The NFL’s new overtime rules were confusing for just about everyone Sunday, including Mecole Hardman.
In fact, after he scored the game-winning touchdown at Allegiant Stadium, Hardman had no idea that the Kansas City Chiefs had won their second consecutive Super Bowl.
“I threw a touchdown to this dude at the end of the game, and he looked at me, and he had no idea,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said on NFL Network. "I said, ‘Dude, we just won the Super Bowl!’ He blacked out, he had no idea. He didn’t even celebrate at the beginning.”
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) February 12, 2024
Hardman caught a 3-yard pass from Mahomes at the tail end of overtime to lift the Chiefs to a 25-22 win over the San Francisco 49ers. It marked the second overtime in Super Bowl history and the first under the league’s new postseason OT rules.
The NFL changed its postseason rules in March 2022 after complaints that came from the divisional-round playoff game between the Buffalo Bills and Chiefs that year. The game went into overtime after the Chiefs scored with 13 seconds left, and then the Chiefs scored on their first drive in overtime without the Bills getting a possession.
Under the new rules, both teams get at least one possession in overtime, regardless of whether the team that gets the ball first scores. If the score is still tied after each team gets the ball once, the next score wins. The only way the game would end after one possession is if the kicking team forces a safety on the initial possession.
Overtime Rules for #SBLVIII:@NFL postseason overtime rules were updated in 2022 to allow each team an opportunity to possess the ball.
Full rules available here: https://t.co/B4SCLVtNL2 pic.twitter.com/RpWtoNqlzb
— NFL Football Operations (@NFLFootballOps) February 12, 2024
The 49ers won the overtime toss and took the ball first. They made it into the red zone, but their drive stalled, and they settled for a field goal. That put them up 22-19 and gave the ball to the Chiefs.
Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked afterward about the decision to receive and said it was something the team talked about ahead of time.
“If both teams matched and scored, we wanted to be the ones with the chance to go win it,” Shanahan said. “We got that field goal, so we were hoping to hold them to at least a field goal. If we did, we felt it was in our hands after.”
That didn’t work out. Mahomes marched the Chiefs down the field and found Hardman for the win.
Hardman finished with 57 yards and a touchdown on three catches. Mahomes went 34-of-46 and threw for 333 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He was named the game’s MVP, too.
While Shanahan wanted the ball first, Mahomes said after the game that the Chiefs would have done the opposite.
"We changed the rules, we can execute them both ways," he said on ESPN after the win. "I don't know how they're going to change it this time."