Move That Ball Back 15!
By FirstDown PlayBook on May 21, 2015

fdpb-wide_400x100It is a whole new world in the NFL. Anyone who is shrugging off the latest rule change that moves the ball back to the 15 yard line for Point After Attempts is not paying attention. For those people, it will not be until their team is lining up for an extra point in a windy stadium to get to overtime or win the game that it will hit them.

Here is the new rule for extra points in the NFL:

The extra point will now be kicked from the 15-yard line with two-point conversions remaining at the 2-yard line. The new rule also gives the defense the ability to score two points on returns.

So let’s think about it. What and who does the new rule affect?

Coaches

NFL coaches are known for their dependency on statistics when it comes to playing the percentages. You can bet that there will be a lot of studying going on about what is the higher percentage play? Do you line up for a 32 yard extra point or hand the ball off to your bruising Back for 2 yards? Every team will have a unique set of percentages based on the Kicker, field goal unit, offensive production, stadium conditions and weather.

Coaches are all known for their personal take on “Going for 2 charts”. Game management now takes on a new life as the math becomes more important. A lot of the time the decision to go for one was based heavily on the fact that the “one” was a forgone conclusion. Now the coach must do the math with the points AND the math with the percentages. After every touchdown, the Head Coach, PAT/PAT Rush units and the offensive/defensive units must be on alert.

The always important special teams coach now has one more way to remain the focus during practice and the game. The mantra in practice with extra points is normally “This is our chance for points. Don’t fall asleep or get lazy and screw it up”. Now, the special teams coach will be critical, not only with his input on the decision to kick the extra point or not but also with practice time and the emphasis.

Players

Like it or not, your Placekicker just became one of your most important players. He will not only affect the game at that moment with the kick he makes or misses. He will also affect the game management from that point on. The extra point that is missed in the first quarter that makes the game 7-6 will affect every decision made in that game after that. The good kickers will embrace this new pressure and others will not. Also, let’s not forget that the snapper and holder have now added tremendous value to their unique jobs.

The people who probably were groaning inside when this rule was passed were the offensive and defensive linemen. Please, don’t get us wrong there are no plays off in the NFL but the linemen understand that the likelihood of getting enough push to block the old extra point was slim. Now, it is a different situation. Every extra point will be hotly contested with the defense understanding that if they block the kick and return it, this will result in a three point swing in the game. This is huge.

You

Finally, there is you. Okay, let’s face it. This has been your time for another drink, more chips and the much needed restroom break. Do this now and you might miss the most critical play of the game. Of course, this is what the NFL has in mind. They want to eliminate plays that are not exciting and normally automatic.

Your commercial consumption might actually suffer over all of this as you choose to miss the advertising as opposed to the extra point attempt. Now, wouldn’t that be something if the new rule’s ultimate demise came from the advertisers who need to justify the big bucks they fork out every Sunday!

Finally

An important note is that this rule is a work in progress. The rule has been passed for the 2015 season and after that the NFL will look at how it has affected the game over the course of the season. It is hard to imagine this rule going back to what we have had in the past though. If anything, the kick could be moved back even more if the kickers show only a slight decline in production from 2014 to 2015 with PAT attempts.

So we have a new rule that will certainly affect at least a handful of ball games this year. As always, the best coaches and players will adapt and find a way to turn it into an advantage. Change is normally good as it usually results from a problem in the current status quo. Most likely, this will be no different. So as a fan, get ready to adapt too because nobody wants to come out of the kitchen to hear “Dude! You missed it!”

FirstDown PlayBook does more than talk about football. We draw football and lots of it.

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Photo Credit: AP