NFL head coaches are pretty conservative as a group. You're talking about people who are just as likely (or more) to punt from an opponent's 38-yard line than go for it on fourth and less a yard.
I bring this up because the NFL pushed back the extra-point starting this season as a means to not only add a touch of excitement to something that has become automatic as the years have gone by and kickers have gone from position players who also kicked to specialists who do nothing but kick. (The conversion rate on extra points has been 99 percent or higher over the past five seasons and no less than 97 percent since 1988.)
To try and gauge how 2015 may play out as it pertains to the now 33-yard extra point, I did some research of last weekend's preseason games around the NFL. Three extra points were missed, which is quite significant when you consider that only eight were missed during the entire 2014 regular season. Also, there were 17 two-point conversion attempts, which would be an amazing pace during the regular season since there were only 59 attempts all of last year.
As it pertains to a coach's aggression with two-point attempts, a lot of it is circumstantial. For example, if a team is down by eight points late in the fourth quarter, it's obviously going to go for two after scoring a touchdown. Or if a team scores a touchdown to go up by 12 points in the second half (especially the fourth quarter), conventional wisdom says to try and take a 14-point advantage.
However, in the Chargers/Seahawks game over the weekend, San Diego scored a touchdown in the third quarter to close to within one point, but instead of attempting an extra point, the Chargers decided to go for two and missed. In the Steelers game at Buffalo this past Saturday, they scored a first quarter touchdown to close to within 7-6, but instead of trotting out Garrett Hartley to tie the game, Mike Tomlin elected to go for two and the result was an 8-7 lead after DeAngelo Williams ran it in.
Do you really think either of those scenarios regarding two-point attempts will take place during the regular season? It's one thing to throw caution to the wind in August, when only the most passionate of fans care about the outcome of a preseason game; it's an entirely different story when the games start to count and every little thing is broken down and dissected. (The Chargers eventually lost, 16-15).
Since the NFL adopted the two-point conversion in 1994, there have only been four seasons where the league average was greater than 50 percent.
Regardless of what the NFL may desire in terms of how this will all play out, head coaches are still going to be judged on wins and losses. To that point, a 50 percent proposition seems like a pretty huge gamble as opposed to 88.6 percent (the career-average for the newly-acquired Josh Scobee on field goals between 30 and 39 yards).
Therefore, will anyone question Tomlin during a post-game press conference if Scobee costs Pittsburgh a game with a rare miss on an extra-point? Probably not, as most of the blame would likely fall on the kicker's foot (after all, it was the higher-percentage move, and coaches are, again, conservative by nature). However, if the Steelers lose a game because of a failed two-point try that perhaps the in-game circumstances didn't warrant, nobody is going to blame the lack of execution; they're simply going to blame Tomlin's decision-making.
When the games start to count for real in about 10 days or so, will we see more unconventional scores like 8-6 and 29-19? Or will there be the usual 10-7's and 28-24's with the occasional 28-23 thrown in following what still figures to be a rare 33-yard miss on an extra-point?
How coaches handle PATs and two-point conversions will be one of the more interesting things to keep an eye on as the regular season begins on September 10.