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An NFL.com host recently derided the extra point as the "penny" play of professional football.
The smaller but surer choice of a team’s post-touchdown scoring options, it’s just kind of there. Some think it serves little purpose than being the perfect opportunity to run for the fridge or restroom.
What’s an NFL exec to do to keep the game spicy and folks glued to their seats?
One idea is to spike the extra point.
"The extra point is almost automatic," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a recent interview on NFL.com. "I believe we had five missed extra points this year out of 1,200 some odd (attempts). So it's a very small fraction of the play, and you want to add excitement with every play."
Goodell mentioned a proposal that would replace the kicked PAT (point after touchdown) and award teams an automatic seven points for a touchdown instead. Then, a coach could gamble by going for an extra point with a run or pass play in the end zone. If they make it, they score eight. If they miss, their score goes back down to six.
We are sports-, politics- and stats-loving nerds here at PunditFact, not game-callers, so we’ll conceal our two-cents on the proposal. The reason for it, though, left us intrigued. In honor of the Super Bowl, we wanted to know if Goodell was right about the rarity of missed extra points.
Stats are widely available from places like ESPN and the NFL. In this case, they confirm Goodell’s point that the extra-point attempt is mostly a one-point gimme, with just five misses in 1,267 attempts in the 2013 regular season.
Of the five missed attempts, four were blocked.
Sept. 22: The Green Bay Packers blocked Cincinnati Bengals kicker Mike Nugent’s extra-point attempt in the fourth quarter. Cincinnati won anyway, 34-30.
Dec. 8: The Detroit Lions lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 34-20 in a matchup marred by heavy snow. The snow was so intense that Lions kicker David Akers missed his only attempt of the day. He slipped and fell, bringing to mind Charlie Brown, as the Eagles blocked his try. (GIF!)
The missed PATs by the Jaguars and Vikings could have potentially made a difference in the outcome of the game. Instead of having to shoot for a touchdown to win, those teams could have fought for field-goal range and tried to tie up the game by closing the margin to three points.
The league-wide record for missed extra points in 2013 was a low in recent years, down from six misses in 2012, seven in 2011 and 11 in 2010. The latter year was particularly memorable, with the Washington Redskins botching the snap on a PAT attempt that would have tied the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with just seconds to play.
And even though it’s comical or crushing depending on your allegiance, let’s relive the notorious wide-right extra point by the New Orleans Saints in 2003. The Saints had the chance to tie up the game against the Jaguars after a near-miraculous touchdown of three lateral passes and no time left on the clock. But nope.
Let’s sum up our findings:
Is the point-after touchdown attempt an almost pre-determined outcome that propels kickers to the top of scoring charts? Yes.
More pertinently, did Goodell have his stats straight? Also yes.
In football terms, Goodell’s claim is up and it’s GOOD! At PunditFact, we call that True.
NFL NFL Total Access, "Goodell talks possible elimination of extra points," Jan. 20, 2014
ESPN, NFL team kicking statistics for 2013 regular season
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