Extra-point kicks in the NFL have become less than automatic.
League-wide, following the controversial decision to make the extra-point kick a few yards longer, 17 such kicks have been missed after four weeks of play, or about four missed chip-shots a week.
That's not exactly a news flash at this point a month into the season.
What's news is this whopping total of 17 already has more than doubled last year's meager total of seven extra-point misses, and there are still 13 weeks of regular-season play remaining, to boot!
That's what happens when a rule change intersects with a youth movement among the league ranks at kicker, say the Bengals, who have this mystery all figured out.
Yep, the Bengals say that they have been getting their kicks, so to speak, by keeping track of booting trends.
“Darrin (special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons) can get stats quicker than you guys, kind of like Paulie’s (Guenther) stats," Lewis said. "But, in Darrin’s determination, a lot of teams went with young kickers, and they are the ones missing for the most part."
A quick scan of the 35 kickers who have attempted at least one extra-point reveals that the Bengals know what they're talking about.
The average age of the 15 kickers who have missed an extra-pointer is 27.4. The average age of the 20 kickers who have not missed is 29.7.
Bengals kicker Mike Nugent, who is 33, is 14-for-15 on extra-point kicks, becoming one of the 15 who already have missed. Just six kickers missed those kicks last year. Nugent, in his 11th NFL season, was 39-for-39 on extra-point kicks in 2014, with just five misses in his career. He is 287-for-292 lifetime in the league.
To heck with extra-pointers, said Lewis. He doesn't want Nugent missing field goals, either.
"Mike has missed two (field goals) for us, which we can’t have," Lewis said of Nugent, who is 3-for-5 on field goals with no connections on anything 40 yards or longer. "He’s better than that, and we expect better out of him. He has to go back and get in a rhythm like he did a year ago when he missed a couple early, and was spot on the rest of the way."
Any way, back to extra points. Through the first four weeks, a total of 17 kickers with at least six extra-point attempts have made every extra-point boot this season. Last year, 30 kickers made every extra-pointer over a full season.
"I do think the young guys play a factor in it. I do think that moving the PAT had a little bit of an effect, because for the most part that was a non-stressful kick," Lewis said. "Now, it is all stress-related. They have been stress-related for me the whole time, but it’s on them (the kickers) as well.”
Lewis said it's more than mental.
“It’s all about the strike of the ball," the coach said. "It’s like a golfer. It’s important that they strike it correctly all the time. They have to block it out (following a miss), and go on to the next one.”