Todd ArcherESPN Staff Writer4 Minute Read
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With his fourth interception return for a touchdown on the season, Dallas Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland matched something done by only three other players in NFL history.
“Honestly, it hasn’t hit me,” Bland said. “I feel like I’m really just kind of doing my job. That kind of stuff, I feel like I’ve been doing. I’ve felt like myself, so it’s not really ever hit me because it feel like it’s just another day.”
Bland’s 30-yard interception return was the final exclamation point in the Cowboys’ 33-10 win against the Carolina Panthers with Dallas turning a 17-10 advantage into a 20-point edge in a matter of 10 seconds in the fourth quarter.
“That, in my view, was the biggest play that was made today,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “But those plays change the course of games. That definitely clearly put us in the driver’s seat.”
The only other players with four pick-sixes in a season are Eric Allen (1993), Jim Kearney (1972) and Ken Houston (1971). With seven games remaining, Bland has added a goal.
“Definitely going to try to break the record now,” Bland said. “I got to have some more in there.”
Tony Pollard’s 21-yard touchdown run had the one-win Panthers on the cliff of a defeat, and on first down on the ensuing series Bryce Young looked for wide receiver Jonathan Mingo on a shallow crossing route.
“He kind of had a step on me at first so I had to catch up and once I caught up, I turned and I seen the ball, I was like, ‘Yes, I got to go get this one,’ because I only had about three targets,” Bland said, “so I had to make the most of my opportunities.”
Bland extended for the ball, completed a forward roll and then got up for the end zone. He was able to run away from Mingo, then cut inside Young before getting to the end zone.
Of all of his pick-sixes, Bland said this was his best.
“Just having to actually run the ball, having to make some moves and actually getting up like that, you don’t really get to return like that,” Bland said.
That he can rank his interception returns for touchdowns is not something a lot of defenders can do. His four touchdowns are tied for second on the Cowboys with tight end Jake Ferguson and two behind CeeDee Lamb.
“Yeah, that’s crazy when you think about it,” Bland said.
It gets crazier. He has as many touchdowns as Pro Bowl receivers Davante Adams and DeAndre Hopkins. No other team has four defensive touchdowns this season.
Bland opened the season with a 22-yard touchdown in the 40-0 win against the New York Giants after Trevon Diggs hit Saquon Barkley so hard the ball popped in the air.
His second came in Week 4 against the New England Patriots when quarterback Mac Jones tried to throw back across the field to Kendrick Bourne. Bland returned that one 54 yards for a score. Two weeks later, he had his third against the Los Angeles Rams when Matthew Stafford was off on a throw to Cooper Kupp, returning it 30 yards.
Bland opened the season as the Cowboys’ third corner, but Diggs suffered a torn ACL in practice before the third game of the season.
Bland, a fifth-round pick last year, has an NFL-best 11 interceptions in the first 27 games of his career.
“It’s remarkable,” Micah Parsons said. “It’s really wonderful to see. I’ve only seen one other guy do it since I been here and those two guys are truly special. And in their own unique way. Tre’s more the flash, like, ‘I’m that guy,’ and DB’s more like, ‘I’m here so I’m going to get the most out of it.’ Two different guys but same mindset when it comes to that ball.”