What was once automatic: The NFL’s failure to make extra points

By Miles McPherson

Two years ago, the NFL extra point try was a joke—hands down the most boring play in the game. Kickers were making 99.3% of their extra point attempts in 2014. But that all changed when the league’s Competition Committee presented a new extra point design.

Before, the ball was placed at the 2 yard-line after a touchdown, making the extra point try equivalent to a 20-yard field goal. Under the new rule, the ball would be placed at the 15 yard-line, making the kick equivalent to a 33-yard field goal. The owners voted on the new rule, and it passed 30-2 prior to the 2015 season.

In that first year, the success rate of PATs dropped to 94.2%, making the play slightly more competitive and less automatic. Then, in week 11 of the 2016 season, NFL kickers missed 12 extra point kicks, a new NFL-record. I think it’s fair to say that what used to be an automatic—even ceremonial play has suddenly become competitive and game altering.

“We all have a tendency to let our guard down with our routines.”

With so many more missed extra points, teams have been forced to compensate by attempting 2-point conversions, which has a much lower chance of success. In 2014—before the rule change—teams “went for two” 59 times, converting 47.46% of them (according to sportingcharts.com). Once the rule change went into effect in 2015, that number jumped to 94 attempts, but the success rate held at 47.87%.

When we reflect on our lives, we often focus on the extraordinary moments: the exhilaration of our successes and the depression of our failures. Your eighth birthday, prom, your college graduation, a job interview, a first date, your wedding, the birth of your first child. These are all mountaintop experiences. The fact is, those moments probably only account for 1% of our time. The other 99% of the time we’re doing mundane, ordinary… automatic things.

Just like many NFL teams that are suddenly struggling in an area that was once automatic, we all have a tendency to let our guard down with our routines.

Here’s the truth. It’s easier to make an extra-point kick than to convert a two-point attempt. Similarly, it’s easier to stay disciplined in the “automatic” areas of life than to make up for a deficiency in those areas down the road. For example, it’s easier to eat healthy and workout regularly than to recover from a triple bypass surgery. It’s easier to pray for God’s wisdom in our relationships than to waste two years with the wrong person. It’s a lot less drama to let the eternal truths of God’s Word guide you on a daily basis than to allow the latest gossip to shape your moral boundaries. It’s easier to regularly invest in your marriage than to overcome infidelity.

So I challenge you: identify an “automatic” area in your life that you need to tighten up. Make a priority of it, and ask someone to keep you accountable to it. This is very important. If you don’t ask for accountability, it’s like you’re grading your own test paper.

Don’t put yourself and the people you love the most at a disadvantage down the road. Deal with your disciplines now, and make sure that your “automatics” stay automatic.

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