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NFL extra points will be at longer distance

Kicks on the 15; defense can score

Stephen Gostkowski of the Patriots connected on an extra point against the Seahawks during the first half of Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1. Michael Conroy/Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — The extra-point play is no longer the time for NFL fans to get up and go to the restroom.

NFL owners voted Tuesday evening to drastically alter the extra point starting in the upcoming season. The line of scrimmage for extra-point kicks will be moved back from the 2- to the 15-yard line, equating to a 33-yard field goal. The defense also will now be able to score 2 points on a 2-point conversion if it returns a fumble or interception the other way for a touchdown, or if a safety occurs on the play.

The new rule was submitted by the NFL’s competition committee, but is similar in nature to the rule proposed by Patriots coach Bill Belichick the last two years (Belichick’s proposal didn’t include the defense having the opportunity to score points). The Eagles also proposed a rule that would move the line of scrimmage for 2-point conversions up to the 1-yard line to encourage teams to go for 2 more often.

Instead, the NFL simply made the PAT a more competitive play. In 2014, NFL kickers only missed eight of 1,230 extra-point attempts when the kick was the equivalent of a 20-yard field goal.

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A 33-yard field goal is still a highly makeable kick — last year NFL kickers connected on 163 of 171 field goals between 30 and 35 yards — but moving the line of scrimmage back 13 yards increases the degree of difficulty.

The NFL experimented with moving the PAT to the 15-yard line during the first two preseason weeks last season, and NFL kickers still converted better than 94 percent of kicks, according to Dean Blandino, NFL head of officiating.

And the NFL had a “lively debate” about the future of the PAT, according to Rich McKay of the competition committee, at the annual meetings this past March. Instead of making a decision on the spot, the NFL decided to table to matter for two months to research it further and make a decision at this round of owners meetings at the San Francisco Ritz-Carlton.

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“I think all teams pretty much said the same thing: It’s time to make this play a football play,” McKay said at the time. “The way to make it a football play is, No. 1, allowing the defense to score. Really adopt the college procedure that says if you block a kick or if you stop a 2-point play and the defense happens to get control of the football, they can score, they can score 2 points.”

Belichick has been the driving force behind the movement to make the PAT a more competitive play. He proposed a rule in 2014 that would make the line of scrimmage the 25-yard line, and made an impassioned plea to NFL owners at the annual meetings last March.

“The PAT percentages in the last two decades have not gone below 98 percent, and I want to say in six of the last nine years they’ve been over 99 percent,” Belichick said at the time. “So we’re really talking about a non-competitive play. I can’t imagine the fans are excited about seeing a play that’s 99.6 percent accurate.”

The NFL also has tinkered with the idea of narrowing the goal posts, and tested it out at the Pro Bowl this past January in Arizona. During that game, Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri missed two 35-yard extra points and a 38-yard field goal.

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“I understand the wheels of change are in motion and people want to change stuff, but I feel bad for the young bucks that will have to deal with it their whole career,” Vinatieri said after the game.

The NFL considered, but ultimately scrapped, the idea of moving the 2-point conversion up to the 1 to encourage teams to go for it more often. NFL teams converted 47.5 percent of 2-point conversions in 2014 (28 of 59). The Patriots only attempted one all season and were unsuccessful.

The NFL also is considering a proposal from the Patriots that would add more cameras to the sidelines, end lines, and goal lines for the use of instant replay. NFL owners tabled the matter in March to further research the economics and logistics of the issue.


Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin.