New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was perhaps the most ardent proponent within the coaching community of pushing the line of scrimmage for the extra point attempt back from the two-yard line to the 15-yard line. The league likely views the change as at least a modest, if not great success in its first season—but nobody has been bit harder by the change thus far than Belichick’s team.
Late in the first quarter of the AFC Championship game, trailing the Broncos by seven, the Broncos scored on a one-yard touchdown run, presumably bringing the game to an early tie. 10-year veteran kicker Stephen Gostkowski came on to the field to kick the extra point—and missed it, for the first time since his rookie season in 2006.
Gostkowski has no doubt been one of the best kickers in the league over the course of the last decade. He has been a first-team All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl three times. He owns a career 87.3 field goal percentage, among the best all-time, particularly among those with such a long career.
Over the course of his NFL career, he has attempted 564 extra points through his regular and postseason play spanning 171 games. He has made 562 extra points, including 523 consecutive extra points. He had already set the record for the most consecutive extra points made with 423, extending his lead on the record by 100.
But his 524th consecutive attempt proved to be arguably one of the most costly misses in NFL history, because, as it would turn out, the Patriots were prevented from tying the AFC Championship game with an extra point because of the miss in the first quarter, forcing them to attempt, unsuccessfully, to convert a two-point attempt.
The Patriots ultimately lost by a score of 20-18, and the score would have figured to have been 20-19, lacking only an extra point attempt to tie the game, without Gostkowski’s miss. With 12 seconds remaining in the game, a make on the early attempt would have likely all but ensured that New England would extend the game into overtime.
To revisit, during the offseason, the league chose to push the line of scrimmage for extra points back for the exact purpose of making it more difficult, and thus creating a lower success rate. They achieved that goal, even if it may not seem significant by percentage.
The league’s kickers still converted on 94.2 percent of their extra point attempts, but context is required to understand how significant a drop that figure is. In 2014, kickers were accurate on 99.3 percent of their attempts, missing only eight of 1230 extra point attempts. In 2013, they were accurate on 99.6 percent of attempts, missing five of 1267 attempts.
In 2015, the league attempted 1217 extra points, making 1146 of them. That is 71 misses extra points during the regular season, or more than five times the amount of misses than the previous two seasons combined.
The Patriots were one of just five teams to make every extra point attempt during the regular season. They were one of only two teams to miss an extra point during the playoffs, and it was surely among the most costly misses in NFL history.