SIDELINES: Slight change, immediate impact

NFL’s extra point changes reshape game strategy

Think back to the last football game you watched.

Maybe it was the game where your favorite team was eliminated from the playoffs last January. Maybe it was last season’s Super Bowl.

Now think of the extra points you saw in that game. Can you remember one? Even a single one?

If Super Bowl XLIX was the last game you watched, there were seven extra points taken (and made), and nobody remembers a single one.

The problem is that the extra point has always been regarded as a “gimmie.” A sure bet, and a promised bonus to anyone’s hard-earned six points.

No one pays attention to the extra point, so why have an extra point at all?

This offseason the owners voted 30-2 on moving the point after try (PAT) back to the 15-yard line. This is a drastic change from the 2-yard line, which is where it has been for years. This means the kicker will have the equivalent of a 32-yard field goal for the extra point rather than a 19-yard chip shot.

In 33 preseason NFL games this year, eight extra points have already been missed.

If a team elects to go for a two-point conversion, however, the attempt will still start from two yards out.

This will have a few impacts on the game. In addition to the obvious increased degree of difficulty on the kick itself, teams may have a bigger incentive to try a two-point conversion. If a kicker has missed a short field goal earlier in the game, maybe a run up the middle for two-yards and a bonus point are worth a try.

It’s now a decision between a 32-yard kick versus a 2-yard run or reception. Coaches will have more of a decision to make post-touchdown this season.

I like the change. If nothing else, the extra point will become something to look out for rather than just of a one-minute transition where fans check their phones and send out Tweets about the touchdown they just watched.

The change adds excitement. What is better than an all or nothing play from inside two yards?

Teams like the Panthers who are built for short yardage situations may opt for a two-point conversion in lieu of a 32-yard kick from time to time.

Even a team like the Seahawks, scrutinized for their inability to convert in that short-yardage situation in last season’s Super Bowl, may be inclined to run the ball up the middle for two yards with Marshawn Lynch this season.

The once snooze-inducing, even forgotten “gimmie” kick will now have some strategic effects on the game. At a time where the league wants to make the game as exciting for the viewers as possible, all the while taking extra safety precautions on special teams plays, the change to extra points may be the safest way to do so.

Extra points will become noticeable this season. They will put fans at the edge of their seats that much more. Instead of a sure make, the extra point will become a probable make, and that change will undoubtedly make an impact on some games.

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