Have at It: Two-point conversions

October, 19, 2011
10/19/11
10:45
AM ET
My initial thought this week was for you to debate the likely NFC North winner in a four-way post-handshake battle royale: Jim Schwartz, Lovie Smith, Mike McCarthy or Leslie Frazier. But I get the sense you're through discussing Sunday's postgame fracas at Ford Field, even in the context of a fantastical scenario. So we move on to football.

(Just in case, I'll provide my battle royale nomination at the bottom of this post for those who are interested.)

The past two weeks have provided a pair of failed two-point conversions that conjure a subject we've never really covered in this venue: When is a two-point conversion appropriate? When is it necessary and when is it foolish?

Neither of our two instances fall neatly into one of those categories, nor did they impact the outcome of the game in question. But they still provide a starting point for discussion.

The first occurred Oct. 9 at the Georgia Dome, when McCarthy called for a two-point play after the Green Bay Packers had taken a 15-14 lead over the Atlanta Falcons. There were three minutes, 42 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Success would have given the Packers a three-point lead, meaning they could not have lost on a field goal, but Aaron Rodgers' pass to tight end Jermichael Finley fell incomplete.

The second occurred this past Sunday at Ford Field, when Schwartz made the same decision after the Detroit Lions took a 19-15 lead over the San Francisco 49ers. Success would have given the Lions a six-point lead, which as Dave of Columbus pointed out in our SportsNation chat, would have left the 49ers unable to take the lead if they had kicked a pair of field goals. However, quarterback Matthew Stafford's pass to receiver Calvin Johnson fell incomplete.

Many coaches use a form of a chart developed decades ago by Dick Vermeil and others. It suggests going for two points in each of our situations in question. But the chart doesn't consider the point in a game, and some strategic observers -- including Michael Lombardi of NFL.com -- think the two-point conversion shouldn't come into play until at least early in the fourth quarter.

The Football Commentary website has created a chart that includes time remaining in the game, incorporating the probability of success at various points in the game. It suggests McCarthy made a better decision than Schwartz, but also makes exceptions for teams with a game-changing weapon -- i.e. Johnson.

Regardless, what is your feeling about two-point conversions? Keep in mind that historically they have been converted at less than 50 percent, while extra points are traditionally converted at about 98 percent. You have a near-guarantee of one point and less than a 50-50 shot at two.

Do you think two-point conversions should be used to correct obvious mathematical imbalances, like changing a one-point lead to a 3-point lead late in a game? Or should teams be more aggressive, as the Football Commentary chart suggests, if they have an offense equipped to succeed?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. I'll post a representative sample, along with my own take, by the end of the week. Have at It.

(And oh, yes: Lovie. Got to be.)

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