Cincinnati's surprising six wins, eight games deep into the 2011 regular season, can be credited a variety of ways. If the opposing offense takes the lead, the defense will ensure that the lead is manageable enough to be overcome. And we can be assured that Andy Dalton will step on the field to calmly guide the team to possibly reclaim the lead, if not the eventual win. These things are becoming certainties. We can also be assured that A.J. Green will make the most ridiculous receptions to sustain drives. But it's often the guys that put the icing on the cake, sealing wins that become significant contributors. As Dave Lapham said during the game's broadcast, Carlos Dunlap is turning into a Bengals version of Mariano Rivera for his ability closing games out.
With 3:41 remaining in the third quarter and Cincinnati down by three, Matt Hasselbeck prepared for the shotgun snap on third and ten from the Titans 48-yard line. Cincinnati's defense had five defensive backs with three down linemen, Carlos Dunlap on the left, and Michael Johnson prowling from a two-point stance on the right. Using his strength to shed offensive tackle David Stewart's block, Dunlap used his right arm to uppercut away from the block and acquire a lane for Hasselbeck, who was already redirecting out of the pocket. It was already over. The Titans punted the football after the 15-yard loss and Cincinnati scored on their ensuing possession.
Now with a touchdown lead and 4:49 remaining in the game, Matt Hasselbeck takes a single-step drop after receiving the shotgun snap, flaring the football out to Javon Ringer. Dunlap sprinted upfield and slapped the football down in mid-flight, subsequently tracking, what was believed an incomplete pass, the football into the endzone where officials raised their hands to indicate a touchdown. The play was reviewed and reversed. However the Titans went three and out, failing to record a single yard on the possession, capped with a rushed dump off by Hasselbeck with Dunlap hanging off the quarterback's jersey.
And finally. A single touchdown lead is never safe in the NFL. Anything can happen. Blown coverage. With 24 seconds remaining, safety Reggie Nelson fell down, leaving wide receiver Damian Williams wide open. Hasselbeck never saw him. It's happened before and one can be assured it'll happen again. After Mike Nugent converted a 36-yard field goal to give the Bengals a seven-point lead, the Titans moved the football 25 yards on six plays to their own 45-yard line -- enough room for a hail mary to reach the endzone. Nineteen seconds remain when Hasselbeck takes the shotgun snap.
It wasn't even close. Before making contact with the right tackle, Dunlap used his right arm to uppercut his body into the advantage, using his speed to sack quarterback Matt Hasselbeck well within four seconds after the snap. It was a seven-yard loss, putting the Titans out of position for the hail mary. The game was over seven seconds later.
This is the second straight week we've handed the Game Ball of the Week to Bengals defensive end, Carlos Dunlap.
Week Two Against Denver: Quarterback Andy Dalton
Week Three Against San Francisco: Defensive End Jonathan Fanene
Week Four Against Buffalo: Place Kicker Mike Nugent
Week Five Against Jacksonville: Tight End Jermaine Gresham
Week Six Against Indianapolis: Quarterback Andy Dalton
Week Seven (Bye Week): Bengals Owner Mike Brown
Week Eight Against Seattle: Defensive End Carlos Dunlap