The two games on Sunday probably delivered some of the most entertaining football sessions Americans have seen all season. And both games were heavily impacted by the PAT rule change, and in ways NFL Lines analysts probably didn’t expect.
The ‘Point after Touchdown’ Rule change was put in place in 2015, and no one thought it would have much of an impact on the outcomes of games. However, pundits should have seen the manner in which new strategies to get around the rule might eventually cascade.
For 27 weeks, it has been possible to make a live play by spotting the extra point at the 15-yard line; in other words, for 27 weeks, it has been possible for a loose ball to be recovered and returned to a 2-point conversion by the defense.
And because the extra point is no longer automatic, its 99percent to 94 percent drop in the success rate was an expected outcome; it is the other byproducts that are attracting interest.
Looking at the Steelers/Cowboys match on Sunday, it was clear that analysts were right when they suggested that the rate for two-point attempts had doubled. One need only look at the Steelers who went for 2 after all 4 of their touchdowns (missing each time in a five-point loss), obviously reveling in their powerful offense.
Since the start of the 2015 season, it has been proven that teams are embracing the transition of the 2-point conversion to the 2-yard line, using it as a scoring tool, even without all the fourth-quarter math.
It is also worth noting all the strategies teams are putting in play in order to block extra points (they want to capitalize on the shift to a live play). If you have seen a player leap over the long-snapper, land in the backfield and deflect the kick from point-blank range, know that this is all legal, especially if a team and its players can execute a play like this accurately.
Dean Blandino (Senior Vice President of Officiating) said as much when questions arose about the legality of the Broncos making the jump easier by pushing down on the back of New Orleans Saints Long-snapper Justine Drescher.
Saints Wil Lutz was probably surprised when Justin Simmons blocked his attempt at a go-ahead extra-point. With one minute and 22 seconds remaining on the clock, Will Parks returned it, delivering a two-point conversion.
This had to mark the first time a return affected the outcome of the game since the rule changes came into effect.
NFL coaches are obviously enjoying the transforming terrain of American Football; even the most irritating of Rules Changes provide them opportunities to ignore conventional football strategy and concoct some new tactics.
Of course, everyone is still being careful. Notice that teams are not leaping over long-snappers every time the opportunity is presented. Players run the risk of a penalty if they make mistakes and fail to properly time the jump.
For most coaches, though, there is a competitive loophole to utilize here; of course, those coaches who do not like the direction the new rule changes are taking have been quick to express their anger over plays that are no longer illegal but which they disagree with.
The most prominent of these coaches is Bruce Arians of the Cardinals who took offense with the way the Seahawks utilized the PAT rule against his team.