The Detroit Lions won Sunday’s contest against the Minnesota Vikings with a walk-off touchdown pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown as time expired in the fourth quarter. The play pushed the final score to 29-27 Lions—a two-point win for the seven-point underdogs.
But something curious happened after the play. Rather, something did not happen after the play. Detroit just headed into the locker room to celebrate rather than kick the extra point. The refs never made them line up to make the point after touchdown, and with it only being a two-point game, the Vikings could theoretically block the kick and return it for a two-point score, tying the ball game.
So did the officials make a mistake? Did the Vikings get screwed, and should they be sending an angrily-worded letter to Roger Goodell and company?
Nope. The officials got it right.
As pointed out by Football Zebras on Twitter, there is a section in the rulebook that explains quite clearly that the Lions do not have to run a point after touchdown play.
If a touchdown is made on the last play of a period, the Try attempt shall be made (except during a sudden-death period, or if a touchdown is scored during a down in which time in the fourth period expires, and a successful Try would not affect the outcome of the game).
It’s that last section that is relevant to the Lions: “if a touchdown is scored during a down in which time in the fourth period expires, and a successful Try would not affect the outcome of the game.”
The key word in that sentence is “successful.” If the Lions succeed in converting the try, they win by three, not two. The outcome is not affected. Yes, the outcome could have been affected by an unsuccessful try and subsequent return, but the rulebook very specifically says “successful Try” and for good reason.
Why does this rule exist? Why would you rob the Vikings the opportunity of a chance to make a defensive play for the win? Well, it’s pretty simple. The Lions would just spike the ball or take a knee on a two-point conversion attempt, therefore wasting everybody’s time and not giving the Vikings a legitimate chance at tieing the game up.
You may be thinking to yourself, “I swear, teams used to have to kick the extra point anyways.” And you would be correct.
Back in 2018, league owners passed a rule eliminating a meaningless point after try following a game-winning score. Ironically, the move was made after the Vikings’ “Minneapolis Miracle” in the 2017 playoffs when Stefon Diggs scored an unbelievable touchdown as time expired, giving the Vikings a 29-24 lead. After all of the chaos and celebration inside U.S. Bank Stadium, officials had to pull 11 dejected Saints players out of the locker room for a meaningless extra point. The Vikings ended up just taking a knee a full eight minutes after scoring the touchdown. (You can watch the humiliating sequence for the Saints here.)
So there you have it. You get a walk-off touchdown win, you don’t have to waste everyone’s time with a meaningless extra point. And, honestly, this is a rare good rule from the NFL. It’s much more dramatic to literally walk off after a touchdown, and it avoids an embarrassing scene for the losing team.