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Mason's Mailbag: Two or one? How the PAT changes affect post-TD decisions

As always, you can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase, use the submission form or scroll to the bottom of this page.

With the changes on PATs, should teams go for two more often? Or even all the time?
-- Hal Henderson

Teams have analytics gurus -- including the Broncos with recently hired Mitch Tanney -- working to answer this question right now.

To provide a quick answer to last part of your question, not all the time. There's going to be a time for sportsmanship -- say, when you're up 30 points in the fourth quarter. And if you score a touchdown that puts you up eight points before the PAT, you're going to go for the 33-yard kick, since NFL placekickers have hit 93.4 percent of their field-goal attempts from that distance from 2010-14, and teams have converted 48.1 percent of their two-point conversion attempts in that span.

But as for "more often" ... when those sportsmanship/game-situation factors are tossed, the numbers favor going for two every time over the long haul -- especially if you can nudge your two-point conversion percentage up into the mid-50s.

Why "mid-50s"? Because it's relevant to the Broncos' case.

Since 2006 -- the start of the second half of Manning's career to date -- 55.88 percent of plays (19 of 34) quarterbacked by Peyton Manning run from the opponent's 2-yard-line -- both in regulation play and in a two-point conversion scenario -- have found the end zone, according to pro-football-reference.com. (During Manning's first eight seasons, the success rate on plays he led in that scenario was was 39.18 percent.) This includes going 7-of-10 on two-point conversion attempts or plays from the 2-yard-line on third or fourth downs. It's a small sample size, but it bears noting.

Let's use the Broncos' 58 touchdowns last year as a benchmark. If they kicked every time with the line of scrimmage at the 15 and had league-average performance from their kicker, they would average 0.934 points per attempt, based on the success rate of 33-yard field-goal attempts league-wide from 2010-14.

(During last year's two-week preseason experiment with 33-yard PATs, kickers hit 94.3 percent of their extra points. There are two factors to consider. First all of those preseason PAT attempts were with the football spotted evenly between the hash marks. But they also came during August, when the weather is typically less conducive to kicking; the 93.4-percent figure includes foul late-autumn and winter weather and deteriorating field conditions endemic to humid continental climates, in which 12 teams play home games.)

An average of 0.934 points per 33-yard PAT attempt would give the Broncos an expected 54.17 points after their 58 touchdowns.

Now, consider two-point conversions. If the Broncos hit the 2010-14 league average of 48.1 percent, they'd average 0.962 points per two-point attempt. If they went for two every time with a league-average success rate, they'd have an expected 55.80 points from their 58 touchdowns -- a 1.63-point difference.

Next, note Manning's 55.88 percent success rate from 2006-14, which would translate to an average of 1.12 points per two-point conversion play. That rate would give the Broncos an expected 64.96 points after touchdowns from their 58 scores -- a difference of 10.79 points over the course of a season.

Even if the Broncos scored a league-average number of touchdowns in a season (40.28 from 2010-14), their expected output from the PAT plays would be 37.62 if going for one every time, and 45.034 if going for two, a difference of 7.411 points over the course of a season.

If teams don't have a quarterback as effective from the 2-yard-line as Manning or other elite QBs, they'll be asking themselves whether it's worth a roster spot to have a "two-point conversion specialist" QB who could push the success rate to 55 percent. Is a single player worth 5.559 points? That's the difference between being league average at two-point conversions and going for two every time while scoring a league average total of TDs, or converting 55 percent of conversion attempts in the same scenario. And if you've got an above-average scoring offense, that player would be worth seven, eight, nine or 10 points.

The specialist doesn't even have to be a quarterback, either; what if you have an effective fullback in short-yardage situations who can blast open a hole for your tailback to gain two yards? Or a versatile, small, speedy player who can quickly and consistently get to the goal line from two yards away via reception, jet sweep, fly sweep or end-around?

The conclusion?

Yes, teams should go for two more often -- perhaps all the time. Yes, teams should carry a two-point specialist if the resources to succeed in this scenario do not already exist on their roster. But they must be prepared for defenses to adjust and make counter-moves of their own to combat this new threat. Head Coach Gary Kubiak noted that there would be more work on two-point conversion scenarios in practice. That work is not just for the offense, but the defense.

**

I know it's way too early to tell, but what's your idea on this year's offensive scheme for the Broncos, how is it going to effective in the long run? And how is the the effect of TE Jeff Heurmann's injury going to play out on Kubiak's rewiring of the Broncos?** -- Robert Currie

Its progress for the "long run" depends on an ocean of factors. The most crucial of these is how much longer Peyton Manning plays, since this offense melds concepts and verbiage of the last three years with ideas from the offenses that Kubiak and Offensive Coordinator Rick Dennison guided in recent years. It is designed with the personnel in mind, starting with the future Hall of Fame quarterback. The next factor involves who succeeds Manning down the line -- whether it's Brock Osweiler or another young quarterback -- and how ready that passer is to handle the workload.

The third factor is the offensive line, who ends up starting this year along with Ryan Clady and Louis Vasquez, how effective the new linemen are, how well Vasquez adapts to a scheme with greater emphasis on zone blocking, how much better Clady can be another year removed from his Lisfranc injury, and how quickly the reshuffled unit finds its chemistry.

As for Heuerman, you lose someone who could have been a versatile asset, depending on how quickly he grasped the offense. If one of Dominique Jones, Joe Don Duncan and Marcel Jensen can step forward, have a good camp and show some pass-catching ability that is unusual for players of their size (270 pounds), the absence of Heuerman won't hurt as much. Heuerman will be in the team's long-term plans, and he is likely to be involved in meetings and on the sideline. He can develop the mental part of his game and as his rehabilitation continues, he can work out to add some extra muscle. But the on-field development is on hold.

Why hasn't Shane Ray been signed to a contract yet? And if not will he be signed next season?
-- Kyle Wilson

It's early, this is a non-issue and it's a topic about which neither you or any Broncos fan should fret.

All of last year's draft picks were signed by June 10. The key is to have them signed by the start of training camp. Given that teams have a set pool from which they must sign rookies, an informal version of a "slotting system" exists, so you have a good idea what you will pay each player based on where he is selected. That's why holdouts are rare nowadays.

That retired the trophy, between the surprise and his bewildered description that aptly summarized the entire eight seasons of Newhart: "Nothing made sense in this place!"

The 2000s iteration of Battlestar Galactica was intriguing and made thematic sense, but yielded questions -- such as how everyone who landed on Earth would be willing to abandon all technology. I can't speak to Mad Men, but my parents -- who were 20-somethings in the 1960s and loved the show -- found the ending appropriate of the era and the primary protagonist. MASH's highly-rated finale was appropriately sentimental. I loved the ambiguity of how *The Sopranos ended, even though many despise it; I like guessing what I think happened after the abrupt cut to black. And Cheers went all over the place but had a brilliant, low-key final 10 minutes that made you realize the stasis of its barflies suited them all just fine, thank you. But Newhart tops them all.

I've got nothing personal against Barça or Juventus re: being a City supporter. City failed against Barça because it wasn't consistent or disciplined enough, and I can't blame Juve for wanting $100 million (according to reports) transfer fee for Paul Pogba; he's theirs, and more power to them. But my deep respect for Barça's club culture is why I have some fondness toward that side, and why I hope it wins June 6.


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The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.

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