a pbu in football means pass break. this refers to a play in which a defensive player tips or knocks down a pass without intercepting the ball. any type of ball contact that results in an incomplete pass is credited as a pbu.
which positions get more pbus
Getting a pass breakup is one of the best plays you can pull off as a defensive player. You’ll notice that every position that earns a lot of pbus tends to wear football gloves.
Reading: What does pbu stand for in football
This is because these players usually have a good chance of intercepting the ball.
The position that by far gets the most pass breakups each season is cornerback. this, of course, makes sense as these players are usually the position that plays closest to the receivers on every snap.
In the 2020 nfl season, carlton davis led the league with twenty-one interrupted passes. in fact, the top 10 pass breakup players last year were all cornerbacks.
safety position is the next most likely job that will give a player some pbus.
the no corner with the most pbuses in 2020 was jesse bates of the cincinnati bengals. his fifteen interrupted passes were good enough to put him 11th in the league last year.
safeties are often tasked with protecting the defensive backfield from deep passes. when these passes arrive, they will often bat or angle the pass away from the receiver.
any type of contact on a pass will count as pbu if the ball is not caught.
Linebacker is another position that can often break up a quarterback’s passes. Linebackers often play under coverage, meaning they cover the area near the line of scrimmage.
QBs often pass over these linebackers to receivers further down the field. in these situations linebackers will raise their hands in an attempt to get into the throwing lane.
This results in a good number of batted balls during a season. these players also play one-on-one coverage and will sometimes break up passes that way.
But you’ll find that most linebackers earn their pbus by tipping or hitting passes intended to go farther down the field.
Defensive tackle is a position many wouldn’t expect to squash passes in football. Since these players hardly ever play pass coverage, many fans don’t know how often these players split passes.
When a defensive tackle realizes he’s not going to catch the quarterback on a pass rush, he’ll start to watch the quarterbacks’ eyes. when the tackle realizes the quarterback is about to throw, he will jump into the air with his hands up.
By watching the quarterbacks’ eyes, these defensive linemen often know which way the quarterback is throwing.
This results in a ton of balls hit at the line of scrimmage. on some occasions, these balls are batted up and caught for an interception.
Are they a good stat to judge your cornerback’s abilities?
Now that you understand what pbuses are, you may be wondering what you can do with this information. Is it as simple as checking the pbus number a defender had to determine if it’s good?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is no, pbus can be a useful stat, but it’s not a good way to judge the quality of your defensive back. here’s why:
When a cornerback is playing at the top of his game, quarterbacks often choose to stay out of his way. That’s because throwing to the best defensive backs in the league generally isn’t good for the offense.
The result of this is that some of the best cornerbacks in the league don’t get many passes their way. for this reason they have a much harder time getting pbus as they have less chance to knock the balls down.
This same standard works for tackles. you will often see corners and protections with a lot of tackling. this is not necessarily a bad sign, but in many situations it is due to poor defense. if the defensive line and linebackers can’t make the tackle, it’s up to the dbs.
This is why you need to make sure you take all factors into account when looking at the stats. this is especially true for defensive players who only make players based on what the offense does. unlike offensive players you can make sure the ball gets to their hands.
Is a dropped interception a pass interruption?
yes, a missed interception is, in fact, a pass interruption. Although these plays are difficult to watch as a fan, they fit all the criteria for a pass breakup. if a throw to a receiver is contacted by a defender and results in an incomplete pass, then it is a pass interruption.
This is another reason why the pbu stat may not be the best judge of the quality of a cornerback or safety.
pass break or intercept
The vast majority of the time a ball comes off defenders, he should get the interception if possible. but on some occasions, it actually makes more sense for a defensive player to hit the ball down rather than intercept it.
digging deeper into the fourth chance
One situation where a player should prioritize a pbu over an interception is when the ball is thrown deep on fourth down.
On fourth down, if the offensive team does not get the ball to the first down marker, they will lose possession. the defensive team will then take possession where their opponents’ drive ended.
intercepting a deep pass on fourth down will allow the defense to gain possession of the ball much farther down the field.
Unless the player who intercepted the ball can return it beyond the place where the opponent’s stroke ended, then he must drop the ball. the superior field position of starting where the opponents drive ended will make knocking down the pass the best play.
A Hail Mary is another occasion where players are instructed to tackle a ball instead of trying to intercept it.
A Hail Mary in football is a long, desperate pass that is usually thrown in the last seconds of a game. on these plays waiting for the ball to get into the arms of a defender is not the smartest move.
By waiting for the ball, the offense has a better chance of finding a way to catch or even rip the ball out of the defender’s hands.
Instead, players are instructed to go for the pbu and intentionally hit the ball in the air. this way defenders can reach the ball first with outstretched hands as they are just looking to get a point on the ball.
and since these plays are made in the final seconds of the game, it doesn’t matter if the ball is intercepted or not.
that’s all on pbus in football for more information on defensive back stats, check out our article on passes defensed.