June 21, 2024

ARLINGTON, Texas — After tying the NFL single-season record for interception returns for a touchdown with his fourth on Sunday, Dallas Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland said he was gunning to set the mark as soon as possible.

He needed just five days.

The second-year cornerback returned an interception 63 yards for the Cowboys’ final score in a 45-10 demolition of the Washington Commanders on Thanksgiving Day.

“It’s great, especially on this day,” Bland said. “Another thing to be thankful for.”

Entering Thursday, Bland had been tied with Eric Allen (1993), Jim Kearney (1972) and Ken Houston (1971) for the record.

Bland has more defensive touchdowns than any other team this season. The Indianapolis Colts are second with three. His five touchdowns are equal to notable offensive players like Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley and Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs.

“We’ve got a lot of games left to play, too, so who knows where he’s going to extend this record?” Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said. “As I said the first time y’all asked me about the guy — helluva player, prepares, does everything the right way. I can’t say that I’m surprised he’s getting the ball in the sense that he is, but it’s incredible to watch him go get these touchdowns and be hungry to get in the end zone. Proud of him.”

Bland’s record-setter came after jumping an out route from Washington’s Sam Howell to Jahan Dotson on second-and-10 from the Dallas 43. After breaking on the ball, the Cowboys sideline erupted as Bland ran downfield. Howell nearly brought him down at the Washington 17, but he sidestepped the quarterback and then eluded Brian Robinson Jr. and Terry McLaurin at the 11 to get in the end zone.

“I wasn’t going to be denied on that one,” said Bland, who added that his family from California was at the game.

The touchdown set off a wild celebration that saw him end up in one of the Salvation Army red kettles, surrounded by at least a dozen teammates. The party lasted so long that coach Mike McCarthy was forced to call a timeout before the point-after attempt.

“I guess there’s some traditions I’m not totally in tune with yet,” McCarthy said. “But I’m glad they worked with us and obviously we took the timeout, too, just to get control of it. Yeah, that’s a big moment, let’s be honest. The sideline erupted. So very happy, very proud of DaRon.”

Bland opened the season with a 22-yard touchdown in Dallas’ 40-0 win against the Giants after Trevon Diggs hit Barkley so hard the ball popped in the air. His second came against the New England Patriots, when quarterback Mac Jones tried to throw back across the field to Kendrick Bourne, and Bland returned it untouched 54 yards for a score. His third — a 30-yard return — came against the Los Angeles Rams when Matthew Stafford was off on a throw to Cooper Kupp.

In Sunday’s win against the Carolina Panthers, Bland undercut a crossing route from Bryce Young to Jonathan Mingo and, after completing a somersault, was able to sprint 30 yards into the end zone.

“It’s one thing to intercept the ball. It’s another thing to mentally expect to take it maybe to the end zone,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “That’s another dimension that I think we all ought to look at. That run he made into the end zone, I don’t care if it was a quarterback trying to tackle him, that run was a determined run.”

Bland was the last player to enter the locker room and was met by a giant roar that was heard out in the hallway.

“I didn’t see anybody,” he said. “I just heard it all. It felt good.”

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