Cowboys CB DaRon Bland ties NFL single-season pick-six record with fourth of 2023 after predicting INT pregame


Losing Pro Bowl cornerback Trevon Diggs, whose 18 career interceptions since 2020 are tied for the second-most in the NFL, was a big blow for the Dallas Cowboys‘ defense, but second-year cornerback DaRon Bland, a fifth-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, has seamlessly transitioned to playing outside corner in 2023. Bland recorded his fourth pick-six of the season, tied for the most in a season in NFL history, on Sunday. Bland got a 30-yard interception return touchdown off Panthers rookie Bryce Young’s pass that was intended forJonathan Mingo. The pick-six put the Cowboys up by 20 — a big momentum swing in the Week 11 contest.

“I told my teammates I was going to go get one today,” Bland said to Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews postgame on Sunday. “Actually ending up in the end zone, I didn’t know what to do. I had no celebration at that point. It was good. I felt all my teammates bum rush me.”  

Young had time to throw, and Bland was waiting for him to attempt a pass to the outside flat toward Mingo. Bland is the fourth player in NFL history to have four in a season, but Bland still has seven games left after Sunday’s contest.

“I have to go back to my high school days playing wide receiver and just having that mindset to go get the ball,” Bland said. “Seeing the ball once a receiver hits his break, and I see the ball in the air, I just go get it.”

Most interceptions returned for TDs in a season in NFL History


DAL DaRon Bland



PHI Eric Allen



KC Jim Kearney



Ken Houston


“It means a lot,” Bland said after his third interception return touchdown of the season against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 8. “You know [Trevon] Diggs, he was always wanting to get the ball. Just being able to step in, it feels good.”

Bland was never guaranteed playtime since he was a fifth-round pick out of Sacramento State, but his emergence now has Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones taking a victory lap on his selection during the middle of Bland’s second season. 

“You’ve got to really check that box, you don’t have them right a lot of times when you are picking them in the draft, so he has been in a good situation here but he showed quick,” Jones said postgame in Week 8. “He has had a lot of work, but he deserves it. He’s just what we see. He’s made big plays for us so far this year. He’ll make big plays in my mind the rest of his career.” 

The 24-year-old began his career as a fill-in at nickel cornerback for an injured Jourdan Lewis last season, and he hauled in five interceptions as a rookie in 2022, tied for the fifth-most in the entire NFL. Despite switching positions in 2023 to outside cornerback, Bland has played even better. He is actually playing like the best cornerback in the NFL right now. His 17.5 passer rating allowed entering Week 11 was the lowest in the NFL among players with 25 or more pass attempts thrown their way this season. The next closest player was New Orleans Saints cornerback Paulson Adebo whose 22.8 passer rating is just over five points points higher. 

“That’s why I said he’s that guy,” Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said postgame in Week 8 when asked about Bland’s success moving from being a nickel [inside] corner as a rookie in 2022 to being a boundary [outside] corner in 2023. “Not a lot of guys are able to move positions like that and make the impact that he’s been able to make. Obviously when you lose a guy like Trevon [Diggs], people wonder. When a guy like that steps in and says ‘I’m here and I’m here to play’,  that’s important. That’s huge. He’s a mature man that prepares the right way. He does everything throughout the week. 

“He’s not a big rah rah [guy] and doesn’t even really talk much to be honest with you. He does it within his play on the field, does it in practice. He made some plays on me from Day 1 when he showed up that said this guy knows what he is looking at, knows what he is doing and is confident in himself. He trusts breaking at the right time and making the right plays. He is only going to get better because he’s young and approaches the game the right way. He is only going to see more things that he is confident in jumping. He has another guy on the other side like Stephon to teach him. He has been impressive. This is only the beginning.”

Bland has more pick-sixes this season than Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders had in his five seasons (1995-1999) with the Cowboys (two). During Sanders’ lone NFL Defensive Player of the Year campaign in 1994 with the San Francisco 49ers, he totaled three interception-return touchdowns in 14 games played. Bland’s 11 interceptions lead the NFL since his debut in 2022, six of which have come in 2023. His six interceptions are a career-high and tied for the most in the league this season with Ravens defensive back Geno Stone‘s six. 

“He’s super instinctive and has great ball skills,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said postgame in Week 8. “He’s so consistent for a young player. Not only what he’s done this year but also last year. He’s going to play a long time.”  

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