Blidi Wreh-Wilson hasn't been at the forefront of the Falcons defense during his five years in Atlanta, but he is a trusted, crucial member of the secondary.
In the Falcons' 25-17 win against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday, Wreh-Wilson stepped right into the spotlight to clinch the victory for Atlanta. On a third-and-6 on the Falcons' 30-yard line with 1:04 remaining in the game, Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater took a deep shot down the left sideline. Reading the pass the entire way, Wreh-Wilson ran underneath it and came away with the game-winning interception.
It was just the third interception of his career, but the second of the season for Wreh-Wilson, who also intercepted Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky in Week 3. Just when the Falcons were looking for a player to come through with a big play at the end of a game, Wreh-Wilson stepped up. When asked about the last time he could remember being involved in such a play, Wreh-Wilson's answer raised some eyebrows.
"The last time I had a game-winning interception would be at Connecticut, actually, against Louisville, it was Teddy Bridgewater," Wreh-Wilson said. "He threw a back-shoulder fade in the third overtime, and I picked it and we kicked a field goal to win."
That's right, the last time Wreh-Wilson secured an interception that helped his team win the game late came against the very quarterback he did it against on Thursday. Funny how things like that happen.
The previous game in question occurred on Nov. 24, 2012. The Huskies entered the game with a 4-6 record and faced a No. 20-ranked Cardinals team that boasted a 9-1 record and sought a BCS bowl bid. After mounting a 10-point comeback in the fourth quarter, the Cardinals took the game into overtime with the score tied at 10, apiece.
Each team scored a touchdown and a field goal in the first two overtimes, setting up a third-and-goal at the 5-yard line for Louisville in the third overtime. Bridgewater looked in the direction of DeVante Parker, who has gone on to become a successful player with the Miami Dolphins, but it was Wreh-Wilson who made the play instead.
On Thursday, the Falcons corner again trusted his instincts against Bridgewater.
"It really wasn't my responsibility," Wreh-Wilson said of the Falcons' coverage on the final defensive play. "I had off coverage, and they were able to get [Bridgewater] off the spot. He was rolling out to our right, and I flipped my hips and I saw the ball, and I was able to make the play."
The Falcons won't be playing Bridgewater every week – or even again in the 2020 season – but Wreh-Wilson's latest game-winning pick off of him may be the spark Atlanta's defense needs to start trending in the right direction.
Atlanta's secondary was particularly effective, complementing the pass rush and limiting Bridgewater to just 15-of-23 passing for 176 yards with one touchdown and that fateful interception. With the Falcons potentially getting Darqueze Dennard back in the secondary soon and rookie A.J. Terrell finding his stride, Atlanta may finally begin to see what they were hoping for this offseason.
If that does indeed prove to be the case, Wreh-Wilson's interception may be looked back upon as the catalyst.
"We've been talking about ending games with either sacks or interceptions," Falcons interim coach Raheem Morris said after the game. "The guys went out today and did exactly that. The ball went up in the air and Blidi came down and made a great play. It was awesome."
Cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson made an interception Thursday night to secure the win against the Carolina Panthers.