Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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Ties? Bud once gave us a good laugh with them

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: November 24, 2013 - 11:37 PM

I prefer not to clash with the published opinions of learned colleagues at this newspaper, although the issue in this case is minor, so why not: I don't think ties are a problem in any way in today's NFL.

The NFL started offering sudden-death overtime to break ties in 1974. The rule was modified first for the playoffs and then for the regular season in 2012:

The team receiving the kickoff can win the game on its first possession with a touchdown. If it fails to score, the opponent gets possession and sudden death applies.

If the team receiving the kickoff settles for a field goal, the opponent gets a chance to receive the ball. The opponent can win with a touchdown. If it kicks a field goal, the game is back to a tie and sudden death applies.

The impetus for this change came when the Vikings lost the NFC title game in January 2010 on Garrett Heatley's overtime field goal, after the Saints had received the kickoff.

Obviously, in the playoffs, you play until somebody wins. The limit of one extra period remains for the regular season. One unforeseen factor in going away from straight sudden death in the regular season could be to increase the chance of a tie from minute to highly unlikely.

There were a total of 17 ties during 38 regular seasons of sudden-death overtime from 1974 through 2011. There was one tie under the new rules in 2012, when the Rams and the 49ers went scoreless in overtime and finished 24-24 at Candlestick Park

On Sunday in Lambeau Field, we saw the first example as to how the move away from pure sudden-death could increase fractionally the number of ties:

Under the old rules, the game would have ended 4 1/2 minutes into overtime when Green Bay's Mason Crosby kicked a field goal.

Under the rules in place since 2012, the Vikings were able to tie the game with Blair Walsh's field goal. That came with 3:49 left ... meaning that was all the sudden death play remaining for the Packers or the Vikings to get a score and win the game.

So what?

The tie was a valid result. In the case of the Packers, it certainly becomes a more valid way to decide a berth in the playoffs than the NFL's exotic tiebreaking procedures. Hey, the Packers finish 8-7-1 and the Lions and the Bears finish 8-8, and we got an NFC North winner based on record rather than who beat whom from what conference, right?

Maybe I don't have a problem with ties because I remember all the fun we had with them around here in 1967, before overtime. That was the season when the Vikings brought in a prematurely gray fellow named Bud Grant to replace the resigned Norm Van Brocklin.

I have a couple of observations from the Vikings and their earliest coaches:

*When the Vikings selected Van Brocklin as their first coach, we were as excited as could be here on the prairie to be getting a man who had just led the Philadelphia Eagles to the NFL title as their quarterback.

Six years later, there was some disillusionment with the Dutchman -- particularly after he quit for 24 hours during the 1965 season -- but there wasn't really an outcry against him. Even when Fran Tarkenton made public his disgruntlement and demanded a trade after the 1966 season, much of the Purple Faithful would have accepted Van Brocklin's return. He quit due to the Tarkenton controversy.

*Grant was well-known to the 40-some Vikings crowd for his play with the post-World War II football Gophers and then for the Minneapolis Lakers. He was popular with local sportswriters, especially his pal Sid Hartman, but there was no strong feeling from the sporting public that this coach coming in from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers was a cinch to turn the Vikings into a winner.

And many of us were chuckling openly at Bud's strange ways during that first season of 1967.

Firstly, there was the second game of the season in Los Angeles against the Rams. The game was on a Friday night (CBS was experimenting) and the Rams crushed the Vikings 39-3.

The strange part of this was Bud having Fred Cox kick a 21-yard field goal with the Vikings trailing 32-0 in the fourth quarter. What kind of a goofball would have his team kick a field goal with his team trailing by 32 points in the fourth quarter?

A Bud kind, that's who. He admitted that he didn't want to give the Rams the satisfaction of posting a shutout.

Grant's Vikings lost their first four games, then defeated the soon-to-be-Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers 10-7 at Lambeau Field. In the nine games that followed, the Vikings won two (Giants and Steelers), lost four (Falcons, Browns, Packers and Lions) and tied three (Colts, Lions and Bears).

Yes, three ties ...the first two at Met Stadium and then on Dec. 10 in Chicago. With the Vikings sitting at 3-6-2, Bud had Fred Cox kick a 25-yard field goal late in the game for tie No. 3.

We laughed about this and came up with the motto for the 1967 Vikings: "Tie One for Bud.''

Soon enough, of course, we were no longer laughing about Bud's leadership of the Vikings, as he became our lasting hero.

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