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‘He’s out there making a difference:’ Julian Blackmon’s latest heroics have Indianapolis Colts buzzing

Indianapolis Colts’ Julian Blackmon (32) intercepts a pass intended for Cincinnati Bengals’ Tyler Boyd (83) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in Indianapolis.
AJ Mast, Associated Press

Julian Blackmon has been a gem in the Indianapolis Colts secondary during the first month-plus of his NFL career.

He showed off that playmaking ability again Sunday, as the rookie out of Utah intercepted a Joe Burrow pass in the final minute, clinching a 31-27 victory for the Colts after Indianapolis fell behind 21-0 just moments into the second quarter.

“That was big, really a great play,” Colts head Frank Reich told reporters in a video press conference. “Obviously, it’s very early in his career, but he’s showing signs of being a big-time playmaker.”

With the Bengals facing a third-and-5 at the Indianapolis 35 and 46 seconds left in the game, Burrow dropped back and fired a quick pass up the middle. Blackmon, though, made a perfect jump on the ball thrown by this year’s top draft pick and snagged the interception in front of intended receiver Tyler Boyd to wrap up the Colts’ comeback.

“I knew he was over there somewhere. I didn’t know he was that tight,” Burrow said of Blackmon, per the Bengals’ website. “I have to make a better play, make a better decision. Tough one.”

Blackmon, who starred in Kyle Whittingham’s secondary at Utah the past four years and prepped at Layton High, also had a pair of solo tackles and a pass deflection in the game while making his fourth straight start at free safety for Indianapolis. It’s his second career interception after getting one two weeks ago in a win over Chicago — that one, too, came in the fourth quarter, with the Bears driving in Colts territory.

“Week in and week out, he’s making plays in practice and it transfers over in to games. You gain so much trust in a guy like him,” Indianapolis defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said of Blackmon. “He’s only a rookie, and he’s out there making a difference. He’s a playmaker, and guys feed off that energy.”

Blackmon’s play so far caused Indianapolis Star sports columnist Gregg Doyel to make a strong statement after his interception Sunday. Doyel wrote on Twitter, “Colts safety Julian Blackmon doesn’t just have ‘it.’ He IS ‘it.’”

Cincinnati led 21-0 and 24-7 behind Burrow, the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner, before the Colts defense clamped down. This came one week after Indianapolis allowed Cleveland to build a 20-10 halftime lead in an eventual 32-23 Colts loss.

Blackmon showed confidence in his teammates, and their ability to recover from long stretches where they struggle.

“We’re a team that can handle adversity. We’re a team that comes back from anything — going down 21-0 in the (first) half and making the adjustments we made to get back. I’d say we’re a fighting team,” Blackmon told reporters.