Carlos Dunlap is going Pro Bowling with his 13.5 sacks.
Before he left the locker room one last time this season, Bengals left end Carlos Dunlap mused on the fates.
Thank you, fans for all of your support throughout this season.
"I was as still waiting for the Fat Lady to sing before I got too high or too low," Dunlap said. "Anything can happen. Anything did happen."
But going to the Pro Bowl also happened. Dunlap, voted a first alternate, got the word Thursday that he's replacing the Jets' Muhammad Wilkerson in the annual all-star game taking place this year Jan. 31 in Honolulu. It takes just a little bit of the sting from Saturday night's now-you-have-it-now-you-don't Wild Card loss to the Steelers.
"This helps and caps off the great season we had as a team," Dunlap texted Thursday afternoon.
It also capped off his break-through season on and off the field. He was named the Bengals Man of the Year for his work in the community.
The Hawaii venture is filling up. The number is now six, the most Bengals' Pro Bowlers since 1989. Dunlap, who'll take his parents on the trip, joins wide receiver A.J. Green, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, defensive tackle Geno Atkins, safety Reggie Nelson and tight end Tyler Eifert. It looks like Nelson, who injured his ankle Saturday night, is going to be a close call to make it.
Dunlap makes it as the first Bengals defensive end to go to the Pro Bowl since the late Coy Bacon went in 1976-77, even before Whitworth was born. At 34, Whitworth is the second oldest Bengals Pro Bowler behind the 35-year-old Bacon. Quarterback Ken Anderson was 33 in his fourth and last appearance in January of 1983.
"This was a goal of mine," Dunlap said. "I vowed not to go to Hawaii unless I was invited. Aloha!!!"
His team-record 13.5 sacks broke the ice, good for fourth best in the league behind Houston's J.J. Watt (17.5), Oakland's Khalil Mack (15), and Detroit's Ziggy Ansah (14.5). His goal at the beginning of the year was Michael Strahan's NFL-record 22.5 sacks, but the Pro Bowl came instead on a defense that set the Bengals' single-season scoring record when they allowed just 277 points.
It wasn't only Dunlap's sacks. Profootballfocus.com, which had Dunlap with 15 sacks to lead all 4-3 ends, charted him third in quarterback hits and fifth in forcing hurried throws. He also forced two fumbles, blocked two field goals, and his 21-yard dash of a fumble return broke open the San Francisco stalemate and led to a win in quarterback Andy Dalton's first NFL start.
And there is some unfinished business. Before he left the locker room, he had a quibble about the buzz calling his team out of control.
"That' what they say," Dunlap said. "A team that was out of control wouldn't have put themselves in position to win like we did."
But he's moving on. Goal-setting seems to work for him. So he's already got some new ones for the new year.
"Lead the league in sacks,' he said. "And be the No. 1 (overall) defense, not just the best scoring defense."