Extra Points
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Go for Two Down 1? Inside NFL's Most Fascinating Decision

EdjSports' Frank Frigo is among the experts quoted in this article discussing the implications of going for a 2-point conversion in the final minute to win the game instead of sending it to overtime. Since 2016, more teams have tried to win with a 2-point conversion in the final minute than in the previous 22 years combined.

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3 comments, Last at 02 Oct 2019, 9:25am

1 What? No comments? It seems…

What? No comments?

It seems a shame. Still, the analysis for choosing to go for two for "The Win" over kicking for "OT" is straightforward: Take the option that gives you the best winning percentage. Since two-point conversions are only slightly below a 50-50 proposition and extra points have about a 96% success rate, it turns out not to matter that much which you choose.

If you convert either way, the opponent is trying to get into field goal range in the final seconds. If they are down by 1, they get to play four down football everywhere, which improves their chances a bit. But if that's a factor, then they've used more time to get to fourth down, and are more likely to run out the clock before getting into range.

The only surprising thing in the article is that some coaches make their decision at the start of the drive, when they don't know how much time is going to be left. That implies that they do not think time remaining is an issue. They might be right: other factors (your kicking game, your strength/weakness on two-point conversions, your perceived chances in OT) might swamp any considerations of time remaining.

2 I'll comment, dammit!

It's that very desperation if the opponent is down 1 that scares me.  THEY FREAKIN' HAVE TO SCORE.  Now, they may panic, or maybe they're a run-first team with an inconsistent QB unable to move 50 yards in 30 seconds, and you're in good shape. Maybe the weather's nasty and their kicker's iffy. 

But facing Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady with 30 seconds and a timeout?  I might prefer my chances with a tie, assuming a kickoff to the 1 YL will leave them about the 20 with a few seconds ticked off the clock, so the play-call will be to take a knee and regroup.  If we win the coin toss and get a TD, game over.  If we get a FG, things continue. Same if the other team wins the coin toss.  That all seems 50/50 to me.

But my sense is that some teams/players are inherently more dangerous and if you put a gun to their head (a 1 pt lead, clock ticking), they might just make you pay for it. Deep pass. DPI.  

I'd still go for it, I think, but as a fan, sitting helpless at home, I'm climbing the walls.

3 You're not wrong. Since 2009…

You're not wrong.

Since 2009, teams that start drives down 1 or 2 points with 0:30-2:00 left score about 30% of the time. Teams that are tied with the same range of time left score about 22% of the time.

Using the simplified numbers of extra points being automatic and 2-point conversions succeeding half the time, you get this:

Go for two: win 35%

Extra point: get OT 78%, win 39%

Add in the non-zero chance of a turnover leading to your own winning score, and the extra point looks to be the better option.

But these numbers are all averages. It doesn't take much to swing the balance the other way. If you think your team is especially good at 2-point conversions, or like don't like your chances in OT for some reason, go for two.