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The Key to Winning: Don’t Work OT

  • ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, DEC 8 -9 - FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2012, file photo, Detroit Lions kicker Jason Hanson (4), offensive tackle Riley Reiff (71), tackle Jason Fox (70) and guard Dylan Gandy (65) walk off the field after Hanson missed the potential game-winning field goal against the Houston Texans in overtime of an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit. The Texans won 34-31. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski, File)

    ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, DEC 8 -9 - FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2012, file photo, Detroit Lions kicker Jason Hanson (4), offensive tackle Riley Reiff (71), tackle Jason Fox (70) and guard Dylan Gandy (65) walk off the field after Hanson missed the potential game-winning field goal against the Houston Texans in overtime of an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit. The Texans won 34-31. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski, File)

  • ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, DEC 8 -9 - FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2012, file photo, Detroit Lions kicker Jason Hanson (4), offensive tackle Riley Reiff (71), tackle Jason Fox (70) and guard Dylan Gandy (65) walk off the field after Hanson missed the potential game-winning field goal against the Houston Texans in overtime of an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit. The Texans won 34-31. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski, File)

    ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, DEC 8 -9 - FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2012, file photo, Detroit Lions kicker Jason Hanson (4), offensive tackle Riley Reiff (71), tackle Jason Fox (70) and guard Dylan Gandy (65) walk off the field after Hanson missed the potential game-winning field goal against the Houston Texans in overtime of an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit. The Texans won 34-31. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski, File)

  • ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, DEC 8 -9 - FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2012, file photo, San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers (2) reacts to a missed field goal during overtime of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam, File)

    ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, DEC 8 -9 - FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2012, file photo, San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers (2) reacts to a missed field goal during overtime of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam, File)

  • ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, DEC 8 -9 - FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2012, file photo, San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers (2) reacts to a missed field goal during overtime of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam, File)

    ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, DEC 8 -9 - FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2012, file photo, San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers (2) reacts to a missed field goal during overtime of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam, File)

  • ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, DEC 8 -9 - FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2012, file photo, Detroit Lions kicker Jason Hanson (4), offensive tackle Riley Reiff (71), tackle Jason Fox (70) and guard Dylan Gandy (65) walk off the field after Hanson missed the potential game-winning field goal against the Houston Texans in overtime of an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit. The Texans won 34-31. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski, File)
  • ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, DEC 8 -9 - FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2012, file photo, Detroit Lions kicker Jason Hanson (4), offensive tackle Riley Reiff (71), tackle Jason Fox (70) and guard Dylan Gandy (65) walk off the field after Hanson missed the potential game-winning field goal against the Houston Texans in overtime of an NFL football game at Ford Field in Detroit. The Texans won 34-31. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski, File)
  • ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, DEC 8 -9 - FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2012, file photo, San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers (2) reacts to a missed field goal during overtime of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam, File)
  • ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, DEC 8 -9 - FILE - In this Dec. 2, 2012, file photo, San Francisco 49ers kicker David Akers (2) reacts to a missed field goal during overtime of an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam, File)

Working extra hard, putting in the overtime, is a straight path to success.

Or maybe not.

In the NFL, the only six teams not to play an extra period this season have winning or, at least have .500 records. That would be the Falcons (11-1), Broncos (9-3), Packers (8-4), Giants (7-5), Bengals (7-5) and Redskins (6-6). They’ve all come close to being forced into OT, but either escaped with a win in regulation, or fell short near the end.

Two of the league’s biggest losers, Jacksonville and Detroit, have gone to overtime on three occasions in 2012: Detroit is 1-2, Jacksonville is 0-3.

That many overtime games has to have a draining effect on a team over the course of a full schedule.

The NFL almost is on pace to equal the all-time high of 25 overtime games in 2002. It’s at 19, and there were 20 such contests through 13 weeks in ‘02.

Of course, the rules have changed somewhat for overtimes this year — each side gets a series if the team winning the coin toss kicks a field goal on the opening possession. But that only matters once into the extra session, and in the 19 OT games, that rule came into play just four times.

More significant in the frequency of overtimes this year is how strategy differs now from 10 years ago.

For one, field goal marksmanship is so good today, even from long range, that coaches are more willing to try them from 50 yards and beyond. With prevent defenses — one of the ugliest inventions in sports — on the field late in close games, many trailing teams need only get to the opposing 35 or so to give it a boot. Teams don’t need to heave a pass into the end zone and go for a win. They can kick a long field goal and play for OT.

The addition of so many mobile quarterbacks also plays into coaches’ strategies. Simply look at what Seattle rookie Russell Wilson did on the Seahawks’ final drive of the fourth quarter at Chicago, or what Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Cam Newton are capable of accomplishing with their feet as well as their arms.

Offensive coordinators in the past might have been tempted to shackle young QBs, but not with this group. That often leads to big running plays off scrambles, or even by design, against defenses dropping deeper in coverage.

In turn, that leads to late scores, some of which force overtime.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll couldn’t have more confidence in his rookie signal caller.

“That really struck me that he has a tremendous level of awareness and poise,” Carroll said, “and it’s surprising that anybody could be like that, not just a rookie or a young guy in his first shot playing in Chicago and all that. He just continues to be impressive in all of those ways.”

The outcry over the fairness of NFL overtimes has subsided greatly, thanks in part to the new rule that provides some equality and makes the coin toss somewhat less crucial.

It’s still true that if a team scores a touchdown on that first possession, the game is over. That occurred for the Seahawks at Chicago last Sunday.

And if the team on defense scores on that first possession, whether a touchdown or a safety, the game ends.

But if the first team to get the ball in OT kicks a field goal, the opponent gets a chance. Then it must score a TD and win, kick a field goal and continue, or not get any points and lose.

That rule was adopted for the postseason in 2010 and set for the regular season, as well, this year. And right off the bat, Minnesota won its opener 26-23, making a field goal and then stopping Jacksonville on its possession.

Tennessee did the same to Detroit two weeks later, and the Patriots repeated it over the Jets on Oct. 21.

Only in Houston’s 43-37 victory against Jacksonville did the new rule prolong action. Shayne Graham made a 25-yard field goal for the Texans, then Josh Scobee kicked a 33-yarder to tie it again. Houston then became the first NFL team to score twice in an extra session, Andre Johnson sprinting 48 yards into the end zone for the victory.

Will the NFL ever eliminate sudden death — or the current version of it? Not likely, when games can provide the excitement that Jaguars-Texans did.

Nor is the NFL interested in going beyond one 15-minute overtime period in the regular season. Playing the normal 60 minutes is exhausting enough for players, coaches, officials. The longer they go, the higher the potential for decisive errors, be it mental or physical.

And the higher the potential for injuries.

So the new OT rule seems here to stay, and except for in the playoffs, so are tie games.

Tie games?

“Actually, I didn’t know the tie rule,” 49ers tight end Delanie Walker said of the 24-24 draw with the Rams. “I don’t know a lot of rules in the NFL. I know the basics. … I just know I didn’t know the rule at first. Now, I know.”