The point after touchdown has become so automatic that it often feels, well, pointless. With NFL kickers missing five of 1,267 PAT attempts last season (two of those misses came in a snowy Lions and Eagles competition) kicking an extra-point has become a no-brainer. Now, the New England Patriots have proposed a rule change designed to make post-touchdown decision making a bit more complicated. The Patriots have asked team owners, who will vote on proposed rule changes next week in Orlando, to move the line of scrimmage for extra-point attempts from the two-yard line to the 25, effectively changing the kicking distance from 20 yards to 43 yards.
If past is precedent – and in Football it always is – kickers would make approximately 85 percent of attempts if the ball was moved back. Of the three kickers with the most field goals made last season, two missed more than once on field-goal attempts in the 40-49 yard range. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who made 38 field goals, had two of his three misses in that range and Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, who made 35 field goals, missed two in that range. Both kickers made all of their extra-point attempts. What does this mean? If the new rule were to pass, quality kickers would become more valuable and windy days would see more two-point conversions from the two-yard line.
As it stands, two-point-conversion attempts are generally desperation calls reserved for late in games, when the team on offense is trailing by multiple possessions and has little time for a comeback. Such plays are seen as risky propositions, but wouldn’t be if the extra-point is no longer a sure thing. And two-point conversions would likely end up being attempted fairly frequently despite coaches’ risk aversion because missed field goals will likely force two-point attempts.
Still, the best kickers would likely make most extra points. Gostkowski went 11-for-13 from that range, while Vinatieri went 15-for-17. The ruling would also incentivize them to practice at that distance, which would certainly result in improved results. Kickers have steadily improved over the last few decades and that trend looks to continue regardless of the NFL owners’ decision.