SAN FRANCISCO - After seeing the extra-point kick become a virtual certainty in recent years, NFL owners decided to place a higher degree of difficulty on the play and perhaps open the door to more two-point conversion attempts. Oh, and the defense gets a shot at scoring points, too.
League owners overwhelmingly passed a measure yesterday to move the PAT kick from the 2-yard line to the 15, and keeping the two-point conversion at the 2. Not only that, but the defense can earn two points if it returns a blocked kick, fumble or interception for a score.
The vote was 30-2 in favor of the rule, with Washington and Oakland voting against.
"Something needed to be done with the extra point," said Texans general manager Rick Smith, a member of the league's competition committee. "From a kicking perspective, the try was over 99 percent [successful], so we tried to add some skill to the play."
Last year, kickers converted a record 99.3 percent of PAT kicks, and clubs were 27-for-56 (48.2 percent) on two-point conversions.
The rule was passed on a one-year basis, and the NFL will examine the statistics next year to determine if any tweaks are needed. NFL director of officiating Dean Blandino said that if the percentage of successful PAT kicks doesn't fall much below 99 percent, the league would consider moving the ball back from the 15.
"Our hope is that we've added skill to the play, and we will also see some increase in the number of attempts to go for two," Smith said. "[The PAT kick] was almost a ceremonial play."
Owners considered three different versions of the amended PAT. The Patriots submitted a proposal to have kicks moved back to the 15, but the defense couldn't score. The Eagles proposed moving the two-point conversion to the 1 and allowing the defense to score on a turnover.
Blandino suggested that the conversion rate for the longer kicks would go down if it mirrors the statistics for field goals of 33 yards (moving the ball to the 15 would create a 33- or 32-yard attempt).
"Historically, a 33-yard field goal is a 93-94 percent play," Blandino said. "It's not a certainty."
NFL VP of football operations Troy Vincent said that if a team was penalized while attempting a two-point try, the club could elect to kick a PAT after the penalty yardage was marked off from the 15-yard line.