NFL kickers have combined to miss 11 extra points, a record for one week since the NFL merger. Of course, there was a rule change before last week, moving the extra point attempt back to make it a non-automatic play, and introduce some strategy. Last year, after a similar (but not quite as “doinky”) weekend, I wrote that NFL coaches were still coming to grips with the extra point and needed to get more aggressive.
Will a weekend like this prompt a change in strategy as we enter the cold months of the season in many team locations? I’m not hopeful, but here are the numbers (current through halftime of the late afternoon games today):
So far in 2016 (all data via Pro-Football-Reference.com game play finder):
PATs (including failed 2-point attempts that were result of botched snaps on kicks): 688 of 736 (93.5%)
Two-point attempts: 35 of 62 (56.5%)
And last year:
PATs (including failed 2-point attempts that were result of botched snaps on kicks): 1146 of 1220 (93.9%)
Two-point attempts: 46 of 91 (50.5%)
Thus, since the rule change, the PATs have come in at just under 94%, and the two-point conversions have been successful over half the time (52.9% since start of 2015 season).
It’s not a huge advantage, but since 2-point conversions are worth, you know, 2 points, the expected value of going for the try is about 1.06 points per play, while the kick is at 0.94 points per play. That 0.12 points would convert to 146 more points if every team went for two after every touchdown last year.
That measurement, by the way, doesn’t include the missed extra point in the Saints-Denver game from a block resulting in the winning points the other way, just a week ago. If the risk of losing 2 points is greater as well, then that plays into it too.
Even giving the benefit of the doubt, it’s at best a neutral decision to kick. Yet, last year coaches kicked 93% of the time, and have done so 92.2% of the time this year.
I’m not hopeful that we should get a change in philosophy, since no one blames the coach for a missed extra point, but will question gambling going for two.