Unlike any other football play, NFL and high school P.A.T. plays have no field position, possession, or turnover score risk. No matter what happens on the play, the opponent’s field position afterward will be whatever they can get on a kickoff return. No matter what happens, the defense cannot score on the P.A.T. play. A turnover on a P.A.T. play is the equivalent of an incomplete pass, a run that did not score a touchdown, or a completed pass that did not result in a touchdown on any other play. Because of this unique situation, I wrote a whole chapter about this in my book The Contrarian Edge for Football Offense.
Fear turnovers less
You should fear turnovers far less in NFL and high school P.A.T. plays because the the lack of a scoring, possession, or field position benefit to the defense. (In NCAA, the defense can score a two-point touchdown on a P.A.T. play if they intercept a pass or pick up a fumble or blocked kick and run the ball all the way to the opposite end zone. NCAA Rule 8-3-2-d-1 In NFL and high school rules, the play is dead if the defense acquires possession of the ball.)
You are not neutral to turnovers on a P.A.T. play. A turnover still means you failed to score. But that’s all it means.
So why do P.A.T. plays at those levels look like all the other offensive scrimmage plays that do have field position and turnover risk?
Beats the hell out of me. I don’t think they should look like the other plays.
No tackle or out of bounds
For one thing, no two-point conversion play should ever end with a ball carrier being tackled or driven out of bounds. But they do just that all the time. It’s an outrage.
Why should there be no such plays? Because the ball carrier should have lateraled. The lateral might not be successful, but it could not have a worse result than the tackle or out-of-bounds run. To allow yourself to be tackled or knocked out of bounds still holding the ball is to give up, to end any chance your team had to score on the play.
‘Keep hope alive’
In my Football Clock Management book, I call such laterals the “Keep Hope Alive” play. The most famous one was the five-lateral, game-winning touchdown, kick return by Cal through the Stanford kickoff team and band in the 1982 Big Game. That was not a P.A.T., but far more P.A.T.s in high school and the NFL should bear more resemblance to that play.
Two-point conversion ball carriers should all carry the ball with two hands in front of their chest like a passer rolling out or an option quarterback. Two-point conversion ball carriers should have the same mind-set as the players in a game of keep away.
Two-point conversion plays should look more like basketball games including behind-the-back passes. Instead, they usually look like something from the 1926 Rose Bowldouble-tight, full-house backfield, grind-it-out, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust football.
Here are some plays that I think should be considered more often for the high school and NFL two-point conversion:
• fake field goal when it is not obvious that one point is not enough
• throw back pass to quarterback (especially good in goal line because defenses are often in man pass coverage and no one is assigned to cover the quarterback)
• reverse pass
• roll-out shovel pass
• buck lateral keep
• buck lateral
• buck lateral pass
• inside handoff wing reverse
• jump pass
• trick plays (assisted by the fact that the team has time to look at a diagram on the sideline before going out to execute it)
• Statue of Liberty
• fake reverse (one of the best-kept secrets in football)
• sprint draw
• single-wing spinning fullback play
• Lonesome Polecat or “swinging gate” (I actually have seen a number of these on two-point conversions in high schoolgood for them)
• large-scale shift
• 4-2 or 5-1-and-wing unbalanced line
• tailback pass
• fly motion
• quarterback walks out from center seemingly to talk to wide receiver while ball is snapped to another back
• formation with two centers lined up in guard position then whole line shifts to one side or the other so that one of the centers lines up on the ball
• spread option
This is not a complete list. If you have a play to suggest, please send it to me. The fumblerooski is not on this list because it was outlawed in high school in 2006.
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