Looking at NFL Stats doesn’t tell the complete story when it comes to the National Football League’s history with ties. Since 1972, the league has calculated a tie as half of a win and half of a loss. Before the league invented that formula, ties weren’t counted in the standings at all.
A tie helped the Pittsburgh Stelers make the 2022 NFL playoffs. Had the Steelers lost the game they tied, Pittsburgh would have been in a four-way tiebreaker for the final playoff spot. The problem for the Steelersr would have been they lost to one of those teams, the San Diego Chargers.
With the NFL, the league didn’t hold any overtime games between its inception in 1920 and the end of the regular season in 1958. However, when the championship game between the Baltimore Colts and New York Giants was tied 17-17 at the end of regulation, it was decided overtime would be played to determine a winner.
The invention of sudden death overtime wouldn’t be implemented in the NFL regular season until 1974. Before overtime, there were 258 tied games between 1920 and 1973, since 1974 there have only been 27. Here’s a look at the notable ties since overtime has been added.
Wait, what was the point of this again?
When the Steelers and Denver Broncos contested the first regular season overtime game in NFL history on Sept. 22, 1974. It didn’t turn out to be the result the league was looking for. Overtime was ugly and the game ended in a 35-35 deadlock.
Steelers quarterback Joe Gilliam was intercepted on a Pittsburgh drive that went to midfield. Denver then drove deep into Steelers’ territory, but the drive ended when kicker Jim Turner sent a field goal attempt wide right.
When Pittsburgh got the ball for a final drive, coach Chuck Noll played conservative. Getting the ball with 50 seconds remaining on the Steeler 16, Pittsburgh threw the ball once and ran the ball twice to run out the clock.
An all-time obscure quarterback matchup headlined a 7-7 tie between the New York Giants and Washington Redskins on Nov. 23, 1997. Danny Kannell passed for 168 yards and hooked up with Chris Calloway for New York’s only touchdown.
Washington quarterback Gus Frerotte made the play that left with this Sunday Night Football game with a notorious image. Frerotte scored on a 1-yard rush in the second quarter to put the Redskins ahead 7-0. Frerotte celebrated the score by ramming his head into a padded cement wall along the back of the endzone, spraining his neck in the process. Backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler came in for Washington and struggled mightily. Hostetler passed for 213 yards in relief, but only completed 19-of-41 passes, threw three interceptions and was sacked four times.
Why did we make this easier?
The NFL has changed the rules several times for overtime in order to make competitive and safety-related changes. In 2012, the NFL changed the rule so the team that won the coin toss would have to score a touchdown to win. Kicking a field goal on the opening possession would allow the other team to get the ball. In 2017, the NFL decided to shorten overtime from 15 to 10 minutes.
Since the NFL has shortened the overtime 7.2 percent, five of the 69 regular season games which have gone to overtime, ended in a tie.
Minnesota Runs out of Time
The first team to feel the ill effects of this was the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings, who tied the Packers 29-29 on Sept. 18, 2021. Minnesota kicker Daniel Carlson missed two kicks that would have won the game. The Vikings finished the year 8-7-1, a half-game behind Philadelphia for a Wild Card slot in the NFC. Minnesota, which had beaten the Eagles, during the regular season, would have had the tiebreaker had the teams finished tied.