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Leave it to Hue Jackson to be a trendsetter in this league. We're only being par.

Byline: Eric Edholm

Leave it to Hue Jackson to be a trendsetter in this league. We're only being partially fatuous here for a reason, trust us.

In Week 4, when the Cleveland Browns traveled out to face the Oakland Raiders, Jackson made a call that could be viewed as an edgy, analytic-based siege early in the game. The Browns went up 9-7 on a Nick Chubb touchdown run, and instead of making it a 10-7 game, Jackson opted to go for two. It failed. There was more than 12 minutes left in the second quarter.

They would end up going for two three more times in the game, all prior to the fourth quarter.

What ensued was a bonkers game that featured 87 combined points and four 2-point conversions, three that worked. The point here is not to say that Jackson is a visionary coach without warts or that his eventual firing was unwarranted; in fact, you could argue that a scorching-seat coach with a nothing-to-lose attitude isn't taking that edgy an approach there whatsoever.

But by contrast when you see good teams, such as the 7-3 Bears, administer this type of contrarian thought into big settings, such as Sunday night's all-important game against the Minnesota Vikings, it changes your perspective quite a bit.

Bears head coach Matt Nagy did something that certainly bucked convention when he opted to go for two after scoring to take a 9-0 lead. The successful conversion put the Bears up 11-0, and the football purists were left confused if not slightly impressed at Nagy's guts for such a call.

Nagy seemed to have a twofold approach to the early aggressiveness. First, you have to have a 2-point play you like against the defense you're facing. Second, you have to be willing to embrace a little chaos and be willing to live with the consequences of missing.

What Nagy has done is now plant a seed in opposing defenses' heads: We could go for it at any point and you have to be mindful of it. Whether they do or not, or whether it's successful or not, those are other matters. But you have to love the idea of a first-year head coach in the thick of a playoff race making a call.

If you look at the 2-point conversions in what you might call nontraditional situations so far this season -- let's start with those coming in the first halves of games -- it's rare to find gambles such as the one Nagy took Sunday.

Of the 18 first-half 2-point conversions in the league this season, not many fit into anything close to the same category as what the Bears pulled off.

And it's not as if Nagy didn't have kicking on his mind when he went for two, as he mentioned the day after the game. After all, Cody Parkey's two missed extra-point tries the week prior certainly had most of Chicago -- and surely Nagy -- on edge coming into Week 11.

Two out of three ain't bad, Meatloaf reminds us, and Nagy has good reasoning here with this thinking. Making one of two 2-point tries simply gets you back to square one -- it's the same as kicking two extra points. One of three means you're now chasing points. But two out of three puts you up one expected point, which now puts the stress on the opponent to make a tough call on going for two or not.

In a league where most coaches don't typically enjoy going for two unless they are forced to, or if it falls in line with their possibly outmoded conversion charts, Nagy is trying to steal a point for his own team and also put the opponent in an uncomfortable position and change the terms of the game against their wishes.

Bottom line: That math matters. Extra points are no longer gimmes, converting at a 94.4 percent rate (758-of-803 in the NFL this season) after that number routinely was above 99 percent prior to the league moving attempts back 15 yards before the 2015 season.

Two-point tries this season have hit with a success rate of exactly 50 percent (45-of-90 to date). So that math suggests that going for two every time would roughly result in an expected 1.0 points per attempt -- half of two is one. But with extra points, 94.4 percent of one-point tries means that your expected scoring on those plays is actually less, at 0.94 points per try. It's not a flat scale, and more offensively proficient teams certainly will have a higher success rate on converting them, just as teams with reliable kickers might not want to mess around.

But why more coaches don't consider going for two more often remains a mystery.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Nov 22, 2018
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