Blair Walsh is still without a job after being released by the Vikings last week, but Sunday might have offered the kicker a little bit of vindication.
The NFL’s kicking game imploded with 12 missed or blocked extra points just days after Walsh was waived for his own kicking woes that included too many missed PATs. Ten different kickers, including the Vikings new man Kai Forbath, combined to set a new NFL record since the 1970 merger for the most missed kicks in one week.
Our columnist Jim Souhan humored Vikings fans by tweeting “I thought it was touching, all of the NFL kickers who missed extra points today as a show of solidarity with Blair Walsh.”
This could be one way to try and explain the historically bad kicking day, however, the reality is the NFL has succeeded in trying to make extra-point attempts more competitive with its 2015 rule change that moved back the kicks 13 yards.
NFL teams came to expect near perfection from their kickers when PATs were snapped from the two-yard line with a 99 percent conversation rate. Today’s extra points are snapped from the 15-yard line for what equates to a 33-yard field goal and are being converted about 94 percent of the time.
Though that may seem like a “chip shot,” kickers are missing extra points almost weekly and on Sunday missed four more than were missed the entire 2014 regular season.
Ashley Fox, NFL reporter/analyst on SportsCenter, called for the league to restore peace among kickers and their teams/fans by moving the PAT back to where it used to be.
“The only time anybody notices [kickers] is when they screw up,” Fox said Sunday. “Well, this season they’re screwing up all the time. Kickers not named [Adam] Vinatieri and [Justin] Tucker have gone from being virtually automatic to a train wreck. All because the NFL decided a 20-yard extra point is boring and a 33-yarder would be better.
“Steelers [coach] Mike Tomlin is so weary of the PAT, he went for [two points] after each of the Steelers’ four touchdowns last Sunday [against Dallas]. … So in the name of the now unemployed Blair Walsh let’s remember kickers are people, too, and please NFL, move the extra point back where it was.”
Other NFL experts like the chaos the new distance has created in the game. Pro Football Talk’s David Smith wrote he hopes “coaches finally learn from all these missed extra points and start going for two [points] as the rule, not the exception. I’d love to see some weekend in the NFL when teams don’t even attempt, let alone miss, 11 extra points, because two-point conversions are a far more entertaining play. And what do we watch football for, if not to be entertained?”
Going for two is the smart play, analytics experts argue. Two-point conversions are successful just more than 50 percent of the time, equating to about one extra point per touchdown. The 94 percent conversion rate of extra points equates to .94 points per touchdown. The difference, though minor, favors two-point attempts.
Most coaches view the two-point attempt as a low-percentage play, yet after days like Sunday it might begin to look more appealing.
The kickers that missed Sunday: New York Giants’ Robbie Gould and Cincinnati’s Mike Nugent each missed two. Forbath, Connor Barth (Chicago), Dustin Hopkins (Washington), Stephen Gostkowski (New England), Matt Prater (Detroit), Jason Myers (Jacksonville), Steven Hauschka (Seattle) and Cody Parkey (Cleveland) all missed one.
Watch all the shanks here:
NFL kickers broke a 46-year old record missing 12 extra point attempts during Sunday's action. https://t.co/QE5acENxrX— NFL (@NFL) November 21, 2016