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Here's how to liven up NFL games

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 8:34 a.m. CDT

The New England Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski has kicked 360 points after touchdown, or PATs, in a row. He hasn't missed since 2006. But it's not the kind of streak that has fans glued to their couches.

It's rare for any NFL kicker to miss an extra point. There were only five missed PATs (out of 1,267 tries) in this year's regular season -- and 18 in the last three years combined, out of more than 3,000 attempts. It works out to about 0.5 percent.

Tacking on the extra point is so automatic, so anticlimactic, that fans tend to use that 45-second window to fetch a beer, go to the bathroom or check the score on another channel.

And that suited everyone just fine, if you want to know the truth, until NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell posed a question: If 99.5 percent of touchdowns are worth seven points, why bother with the kick?

Goodell thinks the NFL could liven things up by eliminating the kick, scoring the touchdown as seven points and inviting teams to take a real risk: They could tack on another point by completing a conversion -- but if it failed, officials would subtract a point. Or they could take the seven points and call in the kickoff unit.

Give the guy credit: He gave football fans something to argue about now that the Brady vs. Manning thing has been settled. Our unofficial estimate is that 5 percent of fans like Goodell's idea, 5 percent hate it and 90 percent think they have a better one.

We have a better one ourselves, though it turns out a million other people have the same one, or close.

Here it is: Keep the kick, but move it back. Way back. Far enough that maybe the kicker will make it and maybe he won't. Spot the ball on, say, the 25-yard line. It's the equivalent of moving the goal posts.

To reward risk-taking, give teams the option of moving back even farther -- let's say to the 35 -- to attempt a three-point kick. Or they could still try for the two-point conversion.

Under this plan, a touchdown can be worth six, seven, eight or nine points. Suddenly, it makes sense to wait for the next commercial to fetch that beer.

Moving the PAT back could be a real game-changer, like the three-point field goal in basketball. In the NBA, a daunting fourth-quarter deficit can be erased quickly by a hot three-point shooter. But the best of those shooters miss more than 6 times out of 10.

When a player fires from beyond the arc, fans hold their breath. Nobody does that when Steve Gostkowski trots onto the field.

 

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