The National Football League’s decision to make point-after attempts 13 yards longer starting next season will turn the long-assumed easy “PAT” into a harder task for kickers. Announced Tuesday, the league’s new rule pushes the line of scrimmage from the two-yard line back to the 15-yard line, turning what was a 19-yard extra point into essentially a 32-yard field goal.
Twenty-six of the league’s 32 teams made 100 percent of their extra-point attempts during the regular season in 2014, and the league as a whole executed higher than 99 percent of these short tries. (Only the Chicago Bears failed on more than one attempt.) By comparison, just 10 of the 32 teams were perfect on field goal attempts ranging between 30 and 39 yards in 2014.
With the new 32-yard length of the extra point – and kickers’ historical career success rate from the 30-to-39-yard field goal – this change would have cost teams a total of 154 points in 2014.
Based on their kicker’s past, the San Diego Chargers would have lost the most points (nine) in 2014. Veteran Nick Novak has only missed one extra-point attempt in his career, but he has also been just 78 percent successful (38 of 49) on 30-to-39-yard three-point tries.
Two more vets with strong right legs – the Carolina Panthers’ Graham Gano and the Indianapolis Colts’ Adam Vinatieri – have similar cause for concern. Their teams are expected to lose eight points apiece based on the longer tries.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who spent a rare fourth-round draft pick on kicker Stephen Gostkowski in 2006, has been a proponent of the reform since 2011. It’s clear why. Gostkowski, who replaced the Super Bowl-winning Vinatieri in New England, has been successful on 90 percent of his 30-to-39-yard tries in the past.
The number of points that a team can lose on the PAT is dependent, obviously, on the number of touchdowns that its offense scores. (The extra point occurs only after a touchdown, whereas a field goal is its own separate scoring play.) Because of this, the percentage difference (above) is a more reliable statistic when evaluating a particular kicker’s value to his team. It looks at his career history as opposed to the number of PAT attempts his team might afford him in a given season.
There are kickers with more promising expectations than Gostowski. Based on his career results from 30 to 39 yards (96.4 percent) and from the former PAT distance (99), the Buffalo Bills’ Dan Carpenter can expect just a 2.7 percent loss in his effectiveness, the lowest mark in the league.
Boil it down to this: The extra point, particularly in the fourth quarter, was previously an afterthought and could now shift the nature of a given game.
The re-writing of the rule was one of three proposals considered by team owners at the NFL Spring Meetings in San Francisco on Tuesday. It passed by a 30-2 margin. The Oakland Raiders and Washington Redskins reportedly voted against the measure.
As part of the alteration, offenses opting for the two-point conversion will still line up from the two-yard line and defenses, which will now be tipped off to opponents’ intent in advance, can score on blocks and returns.
*Kicker has a limited career sample size of 30-39 yard field goals.