The convert or try, in American and Canadian football, is a one-scrimmage down played immediately after a touchdown during which the scoring team is allowed to attempt to score an extra one point by kicking, or two points by touchdown. The play may also be referred to as a conversion, extra point, point after touchdown (sometimes abbreviated as PAT), or point after.
If the convert is attempted by kicking, if the kick goes through the uprights, the team gets an additional one point for their touchdown, bringing their total for that score from six points to seven. If two extra points are needed or desired, a two-point conversion try may be attempted by running or passing from scrimmage. A successful touchdown conversion brings the score's total to eight.
The extra point is among the oldest parts of the game of gridiron football and dates to its rugby roots. In its earliest days, scoring a touchdown was not the primary objective but a means of getting a free kick at the goal (hence why the name "try," more commonly associated with rugby today, is still in American football rule books), and thus while a field goal would be 5 points, a touchdown would only be one point and the conversion would be worth four (for a total of five). The related term "conversion" is still used in both rugby union and rugby league to refer to extra points scored by kicking the ball through the posts after a try has been scored.
By the start of the 20th century, touchdowns had become more important and the roles of touchdown and kick were reversed. By this time the point value for the after-touchdown kick had reduced to its current one-point value while the touchdown was now worth five. (This later increased to six points in American football in 1912 and in Canadian football in 1956.)
Duration of the play
In the NFL and American high school football (in most states), the play is over once either the attempt fails or the defense takes possession. In many other levels of football, including the Canadian Football League and American college football, the play continues until the ball is otherwise dead. This allows the defense to recover the ball to return it to the opponent's end zone for two points. Two states, Texas and Massachusetts, play high school football under NCAA rules and thus allow the defense to score on an extra point attempt.
Differences between leagues
In the National Football League, the scrimmage for point after attempt takes place from the two-yard line. In American high school and college football, it is from the three-yard line. In Canadian football it is from the five-yard line. The game clock does not run during an extra-point attempt, except for some rare circumstances at the high-school level (some state associations allow for the clock to run continuously in the second half if one team is leading the other by an outrageously huge margin).
In the NFL, the attempt for extra point(s) is required after a touchdown scored during the regulation game(i.e., not overtime), because points are used for some tiebreakers in the standings. Rarely, this can result in such an attempt having to be made at the end of the game when it cannot change the outcome of the game. If the game is in sudden death overtime, the extra-point attempt is omitted if the winning score is a touchdown. In American high school and college football, it's likewise omitted following a touchdown on the game's final play if six points were enough to win or if the scoring team was already ahead or can not win or tie the game with a successful conversion attempt.
There is, however, one notable exception in college football because the defense can also score two points on a return of a conversion try (and theoretically score a one-point safety) and the NCAA rules state that the conversion try must be run if any scoring in it could impact the outcome of the game. Therefore, if a team scores to take the lead by one or two points as time expires, they must still attempt the conversion, although most teams will simply opt to take a knee to prevent the risk of the defense scoring. For example, on October 24, 2008, Iowa scored as time expired to take a 15-13 lead over Michigan State. Making the conversion would have made no difference in Iowa winning the game, but Iowa still had to attempt it, so Ricky Stanzi simply knelt down, as a return by Michigan State would have tied the game and forced overtime.
The World Football League and XFL eliminated the extra-point kick in their short lives and only allowed a one-point scrimmage play, although the XFL later implemented a variable system that allowed increasing point values for increasing the distance to the end zone on the attempt for its playoffs.
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