Detroit and Washington: Aficionados of the Two Point Conversion


Fans watch the NFL to see football played at the highest level in the world. Granted, only 42,329 attended the tilt between the Washington Redskins and Detroit Lions on Sunday, but they came for the aforementioned reason nonetheless.

Calvin Johnson showed tremendous athleticism and Matthew Stafford made a triumphant return to Ford Field. Jim Schwartz and Mike Shanahan took a page out of Bret Bielema’s book though during the fourth quarter. Each team was unsuccessful in their quest to outsmart their opponents with two point conversions.

The fourth quarter is the only time to even consider such a play after a touchdown is scored. It has seemed that this play is being attempted too often in recent years. Bielema recently attempted a two point conversion toward the conclusion of a game between the Wisconsin Badgers and Minnesota Golden Gophers. His reasoning for this decision is because his card told him to do so. Former Gopher head coach Tim Brewster was not satisfied with this response and neither is this blogger.

By Patrick Herbert

Coaches at the college and pro level are paid millions of dollars per season to make the tough decisions and develop their players. They should not have to rely on laminated cards in their pockets to make decisions for them. It should still remain there to confirm or deny judgments that they have made, but it shouldn’t be the primary resource during the course of the game.

There were five total two-point conversion attempts during the Lions game on Sunday between both sides. The Redskins came up empty in their two attempts while the Lions were successful in one of their three. My high school algebra teacher could tell you that I am not likely to be a CPA any time soon, but this does not appear to be an effective strategy to score more points.

If the teams had simply kicked the extra points after the touchdowns, then five total points would follow. With the coaches attempting to earn their paychecks, they only garnered two points. Taking into account the degree of difficulty, the two point conversion is not prudent to attempt in most cases, even in the fourth quarter. The twenty percent success rate in the Lions-Redskins game is yet further evidence of this theory.  Obtaining success in the conversion is more than twice as difficult as kicking the extra point. This is almost automatic, especially when done on turf.

There is another factor that hasn’t been brought to the table. Ndamukong Suh recovered the fumble from Rex Grossman with little time remaining in regulation. The team already had a twelve point lead and Jim Schwartz attempted to pile on the Redskins by embarrassing them through another offensive play. Why does a team already up by 12 points need two more with only a minute and a half remaining? Perhaps there is some bad blood between Shanahan and Schwartz.

Memo to Jim Schwartz: Just because somebody else doesn’t do the right thing doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t.


  1. Going for two at the end isn’t piling it on. By going for two you force Washington, in the unlikely event they can score two touchdowns,
    to kick both extra points just to tie the game. Had they kicked a field goal, then two touchdowns, with their extra points gives Washington a one-point win.

    Going for two so many times in a game does seem odd when you just look at the numbers. I didn’t catch the whole game so I can’t speak for the other four, but there’s no way the Lions were trying to pile it on by going for two, and making it a 14-point game at the end.

  2. Patrick Herbert says

    You raise some intrguing insights. Thanks for the comments. We can always agree to disagree. Anything is possible, but it certainly wouldn’t be probable.

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