CINCINNATI — Everyone associated with the Cincinnati Bengals knows that Carlos Dunlap is good at batting down passes. His total of 13 batted passes last season, more than any other edge defender in the past 10 years, speaks for itself.
But Dunlap’s knack for batted passes often comes at the wrong time. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis even grabbed Dunlap at one point during Vontaze Burfict: “We always tell Carlos, ‘Stop jumping. Stop jumping. Stop jumping — go rush the quarterback.’ And now we can tell him to keep jumping I guess.”
It’s a good thing Dunlap didn’t listen. Late in the fourth quarter, he batted Jacoby Brissett’s pass in the air and caught it as it came down, rushing toward the end zone for a touchdown that sealed the game.
Dunlap said they anticipated Brissett would try a quick throw to avoid the Bengals’ rush. With the thought that he wouldn’t be able to get to him in mind, Dunlap decided to try to go for the ball.
“We were ready for the quick throw because they were scared of our rush,” Dunlap said. “We’ve got great pass rushers, so I tried to do the next best thing. Obviously I would love to rush. But when I see an opportunity to get my hands up and get them on the ball, I want to capitalize.”
Said Brissett: “It’s just one of those freak plays. He’s one of those freak athletes that make those plays, you know.”
As soon as Dunlap hit the end zone, he was mobbed by his teammates.
“It felt like 1,500 pounds because the whole team was on top of me,” Dunlap said.
Dunlap’s touchdown was a huge moment that ignited a team that was in danger of losing its second straight game and falling to 2-5. The Colts had scored 10 unanswered points, while the Bengals’ offense was going nowhere.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked three times on the previous drive alone. With the rest of the team struggling, Dunlap’s play was the game changer.
“We needed that,” wide receiver A.J. Green said.
Added Dunlap: “The sideline exploded. Everybody tackled me in the end zone. It was a great moment to spend with my guys. We worked all week. We know if the defense scores or special teams blocks a kick, the percentage to win goes up. I saw a moment and jumped in it.”
Right before the play happened, the defense got together and urged each other to make a turnover happen, knowing how much it was needed.
“Before that series, we were telling each other, ‘We’re going to have to score. We’re going to obviously have to get the ball back to the offense in good field position.’”
Dre Kirkpatrick swears he was the one who predicted it would happen.
“If you ask him, he’ll tell you I called it,” Kirkpatrick said. “I said, ‘Carlos, you’ve got to get a pick-six.’ Where it came from, I don’t know. I was like, ‘We’ve got to get a turnover. They’re not throwing the ball outside and somebody’s got to make a play.’ I told Carlos, ‘Get your hands up boy, you’re about to get a pick-six.”
Dunlap wasn’t so sure about Kirkpatrick’s theory.
“I’m not sure, because I was talking to Chris (Smith) and we were trying to get Chris home,” Dunlap said. “I was trying to hype up the whole defense. We talked about it as a defense, getting a game-changing play on defense. I don’t know if he said that specifically or what, but we were talking about it.”
Whoever predicted it, it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bengals, or for Dunlap.
“Friday and Saturday practices, he’s always with the receivers. We’ll run fade routes to the back of the end zone. He would always come over and run it [with us],” Green said. “This week he had like three of them go through his hands. He was due for something.”