Necessity is the mother of invention, and on Sunday night the Eagles birthed football’s two-point revolution.
OK, that’s an overstatement. But Philadelphia is onto something. In the second quarter of their Sunday Night Football game against Dallas, Eagles kicker Jake Elliott left the game to be evaluated for a concussion after taking a hit to the head. Without another kicker on the roster, the Eagles were forced to try for two points after every touchdown — and boy, did they score a lot of touchdowns. The Eagles were up 7–6 when Elliott left the game. They ended up winning 37–9. It was the perfect environment to test what one of the NFL’s best offenses could do when it called plays as if it had supreme confidence in its ability to score.
The Eagles attempted four two-point conversions and converted three of them, giving them 30 points on four touchdowns. They also went for it on fourth-and-5 from the Dallas 17 rather than kick a field goal, and Carson Wentz promptly nailed Alshon Jeffery for a touchdown.
Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill handled kickoffs, but didn’t trot out for any scoring scenarios.
Kamu Grugier-Hill on whether he was nervous about kicking: "Everybody expected me to do bad anyway, so I didn’t really have anything to lose."— Sheil Kapadia (@SheilKapadia) November 20, 2017
The first two-point conversion was a modified version of what’s known as a “muddle huddle,” a special teams trickery tactic used mostly at the high school level to force a defense to make difficult matchup choices along the goal line.
Two-point conversion threat Corey Clement. pic.twitter.com/MEuA5hPh2l— Chris Jastrzembski (@CFJastrzembski) November 20, 2017
That’s football-nerd porn. The Eagles lined up in a heavy formation, but then shifted four players out wide to the right in a diamond shape and sent one wide receiver wide left. In this formation, Wentz has a one-on-one to his left, a numbers advantage on a screen to his right, or a numbers advantage keeping it up the middle, and the defense has to pick its poison. The Cowboys kept extra defenders in the box, and Wentz made the pre-snap read to throw the screen to Corey Clement, who got in for the conversion.
The Eagles’ next three two-point conversions weren’t quite as exotic, but still were effective. Philadelphia threw the ball on all four of them (technically the Clement one was a rush, but it was more like a screen pass).
It’s often said that the NFL is a copycat league, and it would be so much fun if two-point conversions caught on. There’s an axiom in football: “If you can’t get a yard when you need it, you don’t deserve to win the game.” Perhaps it should be said about 2 yards as well. Why not have the league’s smartest minds spend more time on a simple question: How do we get 2 yards when we need it?
Don’t get your hopes up: The NFL doesn’t often reward taking risks, and one play demonstrated a rare danger of this strategy — Zach Ertz managed to fumble right at the goal line, and the Cowboys recovered and sprinted toward the other end zone, where they would have been awarded one point of their own had they made it. They didn’t get there, but the play showed that the conversions aren’t risk-free, even if the more likely scenario is a missing point than a defensive return.
But after the game, Wentz indicated that more two-point magic was on the way. “Now we’ve got to go back to the drawing board with our two-point plays,” he said. Hopefully everyone else in the league does too.