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Bengals “Bounty Hunter” In Pursuit Of First Sack

Posted by Dan Hoard on October 6, 2011 – 3:58 pm

After setting a Bengals rookie record with 9.5 sacks last year, Carlos Dunlap is still looking for his first sack in 2011.

“I want to lead the NFL in sacks,” Dunlap told me.  “Right now I’m not off to a good start, but we’re off to a better start as a team so that’s all that matters.”

The 22-year-old defensive end is the team leader in QB hurries with eight – twice as many as any other Bengal.

“He’s doing fine and I told him that he just has to keep working because the sacks will come,” said defensive line coach Jay Hayes.  “He’s gotten a lot of pressure on people throughout the year.  He missed all of training camp basically.  He came out and was firing all of his guns when he first got into camp and then he got injured and missed three or four weeks.  So now, he’s just hitting his stride.  He’s going to get sacks – they’re going to come – and he can get them in bunches.”

Carlos is 6’6”, 289 pounds, and reportedly ran a 4.57 40-yard dash at his University of Florida pro day before the Bengals drafted him in the second round last year.  Dunlap’s high school team in North Charleston, SC even used him as a kick returner. 

“I actually returned one for a touchdown against A.J. Green’s team,” said Dunlap.  “It was a big rivalry game and on the first play, they kicked it to me and I took it back to the house.  A couple of the coaches here don’t believe that I actually did that so they talk about it all the time.  I think you can actually find it on YouTube (you can watch it here).”

“It was crazy to see a human being that big running down the field that fast,” said A.J. Green.  “He’s always talking about it.”

In addition to his athletic gifts, Dunlap received unique training for chasing down quarterbacks while working for his father, Carlos Sr., in Charleston, SC.

“I worked for my dad as a bounty hunter,” said Dunlap.  “He’s a bail bondsman so if guys jumped bail, me and my brother would have to help hunt ‘em down.  If they ran, we were the guys to run them down.  We would tackle them and wait until my dad got there with the cuffs.

“When guys had gun charges, my dad wouldn’t let us go – he would take my uncle.  But if it was a simple misdemeanor or something like that, my dad would let us go with him.”

Dunlap says that sacking a quarterback is easy in comparison.

“It’s a lot easier to tackle them in football because getting away from you is not as important,” Carlos said with a laugh.  “Plus, you’re not tackling on concrete.”

Dunlap will be in hot pursuit of Jaguars rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert on Sunday, but his performance should not be judged on whether he is able to record his first sack of the season.

“A guy can get two sacks in a game and get his butt kicked for 70 plays,” said Coach Hayes.  “Because of two good plays everybody thinks that he had a great game.  We want to keep the quarterback in the pocket and make him throw out of a well.  We want to harass him, we want to hit him, and we want to get him on the ground.”

* * * * *

 I hope you’ll join Artrell Hawkins and me for “Bengals Pep Rally” on Friday afternoon from 3 to 6 live from the Firehouse Grill in Blue Ash.  The show can be heard on ESPN 1530-AM.

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@bengals.nfl.net

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

And I’m on Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.


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Nothing Crazy Required In Knocking Off Bills

Posted by Dan Hoard on October 3, 2011 – 10:56 am

Here’s the key stat from Sunday’s 23-20 win over the Buffalo Bills:  Brian Moorman punted eight times.  That’s one more time than San Francisco’s Andy Lee punted last week.

It’s proof that there was nothing flukish about the Bengals victory.  No Franco Harris “Immaculate Reception”…no Herm Edwards “Miracle at the Meadowlands”…no Tom Brady “Tuck Rule”…just the Bengals defense forcing the NFL’s highest-scoring offense to punt 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 times.

“They’re playing really well and it was an awesome effort,” said head coach Marvin Lewis.  “We told them, ‘You can’t give up big plays against this offense.  Just make them drive the field and keep playing.’  They just kept playing series after series.”

“We made them check it down a lot and throw a lot of short passes,” said safety Chris Crocker.  “They’re going to make catches – just tackle ‘em and get off the field.”

Oddly enough, the luckiest bounces went to Buffalo:  A Ryan Fitzpatrick pass into double-coverage that was deflected to Naaman Roosevelt for a 28 yard gain, and an Andy Dalton pass that bounced off the leg of Andre Caldwell right into the hands of Bryan Scott for a Pick 6.

“This game never comes out as it’s scripted,” said Crocker.  “On offense, you can throw a great ball and it gets tipped and they pick it off and run it in.  Anything can happen in this game and you just keep playing.  You don’t worry about what they are doing on the other side of the ball.  You just worry about doing your job and kicking your man’s butt across from you on every single play.”

But largely due to those two fortuitous bounces, Buffalo led 17-3 at the half. Cincinnati’s defense had done its job while the offense had done next-to-nothing.

“We just needed to go back and do the things that we practiced diligently all week,” said Coach Lewis.  “We had a great week of practice.  We get ahead of ourselves too much.  We just have to relax and do the things that we’re coached to do.”

“We were killing ourselves in the first half,” said quarterback Andy Dalton.  “There was some miscommunication on some things and everybody took a turn.”

“We huddled up at half and said, ‘We have to stick together.  No more individual talk and stuff like that.  We just have to stick together,’” said receiver A.J. Green.  “That’s what we did.”

Indeed. 

The Bengals scored on four of their five second-half drives and outgained the high-octane Bills 458-to-273 overall.  After posting a QB rating of 15.8 in the first half, Dalton went 11-16 for 182 yards in the second half for a QB rating of 127.6.

“He’s not easily rattled,” said left tackle Andrew Whitworth.  “Good or bad, he continues to play and hang in there.  For a young guy that’s awesome.  You can give him all the crap that you want and he can take it.  He’s going to get better and we have to get better around him and we can be a special offense.” 

“The fight in his eyes in the second half was unbelievable,” said Green.  “He’s from TCU so he knows how to win.  We’re blessed to have him as our quarterback.”

“I’m not worried about him,” said Crocker.  “He’s coached well and he knows where to go with the ball.  I think he learns a different lesson each week.”

Marvin Lewis hopes that everyone in the locker room learned a lesson against Buffalo.

“They don’t understand how talented that we are,” said Lewis.  “But we have to work really diligently and you can’t beat yourself.  We had a couple of penalties in the first half – beats yourself.  We dropped a ball – beats yourself.  We missed an assignment – beats yourself.  We hurried a throw – beats yourself.  We just have to keep coaching that and correcting it and we’ll be fine.”   

“The defense keeps playing their tails off and keeps getting better and better,” said Whitworth.  “Offensively, we have got to continue to try to keep up.  The talent is there – these guys show it week in and week out.  We just have to get them to realize that when it comes to game time, it’s no different.  Just go out there and show your ability.”

“We have a lot of young talent here,” said Dalton.  “A lot of guys that are fighting and competing.  It’s going to be a lot of fun here.”

It doesn’t get much better than knocking off the undefeated Bills.

Who knew that watching a guy punt could be so enjoyable?

* * * * *

I hope you’ll join Dave Lapham and me for “Bengals Gameplan” on Wednesday night from 6 to 8 and Artrell Hawkins and me for “Bengals Pep Rally” on Friday afternoon from 3 to 6 live from the Firehouse Grill in Blue Ash.  Both shows can be heard on ESPN 1530-AM.

I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@bengals.nfl.net

If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard

And I’m on Facebook.  Just search for Dan Hoard and look for the photo of me with the handsome lad.


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Of QBs, comebacks and hope

Posted by hobsonschoice1 on October 2, 2011 – 7:33 am

Andy Dalton

The Bills are here to play the Bengals today and that conjures up the concepts of comebacks and grace under pressure and all the things that make quarterbacks, fans and the endless crusade of hope.

As head coach Marvin Lewis would say, today is a good teaching point for one A. Dalton, the promising Bengals rookie quarterback who two weeks ago came within a yard of pulling off a road fourth-quarter comeback in his first NFL complete game.

But, of course, one team’s comeback is another team’s collapse.

This past week saw all-timers on both fronts when the Red Sox turned baseball into Shakespeare and alternated tragedy with comedy while blowing the biggest lead in the history of their sport to somehow miss the postseason. That was a few days after these Bills, naturally, did in the Patriots to become the first team in NFL history to win two straight weeks after being down 21-0.

If you grew up on the outskirts of Boston in the late 1960s and fell in love with sports because of The Impossible Dream Red Sox and their 1967 season, then watching the biggest collapse of all-time is saying something. While those Sox made comebacks an almost daily occurrence, their unfortunate ancestors never held any kind of a lead that mattered until the new century.

The Septembers of 1974 and 1978 scarred a generation, and a 1986 World Series that featured evaporated leads of 3-2 in games, 5-3 in the 10th inning of Game 6 and 3-0 in the sixth inning of Game 7 altered the brain chemistry forever.

Enough so that on the final day of this season decades and championships removed, when the Red Sox had a one-run lead in a rain delay and the Rays begun to rustle in Tampa, true Sox fans already knew.

“I went to bed during the delay,” admitted Frank Champi from his New England home last week. “You could tell. Maybe because I experienced it myself. They say it’s not over until it’s over, but at some point you know how it’s going to turn out.”

If you grew up on the outskirts of Boston in the late 1960s and were watching TV on the afternoon of Nov. 23, 1968, you fell in love with football because of Frank Champi. Summoned from the bench with unbeaten Harvard down 22-0 to unbeaten Yale late in the first half, Champi, an unknown junior who had completed five passes all season and was best known for throwing the ball 85 yards with his right arm and 50 with his left, threw two touchdown passes in the final 42 seconds and a two-point conversion with no time left to turn a 29-13 deficit into a historic 29-29 finish.

Not as incredible, but just as amazing, Champi has never met Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Bills quarterback and architect of Buffalo’s last two historic finishes. If Fitzpatrick is the greatest quarterback in Harvard history, then Champi quarterbacked the school’s greatest football moment.

Never mind. Champi is a big fan. They’ll meet some day.

“I agree, I thought he was the greatest quarterback in Harvard history when he was there,” Champi said. “He had all the intangibles, he led by example, he was very well-respected. I’m surprised it’s taken this long for (NFL) teams to realize it. I saw him play a little bit and I thought he was special. I’ve been following his career since he’s been in the pros and he’s been outstanding. I thought all he needed was a chance.”

Champi didn’t do much else on the field after The Tie in The Game, but what else was there? He’s as humble now as he was then when he told Pat Putnam of Sports Illustrated in the locker room, “I was so tired I wasn’t even nervous.”

A product of Everett, Mass., Champi has stayed close to his roots and out of the limelight, but is a pleasant and engaging ambassador for the game and the moment. He had to admit, he was torn last Sunday watching Fitzpatrick come back on his Pats.

“I want to see him do well, no question about that. There’s an obvious connection,” said Champi, surprised that no Harvard quarterback completed an NFL pass until Fitzpatrick did six years ago. “But at some point you’re just enjoying the game and want to see the best team that day win. I’m pulling for Fitz, though. I’d love to see him take the Bills to the playoffs.”

Bengals fans aren’t immune to comebacks and collapses. Their own tortured history began on the edge of the ‘90s in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXIII and a 16-13 lead that didn’t hold up in the final three minutes. The kids have experienced it, too.

In 2006, leads as small as 13-7 and as big as 28-7 were blown to knock them out of the playoffs. In 2009, their AFC North champs were nicknamed “The Cardiac Cats,” when they won two division games in the final 22 seconds and another on the final play of overtime in one draining three-week stretch.

And last year Fitzpatrick, the former Bengal, came to Paul Brown Stadium to lead the NFL’s biggest halftime comeback ever when he brought the Bills back from 17 down to win by 18.

Dalton fired a shot for the New Era when he generated 19 second-half points in Denver two weeks ago with two touchdown passes in a rally that fell short with three minutes left at the Broncos 36 on fourth-and-one in a 24-22 loss. Yet he showed all the attributes to be able to pull it off.

Except maybe experience, as evidenced by last week’s two interceptions in the final 4:54 of a one-touchdown game at home against the 49ers.

Champi and Fitzpatrick can help him there.

“I’m enjoying this so much because I’ve been on the other side. I know how quickly it can change in this league,” Fitzpatrick said last week. “I’m a lot more experienced. I feel like those 12 games in Cincinnati were my biggest learning experience and I’ve drawn a lot on them. I’ve improved mentally and physically.”

Champi is a bit uncomfortable talking about comebacks with Fitzpatrick around. “I only had one. Fitzy’s had several.”

But Champi had the greatest. He thinks back to the two-point fast ball over the middle to future White Sox catcher Pete Varney nearly 43 years ago after they cleared the field of marauding fans and the clock of any time.

“It was like it was anti-climactic. It was inevitable. That’s how it felt,” Champi said. “You can tell a lot by body language. People intellectualize sports too much. You can’t define emotion. There are undertones and currents and it’s like you’re riding a wave.”

Not bad advice for one A. Dalton after a historical (or is it hysterical?) week of comebacks.


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