Written by Steve Reed, Associated Press Sports Writer.
DaRon Bland, the cornerback for the Cowboys, was well aware before Sunday’s game that he needed to make one more interception returned for a touchdown in order to secure a spot in the NFL record books.
He desires sole possession of the record.
Bland made a crucial play in the fourth quarter by intercepting the Carolina Panthers’ top draft pick, Bryce Young. He then ran it back for a 30-yard touchdown, matching the NFL record for most pick-6s in a season with four. This feat has only been achieved by three other players in a single year: Eric Allen of Philadelphia in 1993, Jim Kearney of Kansas City in 1972, and Ken Houston of Houston in 1971.
After the Cowboys easily defeated the struggling Panthers 33-10, Bland stated that it adds another goal for him to strive for – to surpass it.
Rod Woodson, a member of the Hall of Fame, holds the record for the most pick-6s in his career with a total of 12.
According to Bland, he has a proactive mindset for each game, which he credits to his experience as a wide receiver in high school at Central Catholic in Modesto, California. When he has possession of the ball, his only focus is on scoring.
On Sunday, he reached out to catch a throw from Young and was momentarily surprised when Panthers’ rookie wide receiver Jonathan Mingo was not there to touch him down.
Bland quickly stood up and began running.
“I was covering the under route and initially, he had a slight advantage over me,” Bland explained. “But I managed to catch up and as soon as I saw the ball, I knew I had to go for it. I only had three chances to make a play today, so I had to capitalize on my opportunity.”
While he was making his way towards the end zone, Bland evaded Young with a quick move before scoring.
Mike McCarthy, coach of the Cowboys, deemed it the most crucial play of the game, giving Dallas a 30-10 lead and essentially securing their fourth victory in five games.
The significant advantage also permitted the Cowboys (7-3) to give their key players a break in the final quarter. This is crucial as they have a short three-day turnaround for their Thanksgiving day match against Washington.
McCarthy stated that there were not many changes in momentum during the game, but the biggest one was evident. This is a crucial aspect of our game strategy. In my opinion, it was the most significant play of the day. These types of plays have the power to shift the direction of the game, and this particular one put us firmly in control.
McCarthy stated that he has grown accustomed to Bland, a fifth-round selection from Fresno State in 2021, making significant contributions on the field.
Bland has recorded a total of 11 interceptions in his first 27 games in the National Football League.
McCarthy praised the young player, stating that his performance is impressive. He admires the way the player pays attention to detail, particularly for a young corner. McCarthy cannot express enough how impressed he is with the player, who has consistently performed well since day one.
The Cowboys’ impressive defense, which included seven sacks on Young and a limit of 187 yards, contributed to Bland’s score.
Once more, Bland delivered the standout performance.
“After reaching the end zone, I felt a sense of accomplishment. But now, my focus is on surpassing the record,” Bland expressed.
The AP NFL website can be found at https://apnews.com/hub/NFL.