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NFL could approve profound change to the extra point

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There are plenty of wild ideas to change the structure of the point after touchdown -- some of which were proposed by teams in March. None was bolder than the Indianapolis Colts' suggestion that could have effectively made three points after the touchdown a possibility:

The PAT proposals to be voted on at the owners' meeting this week in San Francisco are staid by comparison. But if any are ratified, the play would undergo its boldest change since the NFL added the two-point conversion in 1994.

The first, submitted by the New England Patriots, moves the line of scrimmage for kicked extra points back to the 15-yard-line. If passed, it would make permanent the experiment from the first two full weeks of the 2014 season. It succeeded at reducing the conversion percentage from 99.4 percent over the 2010-14 seasons to 94.3 percent during the trial period, although last summer's sample size (141 extra points) was considerably smaller than the 6,153 attempts over the last five seasons, and included plenty of attempts by kickers who did not make NFL regular-season rosters last year.

The second, offered by the Competition Committee, is the same as the first. But it adds the possibility defense to return a blocked kick, fumble or interception for two points. This mimics a college rule, and would end the NFL practice of having a play blown dead the moment a kick was blocked or a player on the defending team possessed the football.

Either team could score one point on a safety. So, for example, if a player on the defending team intercepted a pass in the end zone, crossed the goal line, then doubled back into the end zone of his own volition and was tackled, the offensive team would get one point from the play.

The final proposal, made by the Philadelphia Eagles, also moves the placekicked extra point scrimmage line to the 15, but shifts the two-point conversion spot from the 2-yard-line to the 1, which is designed to offer greater incentive to go for two. It also makes a safety on the PAT worth two points.

If the two-point spot is moved to the 1, it could benefit teams with dual-threat quarterbacks. But it would also aid clubs with bruising short-yardage backs, who would utilize jumbo packages with just one yard needed for two points.

The fact that all three ideas include moving the line of scrimmage for placekicked extra points reveals the percolating desire to return uncertainty to the extra point. In its current form, it is now an excuse for many fans to get up 40 seconds early and retreat to the bathroom or reheat nachos in the kitchen.

The proficiency of kickers -- aided by the pristine condition of most surfaces and ability of 25 percent of teams to avoid foul conditions in fixed- or retractable-roofed stadia -- has an impact on driving potential change. Recent rules changes limiting how defenses can attempt to block kicks are also a factor helping kickers.

A LITTLE HISTORY ...

Games decided by failed extra-point kicks are as rare as drop kicks these days. The Broncos have not had one since Dec. 24, 2006, when a botched snap and hold destroyed what would have been a game-tying extra-point attempt by Cincinnati's Shayne Graham.

Four years earlier, a Jason Elam extra point hit the left upright in the second quarter on a snowy night against Indianapolis; that helped the game go to overtime, when the Colts won 23-20 on a 51-yard Mike Vanderjagt field goal.

The 2002 game was the first for the Broncos in which a missed extra-point kick provided the margin of victory or defeat since Nov. 10, 1991, when the Raiders blocked a David Treadwell attempt in the fourth quarter, handing the Broncos a 17-16 home defeat.

The Broncos were on the winning side of the ledger five years earlier against Washington, when Max Zendejas missed the first extra point of the game wide left. That proved decisive in Denver's 31-30 Week 15 win in front of a national TV audience watching on a Saturday afternoon. The triumph allowed the Broncos to clinch home-field advantage for the divisional round one day later when the Patriots fell to San Francisco.

Two years earlier, a bad snap on an extra point scuttled an attempt against the Los Angeles Raiders. But that did not prove decisive, as the Broncos rebounded to tie the game on Gary Kubiak's 14-yard touchdown pass to Steve Watson with 14 seconds left, then won in overtime on a 35-yard Rich Karlis field goal.

That's four games in decided by failed PAT placekicks in the last 38 seasons. It matches the total the Broncos had in the five seasons after the last major change to the extra-point placekick: the 1974 move of the goalposts from the goal line to behind the end zone.

The goalpost relocation turned a 10-yard attempt into a 20-yarder. It made work more difficult for Ring of Famer Jim Turner and kickers of that era, whose percentage dropped from 97.6 percent from 1970-73 to 91.8 percent for the rest of the 1970s.

The Broncos lost at Minnesota iin Week 2 of the 1978 season when future Hall of Famer Alan Page blocked a Turner attempt after a Jon Keyworth touchdown run; given the reprieve and overtime, the Vikings won the Monday Night Football duel, 12-9.

In 1976, the Broncos finished 9-5 in part because they won two games in a three-week stretch after foes failed on their PATs. They edged the Giants 14-13 when Joe Danelo missed an extra point after a blocked-punt return by Jim Stienke, then nudged past Kansas City 17-16 when they blocked a Jan Stenerud attempt. A year earlier, the Bengals got their most recent win in Denver in similar fashion to their loss 31 years later -- when a bad snap on a second-quarter extra-point attempt by Turner led to a 17-16 Broncos setback.

This is the kind of game-altering suspense the NFL would hope to restore to the placekicked PAT if it goes from a 20-yard gimme to a 33-yard attempt.

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