slopfest of an opener, the Steel­ers and Browns tied 21-21.

Jef­frey Phelps / As­so­ci­ated Press

The Min­nesota Vik­ings’ Adam Thie­len catches a pass be­tween the Green Bay Pack­ers’ Tra­mon Wil­liams and Jaire Alexan­der dur­ing the first half last Sun­day. The game fin­ished in a 29-29 tie. The NFL re­duced the length of over­time from 15 min­utes to 10 be­fore last sea­son.

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