ARLINGTON, Texas -- Cowboys second-year cornerback DaRon Bland couldn't have entered Week 13 in a better spot. He won NFC Defensive Player of the Month for November, and just a week ago set the NFL single-season record for pick-sixes with his fifth of 2023 against the Commanders.
The Week 13 edition of "Thursday Night Football" against the Seahawks couldn't have gone worse for the NFL season leader in passer-rating-against through the first 12 weeks. Bland, who had allowed just one passing touchdown in coverage in Weeks 1-12, allowed two to Seahawks Pro Bowl wide receiver DK Metcalf, including a 73-yarder in which, for the first time all season, he got burnt attempting to undercut a route in the name of hunting an interception.
Bland had allowed over 100 receiving yards once in 2023, 110 in Week 12 against the Commanders while also hauling in his record-breaking fifth pick-six, but he had that season high smashed Thursday. Bland surrendered 179 receiving yards and two touchdowns. However, he bounced back in the second half, hauling in his NFL-leading eighth interception as the Seahawks scored on only one of their final five drives.
"No, it ain't nothing special," Bland said postgame of rebound performance in the second half. "Didn't have a great first half, you know. Just tried to make it up in the second half. That's all it was."
While he had an unusual first half by his own standards, that play didn't affect his focus when the football came his way in the second half.
"The same thing I always see," Bland said when asked what he saw on his interception. "The quarterback, seeing that he was running quick games, so I saw the receiver and once he ran his route I was there."
Bland's resilience wowed team owner and general manager Jerry Jones even in the midst of mistake-riddled night.
"We admire that [Bland coming back and getting an interception in the second half] because certainly in the NFL you're going to get beat especially at corner," Jones said postgame. "You have to have a mentality to take that proverbial butt kicking that you can get at corner and then you have got to have the desire and the will to have that play in you after you've had a rough night and boy, he had it. To me, I don't know of any quality that I admire more than somebody that has a rough outing and then come back to overcome that and make some key plays."
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The rest of the team also views Thursday as a nice dose of reality in what had been a dream season for Bland as their schedule gets even more difficult going forward: Week 14 vs. the Philadelphia Eagles (10-1), Week 15 at the Buffalo Bills (6-6), Week 16 at the Miami Dolphins (8-3) and Week 17 vs. the Detroit Lions (8-3). Their combined opponents' win percentage of .632 is the third-toughest in the entire NFL.
"Adversity is a good thing," Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said postgame when talking about Bland's night. "You have to have it. You're going to have it, you can't avoid it, it's the National Football. League. This will be a great experience for him. He's wired the right way. He didn't change. He played all the way to the last whistle there. So, this will be good experience for him."