The Vikings didn't cover the spread thanks to kneeling for the game-ending XP.

The New Orleans Saints suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs Sunday thanks to a walk-off 61-yard touchdown.

Those who bet on the Vikings -5.5 then suffered a heartbreaking loss of their own, with the extra point delayed almost 10 minutes thanks to everyone milling around on the field and the Saints leaving for the locker room, and Minnesota eventually opting to kneel rather than kick the extra point, making the final 29-24 and giving those who took New Orleans and the points a win.

But the amount of time it took to set up a final play that didn’t affect the final outcome, and which play-by-play commentator Joe Buck called “the most anticlimactic moment in the history of the NFL” (Buck must not have too many guys in the desert), had many wondering why the Vikings were forced to attempt an extra point in the first place, as they wouldn’t have had to do that if they won in overtime.

According to Fox rules analyst Mike Pereira (a former NFL referee and vice-president of officiating), it’s thanks to point differential, which matters in the regular season from a playoff tiebreaking perspective:

That’s not a good reason to have this rule in the playoffs where point differential no longer matters (except for gambling), but it’s presumably something where no one realized that it would be useful to have a different playoff rule until now. After all, this was the first-ever NFL playoff game with a touchdown scored with no time on the clock in the fourth quarter. But now that it’s shown up, it might be worth revising this a bit, especially in cases where one team’s up by more than two points as the result of the touchdown so there’s no chance of even a blocked extra point affecting the outcome.

Pereira went on to make that case himself:

However, some might argue for eliminating those unnecessary converts altogether, even in the regular season. Points only come into play in the seventh tiebreaker, and it seems unlikely that one or two points are too likely to make a difference even there.

Some gamblers in particular might appreciate that, such as the guy who lost $8,000 thanks to an unopposed Patriots’ two-point conversion against the Bills in 1998. Overall, though, it’s understandable why the NFL has this rule in the regular season (and, as CBS’ Will Brinson pointed out Sunday, it appears that the officials could have ended this sooner by just having the Vikings kick or kneel unopposed) thanks to those concerns about point differential (and you’d really hate to see a playoff spot someday decided by a team not kicking the convert thanks to a new rule, even if that’s improbable.

But it feels quite unnecessary to do this in the playoffs. Maybe the NFL will change that going forward, letting games end sooner and not giving gamblers false hope.

[CBS Sports]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.

12 thoughts on “Mike Pereira: Vikings were forced to attempt XP because of regular-season point differential rule, not the spread

  1. I would actually have made the Vikings do an actual kick of the extra point, even if unopposed knowing not only was the point spread in play, but that point or two actually mattered to fantasy players in formats where the kicker is part of it. If the NFL knows the point spread is in play on an extra point, the NFL should have the option to require an actual attempt at the point after with a potential six-figure fine for a kneel down because of fantasy football also affected by that move.

    1. You can’t force a team to do anything. They’ll just “muff” the snap and fall on the ball.

      1. Or the QB will take the snap and immediately heave it into the 4th row behind the goalposts.

        We’re getting into goofy Arena League BS when it comes to end-of-game kneeldowns, too.

        You can’t legislate effort. Teams that have earned the right to take a knee should be allowed to exercise it.

        I’d get rid of the mandatory PAT in *all* situations (unless the game is tied or the scoring team is down by 1 or 2). College didn’t require the try until around 2006, even in a 1-point game, because teams can simply run the victory formation, making a 2-point return play impossible.

    2. HAHA yeah, let’s risk injury for the degenerate gamblers and the useless losers who play that stupid fantasy crap.

      1. Well, “degenerate gamblers” and “stupid fantasy players” are a big reason why the NFL is so popular.

        And yeah, the whole situation is a mess, and those who bet the Vikings at -5.5 deserved what they got, but it is in the rule (Michael Kay went off about this on his 98.7 ESPN New York show yesterday).

    3. Hell NO the NFL does not get anything directly from your bet they do not OWE you who probably bet off shore the right to win your bet. and as for fantasy how the hell do they know what fantasy impact it might have

  2. Andrew – did you really have to use that stupid ‘walk-off’ phrase to describe a player who RAN into the end zone? Good grief!

      1. It’s stupid to me precisely because it’s way, way overused and is completely illogical (that ‘walk vs. run thing I mentioned). Good to know you like annoying things!

  3. “About the try last night. The reason for having to kick the try has nothing to do with point spreads. It has everything to do with point differential. If it was spreads you would have to attempt the try in OT. Point differential is one of the tiebreakers used for playoff seeding.”

    Um, If it’s regular season tiebreakers, then it would make more sense to try the XP in OT during the regular season.

    Minnesota must have determined they were still playing at Philly if they made or missed.

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