The first major change to come out of the NFL’s Spring Meeting in San Francisco last week was the update to the Point-After Try, the simplest play in the game that has been practically automatic for decades. Opponents to the rule change—the few that are out there (two, to be exact, considering the 30-2 vote that this thing passed by)—would argue that there’s no reason to change the rule; it’s pointless—not literally—and isn’t something that needs to be tinkered with. Proponents of the change are interested in bringing a little more excitement to the play and making it more meaningful.
We see both sides (consider it on par with the argument a few years back now about bringing instant replay to baseball—traditionalists didn’t want to mess with the game, while modern minds knew it was something that was inevitable). But we wanted to do a little digging to see just how much of a difference this whole thing is going to actually make.
Here’s what we found:
Bottom line, going off of the actual field goal attempts from the two distances (not the extra points) there will be at least somewhat of an impact, however marginal that may be. There hasn’t been a field goal attempt missed inside of 20 years (again, not a PAT) since 2002, teams are hitting about 88-92 percent of the attempts between 20 and 39 yards.
What we’re more interested in is how this change impacts defensive scoring on the PAT. Prior to the rule change, any turnover on the attempt resulted in an automatic dead ball. Now, with a pick or fumble recovery, the defense can try to return the ball and pick up two points of their own. And despite the pushed back kick attempt, we’re not sure you’ll see many teams opt to go for the two-point try. Had the Eagles’ version of the rule been adopted (bumping the two-point try to the one yard line), two-point attempts might’ve spiked a little, but I think a majority of teams will opt for the 90ish-percent chance to tack on the extra point.
Either way, there’s at least a reason now to pay a little more attention to that once-meaningless play after a touchdown.