Extra points aren't automatic anymore

Posted at 2:44 AM, Sep 20, 2015

Tony Romo dropped the low snap, and then snatched the ball off the turf in time to find trusty tight end Jason Witten open at the goal line with seven seconds left in the season opener.

Touchdown, Dallas Cowboys. The dramatic comeback against the New York Giants was complete. Except, well, it wasn't. They still had to kick the extra point, an afterthought no longer in light of the NFL's decision to push it back from the 2-yard line to the 15.

Dan Bailey ordered the snap on the right hash mark, lined up and sent the ball sailing through the uprights.

Cowboys 27, Giants 26. Only then could the home team and its anxious fans exhale.

Bailey's 33-yard kick proved to be no more memorable or difficult than the rest of the extra points over the course of league history. But if opening weekend was any indication of what is to come, these post-touchdown conversions could be must-watch moments rather than the bathroom breaks they've long been for viewers on the couch or customers at the stadium.

Cleveland's Travis Coons made an outlandish 48-yard attempt, after a pair of penalties pushed him back. But four extra points failed over the weekend in 75 attempts, with one blocked for Cincinnati's Mike Nugent in addition to misses for Houston's Randy Bullock, Jacksonville's Jason Myers and San Diego's Josh Lambo. That's already half the amount of extra points that were missed in 2014, when NFL kickers went 1,222 for 1,230 (99.3 percent).

"It's going to happen," said Myers, whose Jaguars lost 20-9 to Carolina. "It happens to the best of them."

Over the previous 10 years, according to STATS research, the league had an average of 10.2 missed extra points per season. The collective success rate over that period was 99.1 percent. Hence the reason why the NFL's competition committee devised the shift for 2015, with a review of the rule before further enactment. Owners voted 30-2 to make the change, so the extra-long extra points probably will become permanent.

The NFL's other goal with the new extra-point rule was to entice more teams to opt for a 2-point conversion try from the 2-yard line. Though all of the attempts on opening weekend were made by teams trailing by an amount of points that made sense to try it in the past, teams went four for five.

That's a small sample size, but with a 47 percent success rate (269 for 572) on 2-point plays over the previous 10 years, there undoubtedly will be some coaches this season who choose the 50-50 proposition of a 2-point pass or run over the 33-yard kick.

Kickers went 304 for 328 on 33-yard field goals (92.7 percent) over the last 10 years, according to STATS. They were remarkably perfect on 33-yard field goals in 2013 (29 for 29) and 95.1 percent in 2014 (39 for 41), but predicting a new rate for the pushed-back extra points isn't as simple as returning to that data.

"It's going to go down," Kansas City special teams coach Dave Toub said, "because of the pressure you're going to get from the field-goal block team and then the pressure of actually making that one-point kick from the 33-yard distance."

Kickers are as strong as ever these days, with 50-yard-plus field goals hardly prohibitive, so the challenge is largely mental. When the offense is driving into range, the kicker is already warming up. Touchdowns can happen suddenly, though, so the same preparation for an extra point isn't always possible.

"I find myself trying to stay more loose on the sideline maybe than I would have normally in previous years," Buffalo's Dan Carpenter said. "You do have to be ready for those big plays."