NFL Pushes Back Point After Touchdown Kicks

Stephen Gostkowski
The Associated Press

Four years after largely negating kickoffs by moving them forward, the NFL has enlivened point-after touchdown (PAT) attempts by moving them backward.

The league’s owners approved 30-2 a rule change by the competition committee moving the try to the fifteen-yard line. The Washington Redskins and the Oakland Raiders opposed the change.

Kickers converted more than 99 percent of tries this past season.

“There’s such a high success rate,” kicker Matt Prater told Breitbart Sports last year. “Everyone takes it for granted.”

While moving the kickoff ahead transformed one of the most exciting plays in sports into a bore, pushing the PAT back makes a perfunctory conversion less certain. It will also encourage teams to go for the two-point conversion more often.

A new rule allowing the defense to score accompanies the PAT’s backward migration.Referees will no longer whistle dead a blocked kick, interception, or fumble. Defenses now possess the ability to score two points on the conversion should they return turnovers to the end zone.

The recent alterations to the kicking game represent the latest in a long line of indignities against the “foot” in football.

The kick, rather than the touchdown itself, presented the scoring opportunity in the early years of football. And even once the rule book awarded points for touchdowns alone, field goals counted for more for most of the 19th century. For instance, the Bulldogs won the second Harvard-Yale game, watched by a young Theodore Roosevelt, two field goals to the Crimson’s one touchdown.

An alternative proposal, floated by Commissioner Roger Goodell last year, involved eliminating PATs entirely. Tuesday’s move represents a more creative response to kickers improving. Rather than punish them for their success, the NFL responds to kickers getting better by making kicking more difficult.