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It's a toss-up when Steelers win OT toss

| Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009

All the rage in the NFL the past couple of weeks has been whether the overtime rules are a fair way to determine the outcome of games tied after regulation.

Since 1974, the NFL has had a "sudden death" overtime rule, which simply means whoever scores first in the 15-minute extra period wins the game.

You win the coin toss and you win the game — or so it is believed.

Over the years, it happens 30 percent of the time that the team winning the coin toss will win the game on the first possession. Which leads to speculation that the outcome is determined by the flip of a coin.

In general, the team winning the coin toss will eventually win the game 60 percent of the time.

That's true with the league and the Steelers, too.

In 36 seasons since the overtime rule was enacted, the Steelers have played in 38 overtime games, going 20-16-2. They have stayed close to winning 60 percent of the time when they win the coin toss.

Eighteen times the Steelers have won the coin toss to start overtime and they have won 10 times, lost six and tied twice. They are 10-10 when they lose the coin toss.

Six times in 18 opportunities, the Steelers have won the coin toss, gone down the field and won the game on the first possession. That's a little higher than the NFL's 30 percent average.

This year there have been nine overtime games in 12 weeks, and the numbers regarding the coin toss winner have remained true to form. Teams are 5-4 when winning the coin toss, with teams winning the toss and scoring on the first drive four times.

Those numbers would be much higher this year if it weren't for the Steelers.

The Steelers have taken part in three of the nine overtime games and join Kansas City as the only team that has played in more than one this year.

The Steelers are 1-2 despite winning the coin toss in each of their three overtime games. The only time they won the game in OT was Week 1 against Tennessee, when they won the flip and drove down the field to set up Jeff Reed's game-winning field goal.

Winning the toss didn't matter for the Steelers in the other two games.

The Steelers have taken part in a large amount of overtime games this decade. They have played in 17 overtime games since 2000 and 10 over the past five years. The three overtime games this year ties a team record for one season.

In 1986, the Steelers played overtime games against Houston, Cleveland and Chicago. In 1997, they played OT games against Jacksonville, Arizona and New England — all in a month-and-a-half stretch.

As for the last time they lost two overtime games in one season• That came in 2005, when they lost to Jacksonville and, ironically, at Baltimore — just like this year.

The Steelers went on to win Super Bowl XL that year.

OT opportunities

There have been nine overtime games in the NFL this season, and the Steelers have played in three of them. Four times the team that won the coin toss won the game on the first drive, four times the team that won the toss lost the game, and once the team that won the toss eventually won the game. Here is a breakdown of those games:

Score — OT result

1. Steelers 13, Tennessee 10 — Game won on first drive of OT

2. Cincinnati 23, Cleveland 20 — Cincinnati won coin toss

3. Dallas 26, Kansas City 20 — Kansas City won coin toss

4. Denver 20, New England 17 — Game won on first drive of OT

5. Jacksonville 23, St. Louis 20 — Game won on first drive of OT

6. Buffalo 16, N.Y. Jets 13 — Jets won coin toss

7. Kansas City 27, Steelers 24 — Steelers won coin toss

8. N.Y. Giants 34, Atlanta 31 — Game won on first drive of OT

9. Baltimore 20, Steelers 17 — Steelers won coin toss



Saints: An undefeated regular season is a real possibility after they blitzed the Patriots.

Colts: Barring an unlikely collapse by the Colts, the AFC playoffs will run through Indianapolis.

Vikings: QB Brett Favre seems to be getting better as the season progresses.

Chargers: Bolts are on a six-game winning streak and are as hot as any team right now.

Bengals: The addition of Larry Johnson gives them serious depth at RB.


Raiders: They can play the role of spoilers Sunday at Heinz Field.

Buccaneers: Yuckaneers have hope with rookie Josh Freeman at QB.

Rams: They have lost 11 consecutive games at home.

Lions: At least Detroit fans have the Red Wings at this time of the year.

Browns: Things keep getting worse as NT Shaun Rogers is out for the season.

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