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The Redzone: Tie Story

The NFL had just its third tied game in 10 years this weekend. Steven O’Rourke looks at one of the rarer occurrences in American sport.

Houston Texans wide receiver Keshawn Martin (82) is tackled by Chicago Bears defensive backs.
Houston Texans wide receiver Keshawn Martin (82) is tackled by Chicago Bears defensive backs.
Image: (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

AFTER THE EARLY NFL games yesterday, it looked very much like today’s Redzone column would be on the continued success, against the odds, of Peyton Manning.

The Broncos playcaller is the top-rated quarterback in the league and, despite his re-engineered neck, looks set to lead Denver deep into the play-offs.

This column could also have focused on the issue of concussions again as not one but three NFC starting quarterbacks were knocked out of their games with the injury on Sunday which could have long-term implications on their careers and a short-term effect on the NFC play-off race.

Finally, I could have written 800 words on Philip Rivers throwing the worst interception in living memory and the capitulation of the Chargers franchise.

Instead, you should just watch it yourself.


[YouTube Credit]

But, given the rarity of its occurrence, this column has to look at the tie between the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers and the history of tied games in the NFL.

A rare occurrence

Overtime was first introduced into the league in 1940, but it wasn’t until 1974 that it became sudden death. Since then, there have been just 18 tied games in 38 years. The first tie actually happened in 1974 when the Pittsburgh Steelers (who went on to win the Super Bowl that year) and Denver Broncos produced a scoreless overtime despite sharing 70 points during the first four quarters.

There were just two more ties that decade, both 10-10 and both involving the Minnesota Vikings. The first came against the LA Rams in 1976 but didn’t stop the Vikings reaching the Super Bowl where they lost to the Oakland Raiders, while the second was against the Packers in 1978.

Like New Romantics and shoulder pads, tied games were very popular in the 80s with a drawn game recorded in nine of the decade’s ten seasons with 1985 being the one exception. In 1986 there were two ties. The first was a 10-10 stalemate between the Falcons and 49ers in September, before the Eagles and St. Louis Cardinals matched that score in November.

There were just two tied games in the 90s and, remarkably, they occurred within one week of each other and both involved teams from the NFC East. On November 16, the Eagles and Ravens tied 10-10 (the most popular score in tied games, featuring in six of the eighteen) before the Redskins and Giants played out a 7-7 draw the following week. Of the four teams, only the Giants made the play-offs that year.

November is by far the most popular month for tied games; with eight of the eighteen all-time taking place this month and each of the last six.

There were just two ties in the first decade of the new millennium with the Steelers and Flacons playing out a high-scoring (34 apiece) game in 2002 before the Eagles and Bengals tied 13-13 in 2008. That game was remarkable for the fact that Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb – now an NFL pundit I might add – didn’t realise the overtime rules and assumed there would be a second extra period once the first one finished in a tie.

You would imagine NFL players would have learned from McNabb’s mistake but, Sunday night, the St Louis Rams receiver Danny Amendola told Sport Illustrated’s Peter King that he too thought there would be a second overtime.

The one that got away

It was, in truth, a game the Rams should have won. They gave up 183 total yards to a backup quarterback in Colin Kaepernick and allowed him to score a crucial fourth quarter touchdown. However, it was in overtime they really let themselves down. Firstly, they had an eighty yard pass between Sam Bradford and Amendola – and excellent position on the 49ers two-yard line – called back because of an illegal formation.

Then, their kicker aced a field goal from 53 yards only for another penalty to cost them five yards, a distance Greg Zuerlein wasn’t able to make up on his second attempt. The 49ers, normally so reliant on field goals, then missed a 41 yard effort of their own to win the game.

So many things must go wrong for a game to end in a tie; it’s no surprise so few do. Sunday night was the perfect example of that rarest of occurrences in the NFL.

Week 10 results:

Indianapolis Colts 27 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 10

Oakland Raiders 20 @ Baltimore Ravens 55

Denver Broncos 36 @ Carolina Panthers 14

New York Giants 13 @ Cincinnati Bengals 31

Tennessee Titans 37 @ Miami Dolphins 3

Detroit Lions 24 @ Minnesota Vikings 34

Buffalo Bills 31 @ New England Patriots 37

Atlanta Falcons 27 @ New Orleans Saints 31

San Diego Chargers 24 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 34

New York Jets 7 @ Seattle Seahawks 28

Dallas Cowboys 38 @ Philadelphia Eagles 23

St Louis Rams 24 @ San Francisco 49ers 24

Houston Texans 13 @ Chicago Bears 6

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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