People like to pretend they want to see perfect football and every bad pass, drop, missed tackle, and missed kick bring with them groans about the quality of play. So it’s not surprising that many bemoaned the NFL record 12 extra points that were blocked or missed in Week 11.
Even with point after tries successful 93.6 percent of the time, many aren’t a fan of the rule change that pushed back kickers 13 yards and dropped the success rate from its nearly perfect mark of 99.3 percent in 2014.
Be real now: Do all these missed PATs really make the game better? It kind of drives me nuts.— Dan Hanzus (@DanHanzus) November 20, 2016
But it does make the game better. Sunday was the perfect example of the rule change leading to more exciting play on the field.
It could finally force two-point conversions
When Jay Gruden elected to go for two in the second quarter of a close game against the Green Bay Packers, many were left scratching their heads about the Washington coach’s call.
There was just no reason for Washington to try to extend its 13-10 lead to 15-10 with so much game left to play. Why is a five-point lead better than a four-point lead?
The conversion failed, but Gruden didn’t catch much heat for the decision because Washington ran away with a 42-24 victory. But his decision shouldn’t draw criticism because it’s a mathematically sound one that coaches should make now more than ever.
After Sunday, 36-of-67 two-point conversion attempts have been successful. That’s 53.7 percent of attempts, meaning if a coach elected to go for two every time they’d likely finish with more points than if they relied on the 93.6 percent chance of an extra point being successful.
Even before the rule change, going for two should’ve been considered more often, but in 2016, it should be a weekly reality in the NFL. Especially for a team like Washington that is No. 2 in total offense and just covered 78 yards in seven plays against the Packers to score a touchdown.
Are two-point conversions more exciting than kicks? You bet.
Teams are rewarded for building rosters thoroughly
Building a team in the NFL is a nearly impossible task and there always ends up being a leak or two in every team’s roster that needs patching. The consistent winners find a way to build around problems and don’t leave positions unaddressed.
The longer extra point has made having a good kicker more valuable, and having a bad kicker more of a burden. That’s the way it should be. The team that did the best job building its roster should get the most out of it, and the automatic 19-yard extra point didn’t show that.
Having a good kicker matters.
When the NFL first started toying with extra point tries on an experimental basis at the Pro Bowl in 2015, Cody Parkey of the Philadelphia Eagles wasn’t sure if the worth of a kicker would go up or down.
"Kicker value could potentially go up,” Parkey said. “But if they scoot the extra point back, more people are going to miss and more teams will go for two so I guess that could make kickers less valuable. It could work both ways, it just depends."
For now, NFL teams still attempt an extra point 11.2 times more often than they attempt a two-point conversion.
What’s so bad about missed kicks anyway?
But even if two-point conversions don’t happen and coaches stick to their conservative ways, why do we have such a problem with a dozen missed extra points?
When a team scores a crucial touchdown and needs the extra point to be successful, the odds are the kicker is going to make it. But don’t you dare pull your eyes away, because he really might miss it.
And if he doesn’t just miss it, you can bet the defense is going to sell out to try and block it. There’s a good chance you’ll see something like Bobby Wagner launching himself over the line of scrimmage to try to block it.
Wagner did exactly that on a pair of field goal attempts during a game against the Arizona Cardinals in October. One of his block attempts was successful, and the 6-6 tie featured several missed kicks that could’ve won the game.
It was probably the silliest game of the NFL season so far, but dammit if it wasn’t the most memorable. Even if other games make the highlight reels for the year, the 6-6 tie was one you probably talked about with friends and coworkers.
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Perfect football is great and all, but silliness and mistakes are a huge part of the fun and the narrative too.
When kickers across the NFL miss a collective 12 extra points in one week, that only helps a previously meaningless play become even more fun. And it might even push us closer to more two-point conversions.
The NFL bumped extra points back 13 yards to make the play more exciting and this time the league nailed it.