McMullen: The Danger of the Two-Point Conversion
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — It's science.
You don't have to have "A Beautiful Mind" to figure out if Jake Elliott was around for the second half in Dallas on Sunday, the Eagles ceiling for tack-ons after rolling to four touchdowns against a reeling Dallas team was four more points if the rookie kicker was perfect on his PAT attempts.
Conversely, the Eagles ended up with the equivalent of an extra TD (six points) in the 39-7 drubbing by converting on three of four two-point attempts and it should have been eight if Zach Ertz doesn't fumble at the goal line. It wasn't strategy, however, as much as circumstance because Elliott was ruled out with a concussion and emergency kicker Kamu Grugier-Hill, a linebacker by trade, isn't exactly Jan Stenerud.
The second-grade math and Philadelphia's effectiveness in the red zone has Doug Pederson intrigued, however.
"Yeah, I have," the coach admitted Monday when asked if he has thought about shaking up the NFL but making two points the goal after touchdowns. "Of course you always go into a game with a few [two-point plays] in your pocket. You never expect that situation again like we had last night. But yeah and you look at the numbers, if you're around 94, 95 percent on the extra point from the 15-yard line, your conversion rate should be in that 47, 48, 49 percent on a two-point conversion. So we look at all of that."
The first Eagles' conversion against the Cowboys was a brilliantly designed play in which rookie runner Corey Clement was split out wide behind Philadelphia's best blocking skill-position players -- Ertz, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins. From that look, Carson Wentz threw a smoke screen to Clement, who waltzed in behind the bodyguards.
It was the kind of play call you want and need if a two-point conversion is meaningful to the outcome of a game and now it's on film for every Philadelphia opponent to see.
And that's the catch-22 of turning the two-point conversion into a regular thing.
The word "regular" is defined as a constant or definite pattern.
PATS are regular and there are no surprises, save for the occasional trick play so it becomes about execution. If you block properly and the battery of the long snapper, holder and kicker do their jobs, the kick is going through.
If you turn the two-point conversion into your PAT, it becomes at least more "regular."
Obviously, there are more options for a play caller than just snapping the ball and having Elliott kick it, but the Eagles now have put four more two-point plays in the record and 13 overall during Pederson's 26-game tenure as a head coach.
To date, Philadelphia has converted 10 of those for 20 points giving them a plus-seven from a black and white analytical standpoint and that's obviously worth exploring.
The more you do it, however, the more you regress back to the mean and that's because a special play defenses may rarely see starts becoming more routine and it then reverts back to execution more than anything else.
The best two-point play I've seen all season came from the Eagles' next opponent, the Chicago Bears.
Trying to tie the game against a division rival and a better team in Minnesota, Bears' offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains pulled out your everyday pistol dive jet sweep reverse speed option as Mitchell Trubisky handed it to Jordan Howard, who then gave it to Zach Miller on an end around, who promptly pitched the ball back to Trubisky just as Pro Bowl linebacker Anthony Barr was about to whack the tight end.
No prettier play has been run in the NFL this season but it's not exactly something you can go back to again and again now that it's out there for public consumption.
The math is obvious on two-point conversions, at least until you add the context to it.
"It's just something that we look at, the offensive staff with [Offensive coordinator] Frank [Reich], they look at it, we look at it every week," Pederson explained. "Even in the red zone, that plus-five area, that low red area, we want to make sure we have enough in the arsenal that if it ever came down to sort of those have-to-have-it two-point plays that you can pull one out and you know it's going to be successful, and that's run and pass, not just throw only."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen