When Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs scored a walkoff touchdown to win the divisional playoff against the Saints, it was a truly historic moment in the NFL. Once the touchdown was confirmed by replay, the Vikings were required to attempt the extra-point conversion, despite the fact that they lead by 5; that, too, was a historic moment, as that was the last time that will happen.
Gene Steratore: "We must kick the extra point to finalize the game" https://t.co/s0KN2qbYZK
— Fᴏᴏᴛʙᴀʟʟ Zᴇʙʀᴀs (@footballzebras) January 15, 2018
Under a rule change for the 2018 season, a team in the lead that scores a touchdown at the expiration of the fourth quarter will not have the quarter extended for a meaningless extra-point attempt. Since the two-point conversion rule was instituted in 1994, there were 37 times a team had to at least snap the ball for the extra-point while already in the lead.
An extra-point attempt was always required to follow a touchdown, but when the NFL instituted the overtime rule, there was a specific exception for the overtime score. This was written in to address the paradox in the rules of playing to the first score (sudden death) and that a conversion follows all touchdowns. Because of the infrequency of game-ending touchdowns in regulation, there was no push to create the additional exception. Additionally, there were concerns that opting out of the extra point could have a minuscule effect on division and conference tiebreakers that were based on points, which have sunk further down the tiebreaker procedure list. This oddly was the case in one of the games listed here.
There was a series of disputed calls in the game-winning drive by the Patriots over the Bills in 1998. The story varies as to whether the Bills refused to line up for the extra-point or were not made aware, but Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri was able to score a 2-point run unopposed. That additional 2 points came very close to being a factor in the playoff tiebreakers, as net division points were used to determine the Bills playoff seed.
In another situation of an awkward final kick, the Packers were on the losing end of a decision by replacement officials on the Fail Mary play in 2012. After a fair share of chaos from the play, Packers players were summoned from the lockers to line up on defense for the Seahawks’ superfluous kick. This was familiar territory for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who was the coach of the Patriots in 1998.
As of the 2015 season, the defense can score on the extra-point attempt, so there is no coincidence that there was an immediate shift to the kneeldown tactic most of the time. Even though the defense, trailing by a point or two, has an unlikely path to victory by returning a fumbled attempt at a kneeldown, the rules will preclude this chance, and the game will end on the touchdown play. There has not been an extra-point attempt with an expired clock where the defense could have tied or won, because the last instance with such a margin preceded the defensive conversion rule.
In 2017, there were 5 extra extra-point plays, just as it was in 2015, making for an unusual glut of these situations in recent years.
There were 15 instances where the conversion attempt was needed by the scoring team to prevent a loss:
- tie game: 4 for 5 (miss: TB, lost in overtime)
- trailing by 1 point: 5 for 6 (all kicks, miss: NO)
- trailing by 2 points: 0 for 4
In addition, there were 17 times where the scoring team was trailing by more than 2 points in that time frame; the rules still require those teams to try the extra-point conversion, even though it would not affect the result. The NCAA rulebook allows the ability to forego end-of-game conversions only if the margin of victory is more than 2 points for either team.
Game-ending extra-point attempts by leading team, 1994-2017
Margin: lead that the scoring team had prior to the extra-point attempt. Research by Jeremy Snyder
|Date||Team scoring||TD scored by||Yds||PAT try||Margin||Final|
|9/17/1995||DEN vs WAS||Rod Smith from John Elway||pass||43||kick good||6||38–31|
|9/22/1997||JAX vs PIT||Chris Hudson||block FG||58||kick good||8||30–21|
|11/15/1998||TEN vs PIT||Michael Roan||fumble||0||kick good||8||23–14|
|11/29/1998||NE vs BUF||Ben Coates from Drew Bledsoe||pass||1||2pt run (unopposed)||2||25–21|
|10/31/1999||CLE at NO||Kevin Johnson from Tim Couch||pass||56||kick good||4||21–16|
|12/12/1999||CAR at GB||Steve Beuerlein||rush||5||kneel||2||33–31|
|12/24/2000||OAK vs CAR||Darrien Gordon||fumble||74||kick good||42||52–9|
|10/14/2001||NO at CAR||Ricky Williams||rush||1||kick good||1||27–25|
|1/6/2002||MIA vs BUF||Brock Marion||interception||100||kick good||26||34–7|
|11/10/2002||NO at CAR||Charles Grant||fumble||34||kick good||9||34–24|
|9/14/2003||BAL vs CLE||Ed Reed||interception||54||kick good||19||33–13|
|9/28/2003||HOU vs JAX||David Carr||rush||1||kick good||3||24–20|
|12/28/2003||ARI vs MIN||Nate Poole from Josh McCown||pass||28||kneel||1||18–17|
|9/12/2004||JAX at BUF||Ernest Wilford from Byron Leftwich||pass||7||kick good||2||13–10|
|9/11/2005||MIA vs DEN||Jason Taylor||fumble||85||kick good||23||34–10|
|11/6/2005||KC vs OAK||Larry Johnson||rush||1||kick good||3||27–23|
|9/7/2008||CAR at SD||Dante Rosario from Jake Delhomme||pass||14||kick good||1||26–24|
|11/29/2009||TEN vs ARI||Kenny Britt from Vince Young||pass||10||kick good||2||20–17|
|10/24/2010||TEN vs PHI||Cortland Finnegan||interception||41||kick good||17||37–19|
|11/14/2010||JAX vs HOU||Mike Thomas from David Garrard||pass||50||kick good||6||31–24|
|12/19/2010||PHI at NYG||DeSean Jackson||punt||65||kick good||6||38–31|
|10/9/2011||CIN at JAX||Geno Atkins||fumble||10||kick good||9||30–20|
|9/24/2012||SEA vs GB||Golden Tate from Russell Wilson||pass||24||kick good||1||14–12|
|12/2/2012||IND at DET||Donnie Avery from Andrew Luck||pass||14||kick good||1||35–33|
|12/9/2012||PHI at TB||Jeremy Maclin from Nick Foles||pass||1||kick good||1||23–21|
|12/21/2014||ATL at NO||Osi Umenyiora||fumble||86||kick good||15||30–14|
|10/4/2015||ATL vs HOU||Nathan Stupar||fumble||84||kneel||27||48–21|
|10/12/2015||PIT at SD||Le’Veon Bell||rush||1||kick good||3||24–20|
|11/8/2015||NYG at TB||Trevin Wade||fumble||5||kneel||14||32–18|
|11/30/2015||BAL at CLE||Will Hill||block FG||64||kneel||6||33–27|
|12/3/2015||GB at DET||Richard Rodgers from Aaron Rodgers||pass||61||kneel||4||27–23|
|1/1/2017||NYG at WAS||Trevin Wade||fumble||11||kneel||9||19–10|
|10/2/2017||KC vs WAS||Justin Houston||fumble||13||kneel||9||29–20|
|11/19/2017||TB at MIA||Adarius Glanton||fumble||0||kick good||9||30–20|
|12/10/2017||PHI at LAR||Brandon Graham||fumble||16||kneel||8||43–35|
|12/25/2017||PHI vs OAK||Derek Barnett||fumble||23||kneel||9||19–10|
|1/14/2018||MIN vs NO DIV||Stefon Diggs from Case Keenum||pass||61||kneel||5||29–24|