October 29, 2023   4 MIN READ

Reed And React

Blankenship's 4Q Pick Created Avalanche Impact For Birds vs. Commanders


LANDOVER, Md. – Standing at his locker, nestled deep within the confines of FedEx Field, Reed Blankenship turned to greet a sea of reporters, refusing to pull any punches during what felt like an inquisition.

Blankenship, in his return to the starting lineup following a one-game injury absence, patrolled the middle of a leaky Eagles secondary Sunday afternoon, providing little resistance against Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell, who completed 39-of-52 pass attempts for 397 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.

Blankenship, for his part, allowed six catches for 75 yards and a touchdown – but his fourth-quarter atonement ultimately swung the see-saw divisional matchup back toward the Eagles.

With the score tied at 24-24, Blankenship read Howell’s eyes and secured an interception, returning possession to the Eagles’ offense at the Washington 15-yard line.

“One of our main things was, believe,” Blankenship said after the game, a 38-31 Eagles win. “And honestly, I take this game kind of personal.

“I didn’t get a lot of my job done today. But at the end of the day, you gotta go back and fix your mistakes. But a win is a win. I believe tonight, everybody else around me on offense and defense got the job done. So, that’s all that matters.”

Reed Blankenship

GETTY IMAGES: Reed Blankenship overcame a tough start to come through with a game-changing interception.

Two plays after Blankenship’s pick, the offense cashed in with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Jalen Hurts to wide receiver Julio Jones – Jones’ first touchdown as an Eagle – for the go-ahead score.

The sequence epitomized the manner in which good, strong-willed teams play in the face of adversity.

Moreover, the momentum shift was indisputable, and essentially became the start of Eagles avalanche against the overmatched Commanders who had been playing above their expectations.

Howell’s interception was the mistake his team couldn’t afford to make.

“We were just waiting to capitalize on an opportunity and the opportunity came,” Blankenship said. “And you gotta make a play on the ball, especially in that crucial point in the game.”

For perspective, the Commanders endured four-and-outs on consecutive series.

Their most sure-handed receiver, Terry McLaurin, dropped a catchable 4th-and-8.

And on a subsequent 4th-and-5, Howell – who hadn’t been dropped for a sack all afternoon – hit the deck to return possession to the Eagles at the Washington 16.

“It’s big time,” said rookie safety Sydney Brown, who played all over the secondary. “Those are the plays that we need, especially in those situations. I thought we’ve been in a little bit of a drought turnover-wise on defense, but whenever we can take the ball out of the sky and do something like that, that’s big.

“Kudos to [Reed] for staying locked in and doing his job, snap in and snap out and not letting a couple plays turn into an avalanche. I think that’s big, and that’s why Reed who he is and that’s why he’s a pro.”

Blankenship, the second-year defensive back, has mostly been steady since his promotion to starter, so his uneven performance against Washington should be viewed as unusual, but backend blunders weren’t limited to Blankenship.

Veteran cornerback James Bradberry, considered among the league’s best, surrendered a pair of touchdowns.

Brown, a rookie, allowed four completions for 41 yards and a touchdown in his first extensive action playing slot cornerback.

The middle of the field was largely free reign for Commanders receivers to find soft spots in zone.

The Washington pass-catching quartet of Jahan Dotson, Jamison Crowder, Logan Thomas and McLaurin accounted for 26 catches, 310 yards and four touchdowns.

While Howell deserves a hat tip for his execution, and offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy also for conjuring a tactical gameplan to neutralize a fast-flowing Eagles defense, it shouldn’t go unnoticed that the Eagles were working new faces into their secondary.

Brown just recently returned from a hamstring injury and veteran safety Kevin Byard, acquired Monday in a trade with Tennessee, played his first game with the team.

But for Blankenship to bounce back from seemingly every target in his vicinity finding its intended receiver to come up with a game-changing play speaks to his stoic demeanor, confidence and fortitude.

When a play needed to be made, the 24-year-old compartmentalized a tumultuous three quarters to create a spark.

Blankenship vowed to correct his flaws, which he said were leverage deficiencies – such as the touchdown connection from Howell to Thomas – and “just not playing with good eyes,” going forward.

“[Reed’s] just resilient, man,” Bradberry said. “Strong-willed man, mentally strong. You know, he’s a playmaker for us, and he made a big play in a key situation when we needed it.”

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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