MINNEAPOLIS -- During the 2014 season, only two teams attempted more two-point conversions than the Minnesota Vikings. And only two other teams -- the Chicago Bears and the Pittsburgh Steelers -- joined the Vikings with a 100 percent success rate on two-point tries.
It will be months, if not years, before we have a full understanding of whether last week's changes to the NFL's extra point rules have a meaningful impact on game strategy. And it's probably premature to expect the Vikings -- who have a kicker that's made 95 percent of his career attempts from 33 to 38 yards and a coach that leaned on the conservative side of in-game decisions last year -- to be on the knife edge of aggressive two-point strategy in 2015. But there are a couple things that work in the Vikings' favor should they decide to go for two more often in 2015.
First, only one player (DeMarco Murray) had more touchdowns from two yards or less in 2014 than Matt Asiata, who scored five times from that distance in 2014. Asiata had nine rushing touchdowns in just 164 carries last year. He was also the only player in the league to rush for a pair of two-point conversions, scoring once from the 2-yard line and once from the 1 after a pair of Miami Dolphins penalties in Week 16. No matter what the Vikings' backfield looks like in 2015, Asiata figures to have a role around the goal line, and he's certainly an asset in two-point situations.
And of all the things the Vikings prize about second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, his ability to make quick decisions is near the top of the list. It's worth noting that the Vikings began three of their four two-point conversions in the same formation last year, motioning tight end Rhett Ellison into a bunch set on the right side of the line, inside of two receivers. On the two successful passing plays -- against Atlanta and Green Bay -- Ellison crossed behind receiver Greg Jennings, while the outside receiver (either Jarius Wright or Charles Johnson) swung inside behind Jennings, getting open as the defense struggled to get through traffic. Bridgewater threw quickly to a wide-open Ellison against Atlanta and found Johnson on a crossing route. He appeared to check out of a pass when he saw room for Asiata against Washington, and the Vikings lined up in the same set on the Dolphins' second penalty in Week 16. The formation worked because it created some quick throws for Bridgewater, and the rookie's ability to diagnose defenses paid off. Once Bridgewater develops a better rapport with tight end Kyle Rudolph, he should find another reliable target for short-yardage plays.
It should be noted that all four of the Vikings' successful conversions last year were in the fourth quarter, when the game situation called for a two-point try to go ahead by 7 or 3, pull within 8 or tie the game. It wasn't as though coach Mike Zimmer was doing anything unorthodox; few NFL teams do, when an extra point is as automatic as it's been. Given how accurate kickers have been on 33-yard field goals, the longer extra point doesn't figure to be a major challenge. But if teams find there's a payoff to going for two more often, the Vikings could be in position to build on last year's success.