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Who Needs Overtime?

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"When we scored ... Joe Thornton said, 'We don't do overtime!' I said, 'Thank God we don't do overtime.' We were getting ready for the overtime."
Ron Wilson, ice hockey coach in response to this game

It's nearing the end of regulation of a sports contest the main characters are in, and it's a close game. Someone makes a comment that the team could tie it up, and beat the opposition in overtime.note  They end up doing one better by getting the job done in regulation.

Although just about any spectator will tell you that overtime is always exciting to watch (especially in sports where it's "sudden death", i.e., next score wins), there are a few reasons why the main characters or the author may choose to forego overtime play:

  • A team may play to win now due to pride not allowing them to countenance the idea that this other Ragtag Bunch of Misfits even got so far as tying them at the end of regulation and the fact that they needed more time than normal to settle the obvious fact that they're the better team might in itself be abhorrent to them.
  • On the more rational side, a coach may decide to play to end the game now, win or lose, rather than go into overtime because he believes they have a better chance at winning by gambling everything on one play now than a whole extra period of play — maybe the other team's offense is known to be really good and would likely score in overtime first and therefore win (not an uncommon train of thought in American football, in situations where the underdog team scores a last-minute touchdown and goes for the two-point conversion to win rather than the safer one-point PAT kick to tie), or maybe the coach sees that his players are getting fatigued and might not be able to hold up through overtime, or feels that the extra play time would place the team at a disadvantage in the next game.
  • On the author's side, adding overtime runs the risk of violating The Law of Conservation of Detail as it can drag the story on longer than it ought to unless the author is able to work something new into the situation — for example, the star player on the team got injured on the game-tying score and now the team has to figure out on the fly how to play without them.
  • On the level of a season or tournament: if differing numbers of standings points are awarded for winning or losing in overtime versus regulation note  a team might try to win in regulation in order to gain as many points as possible and/or deny their opponents even the points for an overtime loss.

A subtrope of Down to the Last Play. Not be confused with someone who refuses to pay for extra hours worked.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Ace of the Diamond: In the finals of the Summer Tournament between Seidou and Inashiro, by the bottom part of the 9th inning Seidou is one run ahead on the scoreboard, but Inashiro's coach tells his players they don't need to score two runs, just one, since they'll be guaranteed to win in extra innings. However, Inashiro's ace player, Mei Narumiya, ends up scoring a walk-off homerun with bases loaded to get them ahead and win the game right then and there.
  • Eyeshield 21:
    • The Deimon Devilbats score a last-second touchdown to trail the Shinryuuji Naga by 1 point with no time remaining, not having gone for the XP attempt yet. Realizing that Sena is at the limit of his stamina and won't be able to last through overtime, Hiruma makes the call to go for 2 on a fake field goal attempt, giving Deimon a one-point victory.
    • Averted in the final game. Team America and Team Japan tie the game, and no overtime is given because the people hosting the tournament thought America would wreck the tournament like always. Unhappy with a tie (As Bud Walker puts it, it's like kissing your sister.) the teams continue playing despite being told not to. It's assumed that Team America won, but Team Japan doesn't mind.
  • Slam Dunk: Attempted in the Ryonan vs. Kainan match during the finals. Ryonan is two points down and Sendoh prepares to score with Maki blocking him, trying to lure him into committing a foul so he can also get a free throw to win the match for Ryonan. However, Maki catches on and lets Sendoh tie the game, and then Kainan proceeds to win the match in overtime.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Mighty Ducks. Happens several times. In the Ducks' final regular season game, Coach Bombay pulls Goldberg to give the Ducks six attackers and a chance to win the game in regulation, as a tie would not have been enough to qualify for the playoffs. It works.
    • During the final game against the Hawks, Charlie Conway is awarded a penalty shot after time expires in regulation with the game tied. He scores to win the championship for the Ducks.
    • In the flashback scenes in The Mighty Ducks, we learn that the coach's big shame, the reason why he gave up hockey, was when he missed a tiebreaker penalty shot. He then mentions that his team went on to lose in overtime. And the coach blamed him for losing the game!
    • Averted in D2, when a shootout is required to separate Team USA and Team Iceland in the final match of the Junior Goodwill Games.
    • In D3, goaltender-turned-defenseman Goldberg scores the only goal of the JV/Varsity Showdown just as time expires in regulation.
  • Happy Gilmore. Despite having a fallen TV tower between his ball and the hole and being advised to take two strokes and go to the tiebreaker, Happy uses his mad puttin' skillz to win the match outright.
  • The Replacements (2000):
    • In a must-win game, the Washington Sentinels score a late touchdown and opt not to kick the tying extra point which would send the game into overtime, going instead for the two-point conversion and the win. Falco, the quarterback, throws a bad pass that hits a defender in the hands, but it pops up into the air and reaches its target anyway.
    • With a trip to the playoffs on the line, the scab team Sentinels are trailing a powerful Dallas team that crossed the picket line earlier in the week. Nigel Gruff, the placekicker, walks up to kick the field goal and tie the game, but because he's threatened with losing his pub if he saves the game for the Sentinels, Falco, the QB and holder, changes the play, takes the ball for himself and rushes into the endzone for the game winning TD. Subverted, however, when a holding call negates the TD, but played straight on the second attempt when they go for the TD again and get it, earning the Sentinels a playoff spot.
  • Necessary Roughness: Averted in that (at the time) college games didn't go to overtime, but the Armadillos still opted to go for the win over the tie against the number 1 team in the nation.
  • The Waterboy: With only time for one more play in the Bourbon Bowl and the Mud Dogs down 27-24, instead of kicking a field goal (admittedly it would have likely been a long-distance attempt, no sure thing at the college level for the most part), Boucher and Grenoille opt for a halfback option pass play which is successful.
  • In the Adam Sandler remake of The Longest Yard, The Convicts had just scored a touchdown on a trick play with no time left, putting them one point behind the Guards. They could have just kicked the extra point and sent the game into overtime, but instead, after a team vote, decided to go for two and the win. They succeed.
    Hell, guys, we're convicts. We always go for it all.
    Unfortunately, that's why we're all in the joint.

    Western Animation 
  • Hey Arnold!, "Benchwarmer": With his team down by two with nine seconds remaining, instead of simply sinking the two free throws he's given and playing overtime, Arnold decides to deliberately miss the second freethrow to score a basket to win. This is a real tactic, but so unreliable (you have to bounce off the rim to one of your teammates, which isn't a skill normally practiced) that a smart player would only do it if they need all three points just to get to overtime.
  • Inverted in Rocket Power, "Power Play": Roller hockey match. Score, 3-4, Rockets down, with NHL pros game on the line. 12 seconds left. Otto takes the puck from Sam with 3 seconds to go and shoots from afar, planning to tie to start overtime, but the goal is waived. Big Downer Ending, folks.

    Real Life 
  • In 2008, Mike Shanahan, then coach of the Denver Broncos, chose to forego an almost guaranteed game-tying extra point from the two-yard line, and went for two to win the game with 29 seconds remaining.
  • Similar to the above example, the Los Angeles Chargers scored a potentially game-tying touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs with four seconds left in the fourth quarter. Rather than kick the extra point, LA went for two—and QB Philip Rivers connected with WR Mike Williams for a wide-open conversion. The Chargers won 29-28.
  • December 26, 2021: The Chicago Bears, trailing by seven, scored a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks with approximately a minute left in the fourth quarter. Chicago chose to go for two instead of kicking the extra point due to the snowy conditions in Seattle. Bears QB Nick Foles connected with WR Damiere Byrd to take the lead and win 25-24.
  • In one of the most famous plays in NFL history, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 in the 1967 NFL Championship (better known as the "Ice Bowl") on a last-second quarterback sneak from the goal line for a touchdown, when a short field goal would have tied the game and sent it to overtime. (They then advanced to the Super Bowl, which they also won.)
  • 49 years later, the same two teams were at it again for the 2016 NFC Divisional playoff game, this time in Dallas. With only 10 seconds to go, the game was tied at 31 and the Packers had the ball at their own 32 with no timeouts. Overtime looked inevitable when Aaron Rodgers' last-ditch, 35-yard pass to tight end Jared Cook was ruled an incompletion due to the latter being out of bounds... only for officials to subsequently determine that Cook had actually managed to touch both feet down in bounds before going out, making the play a completed pass instead. This set up a long but makeable 51-yard field goal for Packers, and reliable kicker Mason Crosby delivered. (The Packers' luck didn't hold this time, however, as they were subsequently blown out by the Atlanta Falcons in the conference championship.)
  • This was true of the Super Bowl for most of its history, since it took 51 years before a game ever went into overtime. The New England Patriots held a Miracle Rally in Super Bowl LI to come back from a 28-3 deficit with the Atlanta Falcons to tie it at 28-28, then won the game with a touchdown on their first drive in OT.
    • Super Bowl XXXVI deserves special mention. For the first 50 minutes of the game the underdog New England Patriots were able to contain the St. Louis Rams and the Kurt Warner-led "Greatest Show on Turf" en route to a 17-3 lead. Then the Rams finally broke loose and scored two touchdowns to tie the game at 17, the second with just 90 seconds left. With the Patriots starting at their own 16-yard line and no timeouts, John Madden commented that the Patriots should just run out the clock and go to overtime. Tom Brady instead led the Patriots to the Rams' 30-yard line with 7 seconds left, prompting Madden to admit that what Brady just did "spooked" him before Adam Vinatieri kicked the winning field goal.
  • Inverted in the infamous River City Relay: with no time on the clock, the New Orleans Saints, trailing by 7, scored an insane touchdown on a series of laterals, only for kicker John Carney to miss the extra point that would have tied the game and forced overtime.
    • Similarly, in Super Bowl XXXIV, the Tennessee Titans were stopped inches short of a last-second touchdown that, with a successful extra point, would have tied the game.
  • Hilariously subverted in a 2021 game between the Green Bay Packers and Cincinnati Bengals, which went to overtime after the two teams' kickers missed a combined three potentially game-winning field goals in the final minutes of regulation. The duo would go on to miss one more kick apiece in overtime before Packers kicker Mason Crosby finally got one through the uprights to put it away.
  • The 2021 Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs became something of an instant classic in part due to this trope, as three of the four games ended with a team kicking a last-second field goal to break a tie and avert overtime. (Ironically, the only game in that round that wasn't this ended regulation with a team kicking a last-second field goal to create a tie and force overtime.)
  • Manchester United scored twice in the last three minutes to win the 1999 UEFA Champions' League.
    • Apparently, Manchester United assistant manager Steve McClaren had asked his boss Sir Alex Ferguson whether United would return to 4-4-2 (from 4-3-3) in extra time. Ferguson replied, "We'll win it before."
  • A Who Needs Sudden Death? variation in the 2003 Rugby World Cup final: a winning drop-goal in extra-time from Jonny Wilkinson with 27 seconds to go, replying to a last-minute penalty from Elton Flatley of Australia, averted rugby union's first ever sudden-death third extra-time period to win the tournament for England.
  • An example from before overtime existed: In the 1984 Orange Bowl, Nebraska scored a touchdown to pull within 1 point of Miami. Rather than call for the extra point kick and a tie and almost certainly the National Championship, coach Tom Osborne called for a 2-point conversion play (which would win the game but is significantly riskier). The conversion failed and Miami won the National Championship. (Also averted. See the Necessary Roughness example under "Film".)
    • Subverted, then played straight with a variation in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl featuring Oklahoma and Boise State. After Oklahoma rallied to tie it up late, Boise State got the ball and attempted to drive for the winning score—and immediately threw an interception, allowing Oklahoma to take their first lead of the game, 35-28. Boise State scored a touchdown on a trick play with 7 seconds left, settling for the extra point and overtime. Oklahoma got the ball first in OT, and future NFL superstar Adrian Peterson ran 25 yards for a touchdown on its first play. The Broncos then required a second trick play to get a touchdown, but rather than kicking the extra point and trying to win in double-OT, they pulled yet another trick play out of the playbook and got the 2-point conversion to win it 43-42 in OT—thus, a variation, "Who Needs Double-Overtime?"
  • In the 1988 World Series, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda knew that star slugger Kirk Gibson was too banged up to play in the field or run the bases; the only way he could be of any use to the team was to go to the plate and hit a home run. With the Dodgers trailing the Oakland Athletics by one run with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game One, rather than send Gibson to the plate with a chance to tie the game, he sent utility player Mike Davis to the plate instead. After Davis worked a walk, Lasorda then sent Gibson to the plate with a chance to win the game. Up against the league's best closer, Dennis Eckersley. And if you don't know what happened next, you obviously are not a baseball fan. On a 3-2 pitch, Gibson homered off of Eck's famous slider and gave the Dodgers the win 5-4.
  • The LSU football team notably used this trope in the 2007 game against Auburn. One point behind they went for the touchdown instead of a field goal. The play was completed with 1 second left on the clock. There's a reason fans were talking about selling "Les Miles defibrillators" that year.
  • In 2010, the Philadelphia Eagles had just tied it up against the New York Giants with 14 seconds left on the clock and the Giants punting the ball. The snap was high and the punt instead of going out of bounds went right to DeSean Jackson who burned the entire Giants punt unit and scored a touchdown to win the game with no time left on the clock.note 
  • September 28, 2011 - aka "Game 162". The Divisional Races are decided, but the Wild Cards, thanks to plucky efforts by St. Louis and Tampa Bay, and the respective collapses of Atlanta and Boston, enter this day tied. St. Louis and Tampa Bay won, Atlanta and Boston lost, meaning that no "extra game" would have to be played.note  Ironically, two of the four relevant games averted this Trope, with Tampa taking 12 innings to win, and Atlanta taking 13 innings to lose.
  • Manchester United found themselves on the receiving end of this trope at the close of the 2011-12 Premier League season: going into the final day, they were level on points with crosstown rivals Manchester City, but their lower goal difference placed them second. After 90 minutes, City were down 2-1 to Queens Park Rangers but had five minutes of stoppage time still to play, while United were leading Sunderland 1-0 and had three minutes of stoppage time. City equalised two minutes into injury time, and mere seconds after the final whistle blew at United's match, City scored again to win 3-2 and earn their first championship since 1968.
  • The 1983 NCAA men's tournament final between underdog North Carolina State (coached by the late Jim Valvano) and "Phi Slama Jama" from the University of Houston (which had two future Hall of Famers in Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler) came down to the last possession tied at 52. NC State player Dereck Whittenburg launched a long shot with 3 seconds to go, but his attempt fell far short of the rim... right into the hands of teammate Lorenzo Charles, who rose up to dunk it just as time expired. They pulled this off in 5 other games on their march to the championship; out of 9 total in the Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA tournaments, they were trailing in the final minute in 8 (3 games were won in overtime, and one was never in doubt)
  • According to croquet enthusiast Jeff Soo, The United States Croquet Association, for a time, dropped the "if needed" game of their double elimination championships blending this trope with Golden Snitch. It has since gone on to play "face-off draws", much like the NCAA Baseball Tournament, having each half of the field play a double-elim (with the if needed game restored), with the winers of those two tournaments playing in a final showdown.
  • The United States Soccer teams seem to be making a habit of this, particularly in the summer events. Note that, in non-knockout matches, there is no overtime. The 2011 Women's World Cup example does not count, as their late goal equalized and sent them to penalty kicks, as opposed to winning the match before that.
    • 2010, at the World Cup. At 90'+1', Landon Donovan put in a goal that won their match vs Algeria and sent the USMNT onto the Round of 16 against Ghana (which they lost).
    • 2012, at the Summer Olympics. This game actually did go into overtime, but if it remained tied, it would have gone into penalty kicks. At 120'+2', Alex Morgan put in a header against Canada to send the US Women to the Gold Medal match against Japan (which they won).
    • 2013, during the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers. The US Men vs Jamaica. At 89', Jamaica put in a goal to tie the game at 1-1. This game would not have gone into extra time, as it was merely a qualifier and not a knockout game, but at 90'+3', Bradley Evans put in a goal that won the US the match, earning three points and winning their first of three June World Cup Qualifiers (all of which they won, putting them at the head of the hexagonal; in the end, Team USA finished atop the group).
  • The World Cup had a few other than the USA one above, such as Italy winning the 2006 round of 16 over Australia with a penalty kick at the last minute. The "actually in overtime" variant ("Who Needs Penalties") like the Olympics example above happened three times as well, England 1-0 Belgium in the 1990 round of 16, Germany 2–1 Sweden in sudden deathnote  in the 2003 women's final, and Italy 2-0 Germany (yes, 2 goals, at 119' and 121) in the 2006 semifinal.
  • In the 2013 Iron Bowl, the Alabama Crimson Tide were ranked number 1 in the nation, and they were playing their rivals, number 4 Auburn, for the first winner-to-the-SEC-Championship Iron Bowl in history. Following an Auburn drive that scored a touchdown, tying the game 28-28 with only 34 seconds to go, Bama took over in their territory. Bama running back T. J. Yeldon got to the Auburn 38 before being pushed out of bounds by Auburn cornerback Chris Davis just as time expired, which stopped the clock. The play was reviewed, and one second was put back on the clock. Alabama attempted a 57-yard field goal. If it missed, the game would just go to overtime. Their starter had missed three earlier that game, so they put in the backup. He kicked the ball well, but it fell short, where that same Chris Davisnote  waited. Davis then took the ball all the way back to the Alabama end zone to win the game 34-28.
  • During game 6 of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks were down 2-1 to the Boston Bruins with less than two minutes to go in the third period. If Boston won, it would have forced a game 7. It would have been enough for Chicago's Bryan Bickell to score to tie the game, but just 17 seconds later, Dave Bolland scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal with just under a minute left in the game.
  • The 2014 Bahamas Bowl between Western Kentucky and Central Michigan saw the former outscore the latter by 21-7 in each of the first two quarters, then tack on another score in the third quarter to extend threeor lead to 49-14, which remained the score at the end of the third quarter. At the time, only one team had ever successfully rallied from a 35-point deficit, and their comeback had started with 14 third-quarter points, so a Central Michigan comeback would've been unprecedented, but they very nearly did just that, finishing every drive of the quarter with a touchdown and managing to force Western Kentucky to punt the ball back to them with just one second left and the score 49-42. Their final desperate play ended with yet another touchdown, but rather than risk having their amazing 4th quarter go for naught in overtime, they went for 2 and the win, and WKU managed a stop and hung on for the 49-48 win.
  • In the 2014 MLB National League Championship Series, the San Francisco Giants played the St. Louis Cardinals for the second time in three years, and for the Giants, it was their third time in said series in five years. The teams split the series in St. Louis, and San Francisco won the first two in San Fran. Going into the bottom of the 9th inning of Game 5, the score was 3-3. Two Giants got on base and Travis Ishikawa stepped up and hit a 3-run walk-off home run to win it and send the Giants to the World Series for the third time in five years.
  • In 2016, the Cleveland Browns had been going the entire season without any wins or ties. That is, until their second-to-last game against the then-San Diego Chargers on Christmas Eve (which was also the Browns' last home game that season). In the last seconds of the game, the Chargers were behind 20-17 and were attempting a field goal to force them into overtime. Instead, the Chargers missed it, and the Browns averted a winless season (this time, anyway).
  • In 2021, in a high school game against Hamilton High School (AZ) and Bishop Gorman High School (NV), Hamilton, despite being down 7-24 with less than 1:10 remaining in regulation, managed to score 18 points in that time to win the game 25-24. Now down 10-24 after a successful field goal, Hamilton recovered the onside kick to cut Bishop Gorman's lead to 24-17 with 30 seconds remaining. Then Hamilton successfully recovers another onside kick, bringing the score to 24-23 with 8 seconds left. Rather than going for a kick for the tie and overtime, Hamilton runs the ball in for the eventual game-winning 2-point conversion. Bishop Gorman had one last opportunity to get a game-winning touchdown in their favor, but a failed lateral pitch allowed Hamilton to recover the fumble, sealing their victory.
  • A 2022 game between the New England Patriots and Las Vegas Raiders shows how this trope can go badly. With the game tied 24-24 and time running out, the Patriots could have gone to overtime simply by kneeling to run out the clock on the final play. Instead, they ran a running play, which made enough progress that Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson made an impromptu decision to lateral the ball to Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, who ran backwards and lateraled the ball directly to opposing Raiders linebacker Chandler Jones, who then proceeded to score the game winning touchdown for the Raiders.