OAKLAND, Calif. — The NFL’s two-week experiment of longer extra points is almost over, and early indications are that moving the kick back to a 33-yard attempt accomplished what the league’s competition committee hoped — making it much less of a gimme.
Entering Sunday’s exhibition game, kickers missed eight extra points in 127 tries, including one by Lions rookie Nate Freese in Saturday night’s 27-26 loss to the Oakland Raiders.
That 93.7 percent success rate, while still high, is a significant decline from last year’s 99.6% rate.
Extra-point tries will be spotted at the 2-yard line, making them 20-yard attempts, for the rest of the season.
“They’ve put that in place so the PAT is not automatic, so they put a little stress on it, and for us it certainly gave us a problem (Friday),” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “But you got your choice. You got several choices to make there. You can also go for two, and I think that’s what they wanted you to think about it, bring a little bit more excitement into the game and see where it goes.”
Seven teams have missed extra points during the exhibition season, though most of the misses — five — have come from kickers fighting for jobs or unlikely to have roster spots in two weeks.
Blair Walsh of the Minnesota Vikings, Shayne Graham of the New Orleans Saints and Shaun Suisham of the Pittsburgh Steelers are the only veterans who missed PATs.
Freese bounced an extra-point attempt off the right upright Friday, but made a 55-yard field goal. He’s battling Giorgio Tavecchio for the starting job.
While extra points have gotten more difficult this exhibition season, there’s no hard evidence the longer try will lead to more two-point conversion attempts from typically conservative coaches.
Teams have gone for two 15 times in the first two weeks of the exhibition season, but most of those attempts came from teams trying to avoid ties (and thus, overtime) or build or cut a lead to three points.
Only two attempts appear unorthodox: The New York Jets passed on a game-tying extra point in favor of a two-point attempt (that failed) just before halftime Saturday in a win over the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Green Bay Packers called for a two-point conversion to try and go up eight in the third quarter of a loss to the Tennessee Titans last week. (Green Bay’s attempt was precipitated by a missed PAT by the Titans.)
Under the experimental extra-point rules, teams can opt for a two-point try from the 2-yard line or have the ball spotted at the 15 for a kick.
“I do think it adds something to the game because you have to kind of look at it a little differently, and particularly the wind conditions,” Caldwell said. “If the wind conditions are heavy in a ballgame and it’s toward the end of the year, that thing becomes obviously a little bit of a thought process that you have to kind of weigh out. There’s some interesting scenarios where if there happens to be a penalty on that particular play then you could possibly move it to the 1-yard line and run it. If you decide, ‘Hey, we’re going to go for two,’ and go half the distance to the goal, it goes to the 1. If you’ve been doing pretty well in your goal-line offense, you may consider it. I think there’s some possibilities there. I kind of like the intrigue, so it was interesting going through that process this fall.”