Out of every person’s voice in the NFL, no one’s was louder when it came to changing the extra point rule than Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
Back in January of 2014, Belichick made these comments:
“I personally would love to see the kicking game remain as a very integral part of the game so that the kickoffs are returned and so that extra points are not over 99 percent converted because that’s not what extra points were when they were initially put into the game back 80 years ago, whatever it was,” Belichick said. “I would be in favor of not seeing it be an over 99 percent conversion rate. It’s virtually automatic. That’s just not the way the extra point was put into the game. It was an extra point that you actually had to execute and it was executed by players who were not specialists, they were position players. It was a lot harder for them to do. I don’t think that’s really a very exciting play because it’s so automatic.”
Once Belichick said what he said about the extra point, all of a sudden the conversation about extra points became serious enough for NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino to weigh in, and in May of 2015, a change was made.
Instead of being attempted from the 2-yard line, extra points were pushed back to the 15-yard line. As a result, NFL kickers missed 71 extra points, the most in a season since 1977.
From 2010-2014, kickers made 6,153/6,190 (99.4%) of extra points. In 2015, that percentage dropped to 94.2 percent, which was the lowest conversion percentage since 1982.
Despite how many extra points were missed this past season, no game really came down to a missed extra point until Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.
Following Steven Jackson’s one-yard TD run to make the score 7-6, Stephen Gostkowski, who had made 523 straight extra points and all 60 of his attempts this season, missed his first extra point since 2006.
It didn’t seems like a big deal at the time, but when Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for a touchdown with :12 seconds left, instead of being down 20-19, the Patriots were down 20-18 needing a two-point conversion to force overtime.
Brady’s two-point attempt was intercepted by Bradley Roby, and the Broncos hung on to advance to the Super Bowl, while the Patriots’ aspirations of a repeat came to a crushing end.
Obviously there were plenty of other factors that contributed to Denver winning this game, including the Patriots’ offensive line being unable to block for Brady, Brady throwing two interceptions, New England’s running game being invisible, etc.
In the end, if Stephen Gostkowski had just done what he’s been perfect at since the 2007 season, this game would have gone to overtime and the Patriots may be bound for Santa Clara.
But Belichick wanted harder extra points, and that’s exactly what he got. Poetic justice.