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Overtime equals extra excitement in NFL

Santonio Holmes and the Jets have two straight wins in overtime.  (Associated Press)
Santonio Holmes and the Jets have two straight wins in overtime. (Associated Press)

Few things infuriate football fans more than the one-possession overtime. You know, win the coin toss, kick a long field goal and go home.

Unfair? Although few NFL coaches, players or team executives complain much about it, there certainly is an element of inequity in the rules. The league has done something about it on an experimental basis for this year’s playoffs, requiring that both sides get one possession if the receiving team takes the OT kickoff and kicks a field goal on that series.

But there were no changes for the regular season.

“I know that the overtime changes for the playoffs,” Buffalo center Geoff Hangartner said. “It seems to me like they should make just one consistent rule and stick with it. It’s kind of like they’re trying to find the best between the college system and the way we’ve had it. They just need to find one plan and stick with it, honestly.”

Maybe true. But thankfully, the system hasn’t mattered much in the 13 games that went to overtime so far in 2010. Only one, the New York Jets’ 23-20 victory at Detroit two weeks ago, ended with that annoying one-series scenario.

Otherwise, the extra time has brought extra excitement. Consider the Jets’ 26-20 win last Sunday at Cleveland, making them the first visiting team to win consecutive OT games on the road. And Kansas City’s thrilling 13-10 decision against Buffalo on Oct. 31 that ended on the final play of the 15-minute overtime.

Or Baltimore’s wild 37-34 victory the previous week against Buffalo.

The 13 overtimes match the total for last year – 25 in 2002 is the record for a season. Five of the 2009 OTs ended on the first possession, all of them with winning field goals, none lasting more than 7 minutes. This year, the field goal still has been decisive, with 11 games won by kicks.

But it’s taken longer to make those kicks or score a touchdown.

Santonio Holmes’ TD reception to beat Cleveland last Sunday came with 16 seconds to go. Ryan Succop’s field goal that lifted Kansas City over the Bills came as time expired in OT. Baltimore beat Buffalo and lost to New England on kicks with less than 2 minutes remaining, and Atlanta won that way at New Orleans. Houston beat Washington on Neil Rackers’ kick with 3:24 on the clock.

In 2009, only two games went beyond 12 minutes of overtime.

Other than outlasting the opposition, what’s the key to surviving in OT, which Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine says causes “more mental strain” than physical exhaustion?

“I think you’re more conscious of the field position in overtime,” Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “It’s not something where you want to take three shots down the field and then end up punting to them and losing field position. So I think first downs are that much more important.

“That being said, I think maybe you are a little more conservative in overtime only because the aspect of, ‘We have to get first downs.’

“Other than that, you’re running your base stuff. You’re trying to move the ball as usual.”

Jets defensive tackle Trevor Pryce, who’s been in his share of overtime games in a 14-year career, disagrees.

“I think lots of coaches get even more aggressive,” Pryce said. “You have 15 minutes to score or it ends in a tie. It’s a running clock in the coaches’ heads. You sure can’t grind it out with 3 yards and a cloud of dust. You have to add some things to your repertoire.”

Schaub back with Texans

Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub is back with the team after he was hospitalized with an injury to the bursa sac in his right knee. Schaub practiced on Thursday, and coach Gary Kubiak expects his No. 1 quarterback to start when the Texans visit the New York Jets on Sunday.

Kubiak said Schaub took about half of the first-team snaps and that the only way Schaub will not start is if he has a setback before the game.

Schaub said the injury will not require surgery, and had no explanation for why the injury flared up, but he said it won’t limit his movement in Sunday’s game. He said he feels no pain in his knee when he runs or throws.

Dan Orlovsky is Schaub’s backup, and Matt Leinart is next on the depth chart.

Panthers’ St. Pierre starter

Brian St. Pierre has thrown five passes in eight NFL seasons. He wasn’t in a training camp this summer and as recent as last week was a stay-at-home dad.

On Sunday, he’ll start for the Carolina Panthers.

A season of injuries, anemic offensive play and one victory took an even stranger twist when coach John Fox picked the 30-year-old St. Pierre over rookie Tony Pike to play against Baltimore.

The Panthers have lost Matt Moore to a season-ending shoulder injury and Jimmy Clausen sustained a concussion Sunday against Tampa Bay.

Carolina signed St. Pierre to the practice squad last week. He was promoted to the 53-man roster Tuesday.

St. Pierre takes charge of the NFL’s lowest-scoring team that’s also without its top three running backs.