DENVER — Bill Belichick wanted extra points to be a more competitive. They certainly were in the New England Patriots’ loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday.
Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a first-quarter extra point, which loomed large when the Patriots scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, making the score 20-18. With just 12 seconds left in the game, the Patriots were forced to go for the two-point conversion but failed to send the game into overtime.
Belichick was asked about the longer extra point during his season-ending news conference Monday.
“Whatever the rules are, we play by them,” Belichick said. “We don’t make the rules. Those are decided by the league. Whatever they are, they are. Whatever changes they make, they make.”
Well, in this case, Belichick kind of made the rules.
The Patriots were the team that proposed making extra points more difficult by kicking them from the 15-yard line. The rule passed in May 2015 at the NFL spring meeting 30-2. The Washington Redskins and Oakland Raiders were the only teams to vote against the proposal.
Sunday marked the first time Gostkowski missed one of the 33-yard extra points all season. The last time he missed an extra point was during his 2006 rookie season, when they were still 20 yards.
Belichick spoke at length about making extra points more competitive in Jan. 2014.
“I personally would love to see the kicking game remain as a very integral part of the game so that the kickoffs are returned and so that extra points are not over 99 percent converted because that’s not what extra points were when they were initially put into the game back 80 years ago, whatever it was,” Belichick said.
“I would be in favor of not seeing it be an over 99 percent conversion rate. It’s virtually automatic. That’s just not the way the extra point was put into the game. It was an extra point that you actually had to execute and it was executed by players who were not specialists, they were position players. It was a lot harder for them to do. The Gino Cappellettis of the world and so forth and they were very good. It’s not like it is now where it’s well over 99 percent. I don’t think that’s really a very exciting play because it’s so automatic.”
To be fair to Belichick and the Patriots, however, Gostkowski’s missed extra point was far from the lone reason why the Patriots lost. It was one play in the course of 60 minutes which also included poor offensive line play, Belichick’s decision not to kick field goals while in the red zone twice in the fourth quarter and Patriots center Bryan Stork’s 15-yard personal foul penalty, which forced a three-and-out in the first quarter.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images