The New England Patriots scored 19-unanswered points in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 51 to force the first-ever overtime in the NFL title game. The Pats won the coin toss and promptly marched down the field to win the game 34-28 on a two-yard run by James White.

The Falcons, that team that never trailed in regulation, did not touch the ball in the extra session. Per NFL overtime rules, if the team that gets the ball on the opening drive scores a touchdown the game is over, if the team kicks a field goal the other team gets a chance to tie or win the game.

For many, the Super Bowl ending without MVP Matt Ryan getting a chance to score seems unfair. How often is an NFL playoff overtime game decided by the coin flip?

Using Pro-Football-Reference, we pulled every NFL postseason game that went to overtime since 2000. There have been 19 playoff games this century that featured overtime. Both teams got a possession in ten of the 19 games but since 2008 both teams touched the ball in overtime just twice in nine contests.

Additionally, the team that won the coin flip and got the ball first in overtime went 13-6 straight-up in playoff overtime games. The sample is small but it points to the coin flip deciding the winner of pivotal NFL games.

Should the NFL consider revising the rules? Yes. Will they? Unlikely.


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YearMatchupDid Both Teams Possess the Ball?Team Wins Coin Flip, Wins?
2016Patriots vs. FalconsNoYes
2015Cardinals vs. PackersNoYes
2014Seahawks vs. PackersNoYes
2012Ravens vs. BroncosYesYes
2011Giants vs. 49ersYesYes
2011Broncos vs. SteelersNoYes
2009Saints vs. VikingsNoYes
2009Cardinals vs. PackersNoNo
2008Chargers vs. ColtsNoYes
2007Giants vs. PackersYesNo
2006Bears vs. SeahawksYesNo
2004Steelers vs. JetsYesNo
2004Jets vs. ChargersYesNo
2003Eagles vs. PackersYesYes
2003Panthers vs. RamsYesYes
2003Packers vs. SeahawksYesNo
2002Titans vs. SteelersNoYes
2001Patriots vs. RaidersNoYes
2000Dolphins vs. ColtsYesYes