CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cowboys cornerback DaRon Bland knew coming into Sunday’s game he needed one more pick-6 to etch his name into the NFL record books.
Now he wants the record all to himself.
Bland intercepted Carolina Panthers No. 1 pick Bryce Young in the fourth quarter and returned it 30 yards for a touchdown, tying an NFL record with his fourth pick-6 of the season. Only three others — Philadelphia’s Eric Allen (1993), Kansas City’s Jim Kearney (1972) and Houston’s Ken Houston (1971) -- have accomplished that feat in a single year.
“It just makes for another goal for me — to break it,” Bland said after the Cowboys hammered the lowly Panthers 33-10.
Hall of Famer Rod Woodson has the most career pick-6s with 12.
Bland said he approaches every game with an offensive mentality, something he attributes to being a high school wide receiver at Central Catholic in Modesto, California. When he gets the ball in his hands, he's thinking about nothing other than scoring.
That happened on Sunday when he extended his body to catch Young's errant throw and was briefly surprised when Panthers rookie wide receiver Jonathan Mingo was nowhere around to touch him down.
Bland jumped to his feet and took off.
“He was running the under route and he kind of had a step on me at first,” Bland said. “I had to catch up and once I caught and turned and saw the ball I was like, ‘Yes, I have to go get this one.' I only had about three targets today, so I had to make the most of my opportunity.”
On his way to the end zone, Bland juked Young before scoring.
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy called it the play of the game, putting Dallas up 30-10 and all but assuring their fourth win in five games.
The big lead also allowed the Cowboys (7-3) to rest some of their starters in the fourth quarter, which is important because they only have three days to rest up for their Thanksgiving day game against Washington.
“There weren’t a lot of momentum swings in the game and that was clearly the biggest one," McCarthy said. “That’s part of our complimentary. In my view, that was the biggest play made today. Those plays change the course of games and that play clearly put us in the driver’s seat.”
McCarthy said he's come to expect big plays from Bland, a fifth-round pick from Fresno State in 2021.
Bland has 11 interceptions in his first 27 NFL games.
“It’s just remarkable for a young player," McCarthy said. “You just watch the way he plays. It’s a great example of the details that he plays with, especially for a young corner. ... I just can’t say enough about him. He’s done it since the first day."
Bland's score was a part of an outstanding defensive performance from the Cowboys, who sacked Young seven times and limited the Cowboys to 187 yards.
Once again, Bland provided the highlight play.
“When I touched the end zone, I was like, ‘I just did it,’” Bland said. “But now my mindset is about breaking the record.”
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