By Jay Landow | Sports Editor
If a random person on the street was asked how many points a touchdown was worth in the NFL, most people would probably say seven points. In reality, the touchdown itself is worth six points, and the extra-point kick, if made, tacks on the additional point.
Yet in recent years, the extra-point had become such a given, so automatic, that it was expected to be made after every single touchdown. While sports fans may have loved using the extra-point kick as an opportunity to further celebrate a touchdown or grab another beer, the NFL owners felt that the extra-point kick had become a boring, non-competitive play. So during the offseason prior to the start of the 2015 season, they voted 30-2 in favor of changing the rules of the extra-point kick.
Starting this year, the extra-point kick has moved from the 2-yard-line to the 15-yard-line. This makes the extra-point a 33-yard kick, as opposed to a 20-yard chip-shot.
Before the rule change, NFL kickers had made the extra-point kick 99.1 percent of the time over the past 10 seasons. That means that only roughly 1 out of every 100 extra-point kicks was not made. In total, only eight extra-point kicks were missed in the entire 2014 season.
Over that same time period of ten years, field goal kicks from 33 yards out were made 92.7 percent of the time. If that same statistic holds true this season, then roughly one out of every 10 extra-point kicks will not be made. Now, only two weeks into the 2015 season, nine extra-point kicks have sailed wide of the uprights.
The extra-point kick has become relevant for the first time in our lifetimes. It has fans actually excited about watching the extra-point attempt, and teams rethinking their post-touchdown strategy.
With the extra-point no longer a guarantee, the two point conversion play has become a more realistic option. The mentality of coaches used to be “why risk getting no extra-points to get two extra-points when we can definitely get one?”
While the new rule moved the extra-point kick farther away from the end zone, it left the two point conversion attempt at the 2 yard line. Over the past ten years, teams have had a 47 percent success rate on two point conversions.
This statistic may not be very significant, since two point conversions were only attempted on 4.9 percent of touchdowns. But this statistic has head coaches thinking hard after a touchdown about whether to go for one or two point after a touchdown. You are only half as likely to complete the two point play, but you stand to score twice the amount of points.
It will be very interesting to see the different schemes coaches come up with as this year plays out. If a kicker is struggling during a game, or the conditions are not ideal for a field goal, then it is very likely we will see two point conversions be attempted. It used to be that 2-point conversions were attempted mainly during the fourth quarter, when a team needed two points instead of one to tie the game or boldly take the lead. Now, we may start seeing two point plays attempted at any point throughout the game.
One other aspect of the extra-point play has been changed this season. Prior to this season, if the ball was either intercepted or fumbled during a two point conversion attempt, the play was dead. The defense could not return the turnover to the opponent’s end zone for a touchdown. Now, if a team intercepts the ball, or picks up a fumble on a failed two point conversions attempt, they can run the ball all the way back down the field to the opposing end zone for a touchdown. This will be another factor the coaches have to consider, since there is now the possibility that a failed two point conversion could result in a touchdown for the other team.
The new rule may seem like a trivial change, but if you have watched any games so far this season, you know that the extra-point has gone from being a routine, boring play to a highly exciting, very competitive play. While it is still more likely that the extra-point will be made than not, it is by no means a sure thing.
We can already see it coming; a situation where a team is down seven points late in the fourth quarter and needs a touchdown plus the extra-point to send it into overtime, but the kicker misses the now longer extra-point kick and his team loses the game by one point. It will be heartbreaking for some fans and a miracle for others, but thanks to the new rule, it will be exciting for everyone.