NFL’s preseason experiment with longer extra point begins Sunday night


NFL placekickers such as Kai Forbath (left) and Zach Hocker (right) will kick longer PATs as part of a preseason experiment.

PHILADELPHIA — The touchdown has been scored. The replay has been shown. The players are lining up for the extra point.

Time for all football-savvy television viewers to make a quick trip to the fridge for a cold drink or take that much-needed bathroom break, right?

Not if the NFL has its way over the next few weeks.

The league’s attempt to put at least a little bit of drama back into one of the most predictable plays in all of sports begins with Sunday night’s Hall of Fame Game between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills (8 p.m., NBC). In that game and then over the first two weeks with full slates of preseason games league-wide, the NFL will experiment with a longer extra point.

“It’ll be different,” Eagles kicker Alex Henery said Friday at his team’s training camp in Philadelphia. “We’ll see if it improves anything. I don’t know what they really want for it. I think I’m more on the side of if they think it’s too easy, they should make the [goal] posts smaller instead of moving back an extra point.”

NFL place kickers tried 1,267 extra points last season and converted 1,262 of them. That’s a success rate of 99.6 percent. Denver’s Matt Prater went 75 for 75. No NFL kicker missed more than one. The failed attempts were by Chicago’s Robbie Gould, Minnesota’s Blair Walsh, Cincinnati’s Mike Nugent, Detroit’s David Akers and Jacksonville’s Josh Scobee. The league’s least accurate extra point kicker last season was Scobee at 95.7 percent.

In the NFL’s preseason experiment, the ball will be placed at the 15-yard line, making for a 33-yard extra point. Two-point conversion attempts will continue to come from the 2-yard line.

“The extra point moved back in a couple preseason games when it’s August and it’s warm out, yeah, the ball will probably track straight and hopefully it won’t be too much different than what we already know as far as extra points go,” Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker said Thursday at his club’s Owings Mills, Md., training camp. “As long as it doesn’t carry all the way into the season and we’re hitting 38-yard extra points in December in Cleveland toward the Dawg Pound, or at the open end of Heinz Field — anybody that tells you a 20-yard extra point is a piece of cake in that situation is wrong because there’s a lot of moving parts to it, whether you believe it or not.”

Henery said he wonders if fans would want to see a dramatic game decided by a missed extra point.

“There’ll be some days, too, where you get some bad conditions, it could hinder the game, too,” he said. “If the wind’s blowing strong and conditions aren’t good, you could see a team need a drive down the field to tie it up or whatever and then you miss an extra point, that kind of takes something out of it, that drive, I would think. But it will be interesting to see what happens and what they decide on.”

Will a 33-yard extra point change anything? Perhaps a little bit. NFL kickers connected on 265 of 295 field goal attempts from 30 to 39 yards last season, an 89.8 percent success rate.

The overall problem, it seems, is that kickers simply have become too accurate. They converted 86.5 percent of all field goal tries last season. The sport’s rule-makers have mentioned the possibility of narrowing the goal posts to make kickers’ jobs more challenging. On the specific issue of the extra point, some observers also have suggested having the ball snapped from the 1-yard yard on two-point conversion attempts to give coaches more incentive to take that gamble.

Or maybe, some kickers suggest, just leave things alone.

“I don’t think there’s any need to change really any part of the game unless there’s a real safety concern there, which there definitely is not on an extra point,” Tucker said. “If anything, the idea of moving the extra point back or replacing it with a two-point play just leads to potentially more harmful situations. So as long as there’s no safety concern, I don’t think the game needs to be changed. And if there is a safety concern, that’s where you look at a rule change or an equipment change.”

Henery said as far as he’s concerned, the extra point should remain as uneventful as ever.

“It’s just kind of something the game’s always had,” the Eagles kicker said. “I don’t see there’s any need to really change it.”

 

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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