This season the NFL has added a wrinkle to the extra point that may cause some NFL head coaches to opt for the two point conversion. Instead of setting up for the extra point on the 2 yard line, the ball is now placed at the 15 yard line – extending the “automatic” from a 20- yard kick to a “suspect” 33-yard kick.
Dating back to 2000, the extra point conversion rate by kickers has been 98- 99%. But, so far this season in the first three weeks of play, the conversion rate has dropped to 94.6% with the snap from the fifteen. Since week three, there have been thirteen extra points missed. As of last week, the Saints were 7 for 8 on extra points.
According to a recent story in the New York Times, “the rule change is in effect only this season, as the NFL compiles data on kicks, with the possibility of making them even harder next season or making the new lengths permanent.”
Needless to say, NFL kickers – like the Jets’ Nick Folk – have some concerns relative to a greater potential for injuries. “I don’t know the numbers, but if you did a study, you’d probably find that there are more injuries on extra points this year than in the past,” commented Folk.
Why, because there will be more intense collisions between blockers and rushers, who will take nothing for granted.
When asked whether the extended distance of the extra point would potentially lead to overuse of the kickers leg (increased volume of longer kicks), Murray said, “you train for kicking endurance, so you can have a strong leg in the latter part of the season. The good part of kicking a lot usually means you’re on a team scoring a lot (and) that means you’re winning.”
I always wondered if the kicker would impact the ball on the extra point when it was set up at the 2 -yard line with the same intensity as a 50- yard kick. “My approach,” said Murray, “was to kick an extra point like I would kick a 50 yarder. I tried to not do anything different.”
Former Saints’ kicker, Morten Andersen, the current NFL scoring leader, who I worked with for seventeen of his twenty-five year career, noted, “kicking a 33- yard versus a 20- yard does not require the kicker to kick the ball harder. What is important here (is the) initial trajectory through the line of scrimmage and accuracy.”
As to the mental aspects of kicking, Andersen, who still has the most game wining field goals in NFL history, said, “the kicker that gets in trouble mentally, is the one who gets out of his performance box- meaning does something on the kick that he does not need to do. Executing the 33- yard pat (point after touchdown) is to simply trust your swing, pulling the trigger and not making it bigger than it is. It is a high probability field goal.”
Atlanta Kicker Matt Bryant, who the Saints faced at home Thursday night, when asked about the effects of the elements -like wind, rain or snow- on a 33- yard extra point kick, said, “does it make it a little bit more difficult? Sure, but I mean the main thing of it is, it’s now part of the game. You just got to go out there and deal with it.”
Mackie Shilstone, a regular contributor to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, has been involved in the wellness sports performance industry for nearly 40 years. He is currently a fitness consultant to Serena Williams and has trained numerous other professional athletes and consulted a litany of professional sports franchises. He is St. Charles Parish Hospital’s fitness and wellness expert. Contact him at mackieshilstone.com.