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Are you ready for a 'modified sudden death' Super Bowl?

By Mark Maske

DALLAS--The debut of the NFL's new overtime format for postseason games could come in Sunday's Super Bowl.

The new system, which eliminates the possibility of a team winning the game with a field goal on the opening possession of overtime, was put in place for this season's playoffs. It was proposed by the league's competition committee and ratified by the franchise owners last March for postseason games only.

But there were no overtime games during the NFC and AFC playoffs last month. So if the unveiling is going to come this season, it will have to be when the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers play Sunday at Cowboys Stadium in Super Bowl XLV.

There never has been an overtime game in the Super Bowl. But seven of the last 13 Super Bowls have been decided by seven points or fewer, after only seven of the first 31 Super Bowls were decided by seven points or fewer.

Many coaches have said the new postseason overtime format is likely to produce different tactics than the current overtime system, which remains in use during the regular season. Under that format, a coin toss determines which teams gets possession at the outset and the first team to score wins.

Steelers Coach Mike Tomlin said his overtime strategy would be determined by the circumstances of the game.

"I really didn't think too deeply about it [during the playoffs] because the reality is, I'm not going to go in with any set plan because how you got to overtime is such a component in terms of how you're going to play it," Tomlin said this week. "What I mean is, if we're 6-6 in overtime it might be different than if it's 31-31. So every game stands on its own. I have a general understanding of the rule and how it could potentially play out, and I'll let the games play themselves out and kind of make decisions regarding that on the fly."

Packers Coach Mike McCarthy declined to reveal specifics of what his approach would be.

"The way we conduct our business, every week we have a game-management meeting," McCarthy said. "We go back over the basics of game-management situations, the potential ones that we may anticipate coming up in the game. Obviously with the new overtime rule, we talked about it every week, what would be our decision, whether to take the ball or not take the ball and so forth. And we'll do the same this week."

Under the new system, a team still can win the game on the opening possession of overtime if it scores a touchdown. If a team kicks a field goal on the opening possession of overtime, the other teams gets a possession and can tie with a field goal or win with a touchdown. If it gets a tying field goal, the game continues on a sudden-death basis.

Members of the competition committee said the new format was necessary because of the growing percentage of overtime victories by the team that wins the coin flip, due in part to increasingly accurate field goal kicking.

By Mark Maske  |  February 2, 2011; 10:29 AM ET  | Category:  League , Packers , Steelers , Super Bowl Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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