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A Closer Look At The NFL's Most Taken-For-Granted Point

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The extra point might just be the most unexciting play in football. After all, the post-touchdown, 1-point kick is successful 99.5 percent of the time — so successful that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently talked about eliminating it.

Like the phrase "after-dinner drink," the extra point defines itself in relation to another entity. In this case, that other entity is the essence of the game — the exciting culmination of strategy and skill that offensive players train all their lives to achieve, and the defense attempts like mad to avoid.

Last season, an extra point was attempted 267 times; it was made 262 times. Some kickers, like Matt Stover, say: Don't blame us for our skills; there are lots of plays that athletes are supposed to make.

"It's a pro golfer hitting a 5-foot putt," Stover says.

But pro golfers miss 5-foot putts a lot. Tiger Woods missed 4-foot putts 11 times in 2013; Jason Dufner won the PGA Championship last year but missed 19 4-footers. First basemen aren't supposed to make errors, but only three in history have actually had an errorless season. The vast majority of kickers, though, finish the vast majority of seasons without missing an extra point.

Stover ended his career having made his last 422 tries. Fellow kicker Billy Cundiff — last year of the Browns — has made 249 of the 250 extra points he's ever tried. But he does remember that one miss; it was Week 1 of the 2003 season. Cundiff also recalls the fans' ire leading up to Week 2.

"Everybody was kind of calling for my head before that game," says Cundiff. I can remember everyone saying, 'Who misses an extra point?' "

So Cundiff went out and nailed seven field goals the next week. He also converted two extra points, but even he doesn't include that stat in recounting the story.

Cundiff wants to keep the extra point. Stover worries that doing away with it might diminish the kickers' importance to the team.

"The more a part of the game you are, the more valued you are," Stover says.

From a practical standpoint, he wonders if eliminating it might affect the kicker's main job: converting field goals. Those extra points are a chance to get some real game reps, which helps with the more challenging kicks.

Of course, field goals themselves have also gotten so accurate that there's been some talk of making them harder, perhaps by narrowing the distance between the goalposts. Maybe that's a real proposal, or maybe just the sort of idea meant to intimidate kickers so they quietly give up their "point afters."

In any case, should the league decide to change the rules, the protestations of a few field goal kickers would be, like touchdowns themselves, extra pointless.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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