The Kick Is Up, And It's... Bad?

The extra point has not only been crowned pro football's dullest play, it's also often described as the most boring play in all of sports. At the end of last season, there was even talk of removing the extra point (or PAT) altogether.

But in an attempt to make the play more challenging — to remove this "gimme" from the NFL — the league adopted a proposal from the competition committee to move the line of scrimmage on a kicking PAT to the 15-yard line. That makes the new extra point a 33-yard try — something that kickers are struggling with already.

We're going to keep [going for two]. We don't practice it this much to not do it. We practice it every single day.

Ben Roethlisberger

Heading into Monday night of Week 4, kickers have already missed a total of 18 extra points. That's 10 more than were missed in 17 weeks of play in the 2014 regular season. The PAT kick success rate this season is currently 94.1 percent. The last time that statistic was under 95 percent was 1979.

If the goal of the rule change was to make the the NFL more entertaining, this seems to have done the trick. Shanked kicks are making headlines across the country. And perhaps best of all, strategies are changing.

As the PAT kick looks less and less automatic, two-point conversion attempts have started to increase. The most notable example of this shift comes from the Pittsburgh Steelers. In their Week 2 victory against the San Francisco 49ers, the Steelers went for two twice (both successful), and they're three for four on the season.

"We're going to keep doing it," quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said after Week 2. "We don't practice it this much to not do it. We practice it every single day."

Across the NFL, teams have converted 15 of 28 two-point conversion attempts through the first four weeks of the season. In 2014, for comparison, teams went just five for 14 in the first three weeks of play.

Still, some think that the extra point is in no danger of being phased out of NFL playbooks. Simply put, the kick is still being hit consistently, and the two-point conversion is mostly saved for situations where two points will truly make the difference.

It will be interesting to see who keeps the trend alive and who sticks to kicking, but a quick analysis of the Steelers' recent results lends some insight into why teams might want to opt for two.

Just take their Week 4 Thursday night matchup with the Baltimore Ravens: though Pittsburgh kicker Josh Scobee was two for two on extra point attempts, he botched two field goals (from 49 and 41 yards, respectively) that would've pushed the Steelers' lead to six. That allowed Baltimore to hit a late field to goal to send the game to overtime, where the Ravens sealed the deal.

Interestingly enough, the Steelers did not attempt a two-point conversion in that game. They did, however, opt to go for it on a fourth down in overtime (which they did not convert) instead of letting Scobee have another go. That field goal would've been from 51 yards out. Maybe Scobee's misses will serve as a reminder to both head coach Mike Tomlin and the entire league that going for it is becoming an increasingly attractive option. Or maybe it's just that the Steelers had already started the hiring process for a new kicker.



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