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The 5 O’Clock Club: Should the NFL expand the options and opportunities to score via the PAT?

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Washington Redskins v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club is published several times per week during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

There aren’t many ways to score in the NFL.

  • Score a TD and get 7 points.
  • Kick a field goal and get 3 points (this can include a free kick, as we saw from the Seahawks this season).
  • Score a safety for 2 points.
  • Run a successful 2 point conversion on the free play following the TD.
  • Kick a 1 point PAT on the free play following the TD.

There may be some exotic other option that I’m overlooking (like the defense running back a PAT attempt), but I think this covers about 99.99% of all scoring in the NFL.

The problem is that, in a game that is so focused on the clock, the options are fairly limited once one team builds a certain lead with the clock winding down.

The possibilities for rule changes aimed at keeping NFL games interesting as the seconds tick away include adding another option to the PAT (Point(s) After Touchdown) attempts.

Right now, the team can run an offensive play from the 2 yard line for 2 points, or a kick from the 15 yard line for 1 point.

Perhaps a third option could be added — say an offensive play run from the 15 yard line. If successful, the play would add three points to the scoreboard.

This would certainly offer some interesting opportunities for teams trying to secure the win in the 4th quarter, but it could also be quite a weapon in the hands of an aggressive coach to build a spirit-breaking lead of, for example, 18-0 on just two touchdowns — if his team can run a pair of successful 3-point PATs.

It might also help partially offset the decline in the success rate of onside kicks with the most recent rule changes to kickoffs.

This year, teams are 0-for-16 on onside kicks. Now that the kicking team is required to stand one yard behind the line, and not get a running start until the ball is kicked, it’s simply not feasible for players on the kicking team to get into position to recover the ball 10 yards downfield.

As demonstrated by the NFL’s Next Gen Stats, which track player through chips worn on their shoulder pads, kicking team players can’t get into position to recover an onside kick without a running start. It’s still technically possible to recover an onside kick if a player on the receiving team bobbles it badly enough, but realistically, it’s hardly ever going to happen.

Asking the NFL to change its kickoff rules to make onside kicks easier to recover is probably unrealistic. Under the old rules, onside kick recoveries often involved high-speed collisions, with members of the kicking team drilling members of receiving team while they were trying to grab the ball. The league doesn’t want more high-speed collisions on kickoffs. That’s why the rules changed.

Which means the league needs to find an alternative to onside kicks.

The 3-point PAT could create opportunities for the winning team to put the game out of reach, or the losing team to close a 9 point deficit with one touchdown play + PAT, or up to 18 points with two big plays + 2 PATs.

Of course, the play has greater reward in terms of points because it has greater risk. One red-zone play from the 15 yard line that results in either 3 points or none at all won’t appeal to every coach, but it could keep one or two-score games more interesting as the fourth quarter winds to a close. It would mean that a team would need to have a 19-point lead to have a “three score lead”, which doesn’t happen all that often in the NFL.


What do you think?

This poll is closed

  • 35%
    Good idea — I like anything that makes games more competitive
    (19 votes)
  • 16%
    I don’t mind good rule changes, but this idea really doesn’t have merit. I’d say "no".
    (9 votes)
  • 30%
    The NFL already screws with the rules too much. This just takes the game one step further away from "real" football. Definitely not.
    (16 votes)
  • 16%
    Jeez, this is the stupidest idea I’ve heard in a long while.
    (9 votes)
53 votes total Vote Now