What is a PBU in Football? Defensive Playmaking and Strategies

Football is an exciting game with thrilling plays. While watching a football match, you might have seen the word PBU and wondered what it’s about. What is the definition of a PBU for football?

What is a PBU in Football?

The term “PBU” (pass breakup) in football is the ability of a defensive player to stop the completion of a pass by affecting the receiver’s capacity to take the ball. It is an essential defensive technique that can disrupt the offensive momentum and alter the direction of a game.

A PBU happens when a defensive player can deflect or knock down a ball intended for a receiver.

If a defensive player interferes with a pass and results in an incomplete pass, it’s called the pass breakup (PBU). 

There are a variety of ways to accomplish this, such as:

  • Striking the Ball: The player strikes the ball from the receiver’s grasp by hitting it with their hand while it’s up in the air.
  • Deflecting the Pass: The defender changes the trajectory of the ball with their arms, hands, or bodies to alter the direction of the ball instead of striking it directly in order to stop a pass.
  • Interfering with the Receiver: By exerting physical pressure in the direction of the receiver or timing their leap in time with their receiver’s efforts to catch the ball, the defender blocks the receiver from making the catch.

This crucial move can change the course of the game and can show the player’s expertise in recognizing and responding to offensive team strategies.

It’s important to keep in mind that defenders must make a clear and decisive step that leads immediately to an unfinished pass to be able to count as PBU.

Read also: How Many Quarters Are in a Football Game? [NFL, College, High School, Youth]

What is another name for PBU ?

Other terms for PBUs include:

  • A pass knockdown
  • Breakup of a pass
  • Pass defense
  • Pass defended

What is Considered a Pass Breakup?

Pass breakups in football refer to a situation in which a defensive player deflects the throw or pass of the offensive team.

Some of the situations where pass breakups are considered include:

  • A defensive player hits or blocks the ball using their hands.
  • A portion of the arm pushes the ball down.
  • Hitting the receiver the very moment he catches the ball and knocking the ball down.
  • The receiver is hit just shortly after he catches the ball.
  • Dropping an interception.

It’s also important to remember that a defender hitting a receiver before catching the ball leads to pass interference.

What Position Has the Highest PBU Rate?

Due to their defensive role, certain players have more opportunities to play breakups in passes. The following positions generally have the highest number of PBUs


Sometimes, they are referred to as “corners,” cornerbacks are generally responsible for blocking wide receivers. They are often involved in one-on-one coverage and have many opportunities to block passes intended for receivers. They excel at recording PBUs because of their speed and agility, as well as their capabilities in covering.


Safeties are defensive players who form the defensive deep secondary. They are responsible for providing support and coverage over the top and are often defending against deep passes. When defending tight ends, slot receivers,, or making plays with the ball in the open field, safety players are able to disrupt passes, even though they typically earn lower PBUs than cornerbacks.


In pass defense, linebackers are primarily responsible for covering short-to-intermediate routes and stopping the run. Linebackers that excel in pass coverage are able to make significant plays when they intercept passes designed by running backs and tight ends, even though they might not have as many PBUs as safetyties or cornerbacks.

Defensive tackles

Because of their defensive line position, defensive tackles typically concentrate on stopping the running and rushing passers and are less likely to score PBUs. They might also be able to use their hands to intercept or block passes near an area of play in certain conditions.

It’s crucial to keep in mind that the skill of a player and technique, their playing time, and defensive strategies employed by their team may affect the amount of PBUs they accumulate.

Importance of PBUs in Football

PBUs are important in football since they reveal how well the defense is performing.

Defensive players can prevent the offense from scoring yards and scoring points by disrupting passing.

Successful PBUs signify that the defender was competent to:

  • Respond quickly to the decision of the quarterback
  • Close the gap between themselves and the receiver
  • Make contact with the ball, resulting in an incomplete pass

Here are the main reasons PBUs are significant in games

Preventing Big Plays

The main objective of PBUs is to prevent the offensive team from executing a major play or even scoring an important touchdown.

Defenders can halt the momentum of their opponent by tumbling or knocking over the pass. The opposing team will need to reconsider their strategy.

Boosting Defensive Morale

A PBU record shows the player’s ability and increases confidence in the defense in general.

If a pass is successfully intercepted, it gives the defense a boost in energy and drive to keep making more stops throughout the game.

Field Position Advantages

The defense could cause the offense to suffer throughout the game by snatching passes.

  • This could result in an increase in tension on the quarterback. 
  • It could lead to poor decisions and even more mistakes, such as fumbles or losing the ball.

This provides the team that defends better with an advantage when it comes to field position.

Performance Evaluation

While interceptions are generally thought of as superior, PBUs can also demonstrate how well cornerbacks, as well as safeties, are able to perform.

If a defensive member has a high number of PBU, it means they continuously confront the receivers they oppose. This is crucial in limiting the opposition teams’ passing.

Ultimately, the significance of PBUs in football games can’t be overstated. These plays are essential to keeping a solid defensive presence, preventing major plays, and ultimately, contributing to the overall performance of a team.

Is PBU stat a good stat judge for a Cornerback’s Quality?

Some say yes, while others say No! I would say yes! PBU stats can be a useful measure of your cornerback’s quality. It will show how many times the player was involved in interceptions or passes blocked. If you take a look at this statistic, it can determine whether your cornerbacks are beginning to get better or not; however, it does not accurately reflect the level of skill of cornerbacks, but it can be useful in determining the quality. Here’s why:

When a cornerback is at the top of his game, quarterbacks usually prefer to stay clear of him. This is because throwing towards the best defensive backs of the league generally does not work well for the offensive.

The result of this is that some of the top corners in the league do not receive many passes in their direction. This is why they are less likely to score PBUs because they have fewer chances of hitting the ball.

The same principle applies to tackles. There are times when you observe safeties or corners that have an abundance of tackles. It’s not necessarily a bad signal, but in a lot of situations, it is because of inadequate defense. If the linebackers and defensive line cannot make the tackle, it’s up to the DBs.

This is why you need to ensure that you consider all variables when analyzing statistics. This is especially important for defensive players who choose their players based on the actions of the offensive team. Contrary to offensive players, you can guarantee that the ball will land in their hands.

If they’re improving their skills, this means they’re improving their ability to cover players and break down passes.

If they’re not making improvements on their performance, that suggests they need to train on their man-to-man coverage abilities before attempting zone coverage where no one can get open easily because everyone has an angle closed off by another player who knows where he needs to be placed downfield when passing routes come across his path.

Does A Dropped Interception Count As A Pass Breakup?

A pass breakup happens when a player gets his hands on the ball but can’t take it to his rival. This is distinct from a “dropped” interception, which means that the defender did not take the ball or catch it.

Dropped interceptions can be regarded as a pass breakup. It can be challenging scenario for both coaches and fans. If an intercept is successful, fans expect the defense to make an offense and get the touchdown, but sometimes, the defender throws the ball away for some reason. If this happens, the play is deemed to be a pass breakup.

This can be a reason you cannot use the number of PBUs a defender has to accurately measure their quality.

Most PBUs in an NFL Season

Darrelle Revis, a former cornerback with the New York Jets, holds the record for the most PBUs in the course of a single season. With his record-breaking 31 PBUs in his 2009 NFL season, Revis showed his superb ball-hawking skills and coverage abilities.

Most PBUs in NFL History

Champ Bailey is a cornerback who was a part of several teams during his career and is the record holder for the highest number of PBUs during a single career. In his time with the NFL, Bailey amassed 203 PBUs, which shows his penchant to block opposing quarterbacks’ attempts at passing.

Coaching and Strategies for Improving PBUs

In football, various coaching strategies and methods can aid defensive players in improving their ability to produce PBUs.

Below is a rundown of the most important techniques and suggestions for athletes seeking to increase their ability to break up passes.

Technique Acquisition

Defensive athletes must know the correct method to break up a pass. The coaches should concentrate on teaching these techniques:

Identification of offensive patterns 

Identifying the offensive team’s pass routes and formations allows defensive players to identify potential targets and pass tracks.

Eye-sight discipline 

Keeping track of a quarterback’s eyes can give clues as to what the player is looking for and help improve the defensive player’s position to get a PBU.

Reacting to Throw

Once the player spots a thrown pass, the defender must utilize their proper hand placement to slam or tuck it away from the receiver.

Drills that are specific to the position

Alongside teaching correct technique, coaches must use position-specific drills that are tailored to players in order to get more PBUs. These drills can include:

Mirror drills

These drills assist cornerbacks as well as safeties improve their footwork and reflex skills to be in sync with the routes of receivers.

Ball drills

Defensive players train on tracking and reacting to balls that are thrown, aiding them in increasing their ability to find and break up passes.

Man-to-man and zone-coverage drills

These drills permit players to test their abilities in various strategies of coverage, evaluating their ability to recognize quarterbacks and interrupt passes in a variety of situations.

Conditioning and strength

Physical attributes play a major part in the ability of a player to consistently produce PBUs. Focusing on specific zones of conditioning and strength may result in significant improvements in performance:

Speed and agility 

To keep pace with fast receivers, defensive players must focus on increasing their sprinting speed and overall agility. Cone drills and plyometric exercises are efficient ways to improve these qualities.

Ability to Jump

For efficiently breaking passes, having a good vertical leap is crucial. Incorporating box jumps, deep jumps, and other exercises can enhance the ability of a player to jump.

Core and upper body strength

Increasing functional strength, specifically in the arms, shoulders, and core muscles, can allow players to successfully take down or block passes. Training routines that target these muscle groups could contribute to better performance when it comes to making PBUs.

Through focusing on correct techniques, drills that are specific to the position, as well as targeted strength and conditioning, defensive players will improve their ability to stop passes and help the team’s overall defense.


A PBU, also known as a pass breakup, can be an essential statistic for football’s defense. Defensive players, particularly those in the secondary, try to attain high PBU numbers because it demonstrates their ability to block passing errors and impede the other team’s passing game. PBUs are the result of knocking down or redirecting passes, which leads to incomplete passes.

Although all defensive players can be credited with PBUs, players in the secondary, like cornerbacks and safeties, tend to be the ones to accumulate the most. The importance of PBUs is the importance of defensive pass-rush in modern football, stressing the importance of defensive players doing their best at breaking up passes.

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