What Is PAT in Football?

Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons
New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons.

Bob Levey / Getty Images

After a touchdown, the scoring team is allowed to add another point by kicking the football through the uprights of the goalpost. This is called a PAT, also known as a point after touchdown or extra point.

Examples of How PATs Work

On an attempted PAT, the ball used to be placed on the 2-yard line in the NFL, or the 3-yard line in college or high school and is generally kicked from inside the 10-yard line.

The NFL moved the PAT line back to the 15-yard line for the 2015 season, in an attempt to inject a little more excitement into the play. The new rule also allows the defense to score two points on the play. If the defense blocks the kick on a PAT and returns it for a touchdown, or if it gets the ball via fumble or interception on a two-point try and returns it for a TD, they are awarded two points. In the past, a failed PAT was ruled dead.

The new rule has had a dramatic effect. Whereas the old PAT rule made extra points almost inevitable, they are now iffy. Kickers missed more PATs in any year since 1977; kickers missed 71 PATs in 2016 for example.

A Huge Miss

The most glaring example occurred in 2016. The New England Patriots were playing the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship game. In the first quarter, the Patriots scored a touchdown and sent Stephen Gostkowski on the field to tie up the game.

Gostkowski was one of the best and most reliable placekickers in the game. At that point, he had made a very impressive 87.3 percent of his field goal attempts in his career. He had not missed a field goal since 2006. If there was one kicker in the league you wanted to make a PAT in a close game in a conference championship game, it was Gostkowski.

The miss would come back to haunt New England in a big way. Late in the game, the Patriots trailed the Broncos 20-18 and had to try a two-point attempt to tie it up. They missed, then missed the playoffs, and the Broncos went on to win the Super Bowl. Before that point, Gostkowski had made an astonishing 523 straight extra point attempts.

More Easy Blunders

Still, even under the old rule, kickers would sometimes miss extra points under duress. In 2003, the New Orleans Saints made a miracle comeback against the Jacksonville Jaguars on a play that involved several laterals. Somehow, the Saints scored a touchdown on the play and trailed the Jaguars by a single point, 20-19 -- the Saints' season was on the line. With a 7-7 record, if they lost the game, they would have no chance of reaching the playoffs. Ultimately, placekicker John Carney botched the extra point and the Saints lost.