Minnesota Vikings: Should they go for two every time?


We were wondering how the new longer-distance extra point kick rule would affect the Minnesota Vikings and the rest of the teams in the NFL.

Would longer kicks result in significantly more misses? Would teams elect to go for two more often as a result of one-point kicks no longer being so automatic?

After two weeks we are beginning to get some answers to those questions.

As it turns out, the percentage of made extra point kicks has been significantly lower from 33 yards than from the old distance of 20.

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According to ESPN Stats & Information, through the first two weeks of 2014 teams had made 99% of extra point attempts. Through the same number of games in 2015 that percentage is down to 94%.

In all, nine extra point kicks have been missed this season so far. Only eight PATs were missed by kickers in all of 2014.

The less-automatic extra point kick has encouraged more two-point conversion attempts as one might have anticipated.

By this point last year 11 2-pointers had been tried with teams succeeding at a 36% clip. This year 15 two-pointers have been tried and the success rate is 53%.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been the most aggressive team so far in going for 2, attempting 3 two-point conversions and succeeding all 3 times.

Notably, Pittsburgh is also one of the nine teams that has seen a kicker miss an extra point attempt this year.

The Minnesota Vikings also happen to be one of those nine teams with an extra point miss.

So that begs the question: Should the Vikings adopt the Steelers’ aggressive approach and go for two every time?

Raw percentages alone suggest teams are better off going for two now that the one-point conversion is no longer automatic. At least that’s what many numbers-crunchers say.

An additional factor in figuring out whether a team should go for two is the accuracy and possibly the confidence of their kicker.

And that’s where things become a bit sticky for the Vikings. As I don’t need to remind you, Blair Walsh has been less-than-reliable recently on his kicks.

Not only has Walsh missed an extra point already this year, he’s also missed a field goal. The kicker’s troubles go at least back to preseason when he missed several kicks of various types from various distances.

And frankly Walsh wasn’t that great last year either.

Walsh’s problems have been generally worse at home at sometimes-windy TCF Bank Stadium than on the road. It’s worth noting however that he was 2-for-2 in field goals Sunday in the Vikings’ first regular season home game of the year.

Given Walsh’s overall struggles, the Vikings would seem to be prime candidates to adopt the go-for-two approach. But unlike Mike Tomlin it doesn’t seem Mike Zimmer is down with that idea as of yet.

Zimmer elected to go for one all three times the Vikings scored on Sunday, with Walsh going 2-for-3 on PATs.

When asked about the extra point situation on Wednesday Zimmer said he thinks the one-point percentage will go up as kickers get more used to the longer distance (via Vikings.com):

"I think the conversion rate is like 94% now on the extra point, the two-points 53%, so it’s still a little bit iffy on that. I think you might have a little bit more tendency to try to even it up later in the ballgames.I think the kickers will get adjusted to it as we continue to go throughout the season. I think they’ll continue to get better at it. Mentally the extra point they used to think was automatic, where now they have to put a little bit more concentration into it I would guess."

So right now it doesn’t sound like Zimmer is thinking about going for two more often. But that could change if Blair Walsh continues to struggle.

Ultimately, you don’t want the conversion decision to come down to how much faith you have in your kicker. You’d like to make those calls based purely on percentages and game situation.

Ideally, you’d like your kicker to be accurate enough that you can count on him to bang through an extra point from 33 yards at any point in the game and in any weather without having to sweat it out.

Walsh was once the kind of kicker you didn’t have to worry about from a mere 33 yards but unfortunately that’s no longer the case.

Considering the big contract extension Walsh just signed, asking him to make the vast majority of his kicks from any distance in any situation doesn’t seem unreasonable.

But if Walsh doesn’t begin performing as expected, Zimmer may have no choice but to remove the kicker from the equation and begin going for two.

Next: Vikings give Ragnar the heave-ho

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