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Dallas Cowboys CB DaRon Bland makes himself known with pick-six record on Thanksgiving Day

If you didn’t know DaRon Bland’s name and story before his Thanksgiving Day performance, that’s OK.

After all, the former fifth-round pick is admittedly a man of few words.

He played three seasons at Sacramento State – his only scholarship offer – before transferring to Fresno State for his final season.

He played only 52 percent of the defensive snaps last season, primarily in the slot, but led the Cowboys with five interceptions.

It was the most interceptions by a Dallas rookie since Roy Williams and Derek Ross had five in 2002.

This season, DaRon Bland leads the NFL with seven interceptions. He has 12 over the last two NFL seasons.

No player has more.

He returned his fifth interception for a touchdown against Washington to set an NFL record.

He had been tied with Philadelphia’s Eric Allen (1993), Kansas City’s Jim Kearney (1973), and Ken Houston (1971) with four returns.

DaRon Bland sets record on national stage

When you set the record in front of a national audience on a holiday where folks build dinner around the football game, people will learn your name.

“You can’t go in chasing a pick-six, or you’re going (to get) a touchdown scored on you,” Bland said recently. “When it comes to you, just be ready.

“Any time the ball comes near me, I’m trying to think what can I do to pick it up.”

Bland stepped in front of a Jahan Dotson out route, intercepted Sam Howell’s pass, and sprinted down the sideline.

He eluded three Washington players on the record-setting 63-yard return that gave Dallas a 45-10 fourth-quarter lead.

In the celebratory locker room, coach Mike McCarthy presented him with the game ball, the same one Bland intercepted to make history.

“Seeing the ball, seeing the receiver run an out-route, I just had to go get it,” Bland said during an on-field interview. “All I seen was open field, and I wasn’t going to be denied.”

“That’s a big moment. Let’s be honest. The sideline erupted,” head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters. “It’s good to celebrate, and you need to. It would help if you smelled the roses when you walk through the garden, as our guys did today. Because when you’re on the other side, it’s hard.”

DaRon Bland is ‘a man of few words’

His teammates demanded a speech.

“You know I’m a man of few words,” Bland said. “So I’m just going to let you know I appreciate y’all. I’m thankful for y’all. It was a great win.”

Bland’s other touchdown returns came against the New York Giants in Week 1, New England in Week 4, the Los Angeles Rams in Week 8, and Carolina in Week 10.

Bland started the season as the Cowboys’ starting slot cornerback. He moved outside after Trevon
Diggs tore his ACL in practice the week.

Diggs led the NFL with 11 interceptions in 2021 and had 15 in his last 35 games before the injury.

But Bland is the kind of player who seems to always be around the ball, so the coaching staff
believed he’d be fine playing outside.

“There’s a lot of things for me, as a coach, I look for,” Cowboys assistant coach Al Harris told The Dallas Morning News last month. “One simple, simple thing is how guys match outbreaking routes. A lot of times, when you see guys matching the outbreakers, [snaps fingers] those are the guys you want because outbreaking routes are interception opportunities.

“If I have to teach you that part of it, to be aggressive to that, I can do it, but it’s not in you. When you have those guys that it’s in them, you just give them their read, and they get the ball.”

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