The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost to the Detroit Lions in the NFC Divisional Round last weekend. Tampa Bay scored toward the end of the game to pull within one score of the Lions and proceeded to go for a two-point conversion rather than kick an extra point. The conversion failed and left the Bucs down eight points. They did not have another chance to score a touchdown in the final minutes of the game after Baker Mayfield threw an interception, and Tampa ended up losing 31-23.
While some viewers may have been throwing their hands up in frustration after the missed two-point conversion and questioning the logic behind this decision, the numbers actually do back this choice up. Here’s why coaches sometimes choose to go for two down eight points.
It’s all about the numbers: NFL teams have better odds of successfully converting two points in one try than they do of failing to convert in two tries. If they convert the first time and are able to make it back down the field and score, they can just kick the extra point on the second touchdown to win. If they fail to convert the first time and are able to make it back on the field and score, the odds are in their favor to complete the 2-point conversion after failing the last time. This would then theoretically send the game to overtime.
The choice to attempt a conversion also gives the team a heads-up as to whether they will need to draw up a second two-point conversion play or simply kick the extra point on the next touchdown.
Of course, if a team is comfortable heading to overtime, they can simply choose the kick-both route. However, a successful two-point conversion on the first touchdown places the team in a position to win in regular time.
This article can also be found in our Ultimate Guide to Super Bowl 58, presented by Frank’s Red Hot.