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Dublin: 2°C Wednesday 14 April 2021

Analysis: Your favourite NFL team is rubbish... 2-point conversion edition

2-point conversions are becoming increasingly important so why are so many teams bad at them?

Eric Berry picks off Matt Ryan's 2-point conversion attempt.
Eric Berry picks off Matt Ryan's 2-point conversion attempt.
Image: John Bazemore/AP/Press Association Images

NFL TEAMS HAVE attempted more 2-point conversions over the past two seasons than at any point in the league’s history.

The reason is simple as it coincides with the NFL’s decision to move the extra-point kick from the 2-yard line to the 15-yard line just before the start of last season.

Since then, the number of successful 1-point conversions has fallen from 99.3% (basically automatic) to 94.2% last season and is on course for about the same this year.

For the five years between 2009 and 2014, there were just shy of 57 2-point conversion attempts per season. In 2015 there were 95 and this year, through 13 weeks, there have already been 83.

It’s not for everyone, however, as there are five NFL teams yet to attempt a 2-point conversion this season (and if you said they were the Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans New York Jets and New York Giants, congratulations to you).

Historically, the success rate of the 2-point conversion has been 50%. This year it has fallen to 45.5% with eight teams failing to register a single successful attempt.

The Titans have the worst record in the league missing on all four of their attempts while Washington and Arizona (3 apiece) are not too far behind.

And it’s not just the middling or bad teams who struggle, neither the Patriots, Seahawks nor Cowboys have made a 2-point conversion on any of their combined four attempts.

Five teams have a 100% success rate — Buffalo Bills (4/4), Philadelphia Eagles (3/3), Jacksonville Jaguars (2/2), Kansas City Chiefs (2/2) and San Francisco 49ers 1/1) — with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4/7) and Pittsburgh Steelers (3/8) leading the way in terms of attempts.

It’s also worth noting here that no team has had more successful attempts that the Oakland Raiders (5/6).

That’s how the numbers stack up, but why are NFL teams — who have months to put playbooks together — so bad at 2-point conversions?

1. An obsession with the fade route

Source: davidzzz94/YouTube

For the uninitiated, a fade route sees the receiver run towards the back corner of the end zone, the quarterback lob the pass over the defender, and hope his receiver catches the football.

Hope is the important word here.

The Big Lead did an in-depth study that showed the fade concept works just about 24.5% of the time. Those are terrible odds.

In comparison, 33.8% of all throws into the end zone were completed, making any other type of pass a better idea than the fade.

2. Not using pick routes

Source: Rosnel Dorsainvil/YouTube

The concept of the pick — or sometimes called rub — play is as simple as it is effective.

Two or more receivers run intersecting routes on one side of the field, allowing one to ‘block’ his team-mate’s defender by simply getting in the way. That’s because the NFL rules state that the pick-setting receiver can’t initiate contact before the pass is caught.

With the ‘blocked’ defender having to go around or over another offensive player, it delays him and creates space and time for the pass-catching receiver.

3. Not considering running the ball

Source: NFL Gamepass

This season, just 22% of 2-point conversion attempts have been run plays. The Bills, Jaguars, and Falcons have all scored on quarterback draws on 2-point conversions this year, while Green Bay tacked on the extra points with an option run from Aaron Rodgers.

Draw plays, particularly one involving the quarterback, are actually an incredibly useful weapon on a 2-point conversion.

A draw play is a run play designed to look like a pass play — the exact opposite of a play-action pass — and is best used when teams spread the field to lessen traffic down the middle.

Go for it

Most teams only attempt two point conversions when they’re chasing the game or attempting to strectch the lead to more than two scores.

However, there is a compelling argument for attempting it more often.

As Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers said earlier this year: “If we do it every play and if we’re 50% … there’s your 14 points. Why not give it a shot?”

The reward outweighs the risk. Or, at least it does unless you throw in the direction of a ball hawk like Eric Berry. Even then, NFL coaches need to be a bit less conservative.

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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