On September 20th, 2020 we at PackersHistory.com publicly decided to begin tracking a new stat we are referring to as Pressure Created Interceptions or “PCIs.” On September 22, 2020 we first published this fleshed-out concept.
A PCI, according to us, refers to a pass rusher directly impacting a quarterback on a throw that leads to an interception. It’s akin to a player getting credit for a forced-fumble and another player getting credit for a fumble recovery. For a PCI, the pass rusher gets credit for causing the interception, and the defender that intercepts the pass obviously gets credit for the interception.
Not every interception will have a PCI just as not every fumble is forced. However every PCI that’s credited will come on a play where a pass was intercepted.
When to Award a PCI to a Defender:
Obviously this is a little subjective. Unlike a forced-fumble, a PCI will have to be assigned by the opinion of the administrator of the stat. The quarterback does not have to be touched for a PCI to be awarded, but a PCI is much more likely to be awarded if the quarterback is touched, hit or pulled toward the ground.
A defender’s raised arms could cause the quarterback to throw the pass off target, a defender’s hands could be on the quarterback or the impending hit could cause a subsequent interception. It’s not the easiest “stat” to describe, but it’s clear when you see it.
A good rule of thumb is to look less at the defender that’s rushing to decide if a PCI should be awarded and look more at the quarterback. If the quarterback is severely changing his throwing motion or angle while a defender is closing in, it’s probably a PCI if the pass is then intercepted. Does the quarterback rush his throw when a defender is closing in? It’s probably a PCI. If a quarterback is being chased, even if he creates a little separation, but then throws an interception it’s likely a PCI.
To reiterate, a PCI is to be awarded to a defender when a quarterback:
1. Is being hit or grabbed by a pass rusher (before, during or immediately after the ball is thrown)
2. Is changing his throwing motion to avoid a defenders’ raised or extended arms to avoid a defender that is within roughly two yards of him
3. Is throwing a pass quickly to get it out of his hand before he’s hit (or thinks he’s going to be hit)
4. Is being obviously chased by a defender and has no other option but to throw (with the defender within roughly two yards)
We have a textbook video of a PCI linked below in the “The Most Famous…” section.
Note: A tipped pass that leads to an interception when the player is more clearly more than two yards from the quarterback is simply recorded as a Pass Defended because pressure wasn’t involved and influencing the quarterback via proximity wasn’t involved.
In those cases, those players probably don’t get the credit they deserve for helping create a turnover. But they still officially get credit for the pass being defended. A pass rusher that helps create an interception might only get credit for a quarterback hit or nothing at all, even though they helped create an interception.
If a quarterback is rushed or influenced but then gets away, sets his feet and cleanly throws a ball that then gets intercepted, a PCI is not awarded to the pass rusher that initially made him move in or out of the pocket. However if the quarterback is fleeing rushers and doesn’t set his feet, a PCI can still be awarded.
A PCI can be split in half if two defenders are both worthy of a PCI on the same play. It obviously can, and does, happen.
Packers PCI Leaders:
So far the Packers have had seven PCIs awarded this year. The first two both went to second year pass rusher Rashan Gary. In Week 1 and Week 2 of the 2020 season Gary greatly impacted the quarterback on a pass that was subsequently intercepted.
We will track this all season and see who ends up on top.
In Week 9 Preston Smith came through with a prototypical PCI on Raven Greene’s interception. You can watch the highlight here; it’s so obvious that Smith made that play happen, Greene was just the beneficiary. And that’s the point, right? Greene gets the big reward on the stat sheet, while Preston doesn’t get any credit — until now, that is.
The Packers got another PCI in Week 10. This time captain Za’Darius Smith hurried the Jaguar’s quarterback, nearly hitting him, and Adrian Amos picked off the pass.
In Week 13 Preston Smith notched his second PCI on a Darnell Savage interception.
The Packers got two PCIs in Week 16 against the Titans. Both Rashan Gary and Preston Smith boasted PCIs as the Packers kept Titans’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill on edge all game in Lambeau Field snow.
Stat of the Year:
Green Bay has intercepted ten passes in 2020 through Week 16, seven of them can be attributed to PCIs. That’s 70% of interceptions, which means the defensive backfield owes some credit to the Packers’ edge rushers.
The 2020 Packers’ defensive lives off of PCIs and it’s clear that they wouldn’t have had nearly as much success this year without them. Sure, some people criticize this defense, but the Packers are 12-3 and their defense has only gotten better as the year has gone on. In terms of PCIs, this was their best defensive game of the year.
But we aren’t just looking at plays from the 2020 season:
We went through 2019’s game tapes and we awarded a PCI on 30% of the interceptions the Packers recorded. (5 on 17 interceptions). Za’Darius Smith led the team with two PCIs in 2019. Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry each had one PCI and Preston Smith and Darnell Savage split a PCI (each earning 1/2 a PCI).
Preston Smith was close to two other PCIs and Za’Darius was close to three other PCIs, but we didn’t think there was enough disruption to award those. We think we were pretty strict on awarding the stat.
However this just shows how impressive Rashan Gary’s start to the 2020 season has been in this category. The 2019 Packers recorded five PCIs and Gary, in two games, has recorded two PCIs in 2020. Man, if he can continue to rush the passer with this much effectiveness — look out.
Looking back to 2018, the Packers registered four PCIs on seven interceptions (57% of of interceptions were PCIs). Matthews, Clinton-Dix, Chis Odom each had one PCI and Blake Martinez and Reggie Gilbert split one PCI.
In 2017 the Packers amassed three PCIs on 10 interceptions (30%). Clay Matthews led the team with two PCIs and Nick Perry had one.
That’s as far back as we’ve gone researching and assigning PCIs so far.
So, Za’Darius Smith in 2019 and Clay Matthews in 2017 both had 2 PCIs to lead the team. Rashan Gary has two PCIs in two games in the 2020 season. That’s how good of a start he’s had this year.
The Future of PCI:
We fully expect this stat to be tracked in the future and we expect it’ll have a different name and we won’t get credited with the idea. We’re okay with that. We just want the damn stat to be officially and faithfully recorded. I’m sure others have came up with something similar in concept before, but we haven’t seen any specific ideas on the topic.
We don’t see this as especially groundbreaking, but it’s far past time for someone to take this stat seriously. Hopefully we help start or add to a conversation regarding this stat and the plays that it celebrates and records.
Have you seen this stat tracked somewhere? Please let us know! Shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with a link, we’d appreciate it.
The NFL’s History of Ignoring, Then Incorporating Stats:
Believe it or not, the NFL has a rich history of not officially recording vital stats only to later start tracking them.
The NFL didn’t start tracking sacks until around 1982.
Tackles weren’t tracked, reliably, until the 1990s. Yeah, it’s crazy.
Passes Defended? 1999. Tackles for loss? 1999. Quarterback hits? 2006.
Forced-fumbles, the stat most akin to Pressure Created Interceptions, weren’t tracked until the 1980s and not reliably until the 1990s.
But the NFL always, eventually, gets it right when it comes to tracking statistics. That is why we are both excited and encouraged to see what the future holds for this stat.
Is 2020 the year that PCI’s get officially tracked? No, that’s unlikely. But by 2025? We might just bet on it. It’s too valuable of a metric to ignore any longer in this league.
Are Pressure Created Interceptions Actually Similar to Forced-Fumbles?
Yes, but what really makes the PCI stat so intriguing is the value attached to it. On a forced-fumble the defender is credited with that stat even if his defense doesn’t recover the fumble. Possession might not change but his action still gets recorded. A PCI is a bit more sacred; it’ll only ever be awarded when there’s a change of possession.
We also don’t think that this stat should be referred to as a “Pressure Induced Turnovers” or anything like that because this stat is specific to interceptions. We are sticking with PCIs; we think it perfectly encapsulates the reality of the situation.
The Most Famous “PCIs” in Packers History:
In the 1966 NFL Championship Game Dave Robinson rushed Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith on the final play of the game. As Meredith broke the pocket to the right Robinson beat his man and chased down the passer. Somehow Meredith got an off-angle pass off despite Robinson’s firm control, and almost sack. But the pass would be intercepted in the end zone by Green Bay’s Tom Brown.
That interception put the Green Bay Packers into Super Bowl I. Without that PCI by Robinson, Vince Lombardi’s Packers might not have won the first two Super Bowls and maybe that trophy has a different name today.
That is the importance of that play, that statistic, and why it should be officially tracked.
But how could anyone ever forget Howard Green’s PCI in the Super Bowl XLV which led to Nick Collins’ iconic pick-six. That play turned that Super Bowl on its head. Previously we’ve been left with saying Green “made a great play on that interception.” Now we have a specific, definable way to credit Green with the impactful play he made. His PCI turned that game on its head.
This specific PCI by Howard Green is a textbook example of this stat. Check out the video footage and notice how the quarterback is affected on the throw that ends up intercepted.
When you think about these two plays it really makes you wonder what other PCIs Packers defenders aren’t getting credit for. Everyone remembers the sack or the interception and they can find them on the stat sheets after the game and years later. But when it comes to the guy who created the interception? That’s been lost to history. But not anymore.
Here’s a more obscure example of how a PCI can impact a game:
Remember the Packers’ overtime win over the Cleveland Browns in 2017? The game they won when Aaron Rodgers was out with an injury (one of nine games an injured Rodgers missed that year). You may remember Davante Adams’ game-tying and then game-winning touchdowns. You might remember Jamaal Williams had two scores. Perhaps you remember Josh Jones’ massive overtime interception which set up the Packers’ game-winning score.
What you probably don’t remember is Clay Matthews’ PCI on Jones’ huge interception. Matthews chased the Browns’ quarterback and eventually hit him as he threw that monumental pass. Jones got celebrated, Adams got celebrated, but Clay should have received more praise. Perhaps he didn’t because that play he made didn’t count as an official stat.
Hopefully in the future such a big play like that will be rewarded with an official stat and people will start to give more credit to “pressure created interceptions” — especially in overtime.
We’ll keep you all updated as the 2020 season unfolds to see which players record PCIs throughout the year and who ends up leading the team. Our money is on Rashan Gary.
Over the next few months and years we’re excited to see how this statistic will evolve (and hopefully spread throughout the league). One day the NFL will recognize this metric as a valuable resource.
What is your favorite PCI in Packers, or NFL, history?