Andrew Whitworth may not know it, but he has something in common with his ancestor Anthony Muñoz, the greatest left tackle that ever lived.
"When Whit came out, I remember they said he was only a guard and that he couldn't pay tackle," Muñoz said Wednesday. "With him it was his talent. With me, it was my knee. They said I wouldn't last my rookie year. When I watch Whit now, I chuckle a little bit because of what they said."
Muñoz, of course played 13 seasons for the Bengals, and eight of them were a full 16-game sked in a first-ballot Hall of Fame career. His 185 games are fifth on the Bengals all-time list and he admits, "It was unspoken, but I'm sure it was used as some motivation and incentive."
Whitworth knows all about that as he gets ready to play a first ballot Hall of Famer on the other side Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium against the Colts (1 p.m.-1530 ESPN) in right end Dwight Freeney. Just the kind of monstrous speed rusher that Whitworth wasn't supposed to be able to handle when he was taken in the second round out of LSU in 2006.
In a tight game last year at Indianapolis, Whitworth shut him out until the final 25 seconds when the Bengals trailed by six and were backed up. They had to resort to one-on-one blocking for the first time all day and not give the tackles help with chip blocks from tight ends and running backs. At the end of the '06 game in Indianapolis when he was a rookie, Whitworth first got nicked by Freeney for two late sacks in a game the Colts led, 31-13 heading into the fourth quarter.
"That's why it is fun for me," Whitworth said of the draft knocks. "Last year I got a chance to block him and then it just (stinks) when you get in those situations end of the game they get to just tee off on you when you are trying to hold the ball and throw it up in the air. They get a cheap sack and say they had a good day because they won one out of 72 plays. That is the kind of thing that (stinks). But it is fun for me. I love it. It is a challenge.
"Same thing happened to me on a rookie. He got two on me at the end of the game when we are down by three touchdowns. The rest of the time he didn't. One of those things that is fun and exciting and take it as a challenge. That's the attitude you have to have. They are eventually going to get to the quarterback. The ball may be gone it may be not, but those guys are fast and quick and they are going to get to the quarterback at some point, but you've got to continue to play every single snap and not let them take your whole entire game away. "
Whitworth is standing between Freeney and his 100th career sack, which would make him the 26th man in history to reach the milestone if he gets 1.5. Whitworth finally gets Freeney at home and outdoors, which is a huge help. The problem the Colts present is that Robert Mathis on the other side against right tackle Andre Smith is almost just as lethal. Whitworth is blown away by Freeney and Mathis's combined total of 80 forced fumbles since Freeney came into the league in 2002 and calls Freeney the best pass rusher in the game.
"They are the quickest, fastest, most agile D-line you are going to face," Whitworth said. "That is just a different challenge for guys. Just like when teams come play the AFC North and play your Baltimores and Pittsburghs that have a different type of 3-4 style than what they are probably used to. It is just changes. So they have that in their division. That is kind of their thing, they like to be the fast, agile team that kind of brings a whole new look to the offensive lines are used to. It is going to be a challenge for sure."
Muñoz says Whitworth has the best thing in a lineman's arsenal to stop Freeney's explosive athleticism: technique.
"He always seems to be in position no matter how quick the guy is across from him," Muñoz said. "He doesn't get himself in bad situations. I was watching (Jets left tackle) D'Brickashaw Ferguson in a game this year and when he got out of position, he was athletic enough to recover. I'd rather have a guy like Whit that I know is going to be in the right spot all the time and knows how to get into position."
Whitworth just doesn't give up sacks. The only two he gave up last year were that one to Freeney and another last-minute garbage-timer to John Abraham. Abraham and Freeney just happen to be 2-3 among the league's active sackers.
And then there's John Chick, who got his first NFL sack last Sunday in Jacksonville when he beat Whitworth after everybody pretty much agreed he should have been flagged for beating the snap.
"Smart," Whitworth said. "It was a third and long and he was willing to take the penalty. He thought if it got called, it got called, if it didn't, it didn't. I am not worried about that.
"Honestly, it doesn't' matter. It's a sack, great play by him. That is going to happen at some point. Just move on. There is nothing you can do about it ... they all jump. That guy just got what you would call the perfect jump. It is not something I worry about or think about or even give another thought to. He got a great jump and you give it to him, that's it."
Muñoz says Whitworth is having the last laugh and as a guy that had one too, he's enjoying it.
"There's no question that he's proven he can play left tackle," Muñoz said. "Anybody that doesn't think so doesn't know the position."
SMITH's BAPTISM; Smith's broken foot took him out of last year's game against Mathis, when Dennis Roland and Anthony Collins both had shots at him and like Whitworth did with Freeney, didn't allow a sack until the last minute. Head coach Marvin Lewis thinks Smith is ready.
"It's going to be a war. Andre has got to play very, very well. He'll play against one of the finest players in the NFL," Lewis said of Mathis. "He's going to have to do a great job of everything they ask him to do run- and pass-wise. Over the first five weeks of the season, Andre has played more like he played in '09 than he played a year ago. I attribute that to having been through training camp and going through the things that he's been through. It's been good for him. He really didn't know what training camp and preparation for the season was all about. He's a completely different guy. He's what we expected, just like in drafting A.J. (Green). They can come in and have an immediate impact. Because of the injuries and the holdout and so forth, it's taken longer than we expected, but we're now reaping the benefits of that."
The best way to help Smith is to run the ball on the Colts like people have the past few seasons. The Bengals were supposed to do it last year against a defense that finished 25th against the run, but running back Cedric Benson could manage just 24 yards on 14 carries. In the past two games, the Chiefs' Jackie Battle rushed for 119 yards on 6.3 yards per carry and Tampa Bay's LeGarrette Blount went for 5.1 per to get to 127 on the Colts.
The Bengals are resolved to run it better after a 2.5-per yard effort in Jacksonville on 31 carries, but they feel like that had more to do with the Jags game plan to go all out in stopping the run by spilling their people against the zone scheme.
"They tried something totally different against us in the way they played up front and kind of just stopped the run; that's something we will have to learn and move forward," Whitworth said. "They played a little different. The line didn't move, they played inside techniques and stuff, it was just different than what we are used to.
"I don't think it's necessarily an issue of guys playing bad as something we haven't seen. The good part about it was to me, in the passing game, we gave Andy (Dalton) protection. We gave him time to throw the football, converted long third downs, we (were) 50 percent on third downs and ended up winning the football game because we are able to do it."
2012 SKED: The Bengals 2012 foes were announced Wednesday with a Paul Brown Stadium slate of the Broncos, Raiders, Cowboys and Giants joining an AFC East team to be determined by this season's standings.
They go on the road to San Diego, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Washington and an AFC South city to be determined by the standings. Rounding it out are the home-and-homes with AFC North Baltimore Cleveland and Pittsburgh.
A little early, but there are only three teams with losing records: Broncos, Chiefs and Eagles.
The AFC West rotation was reset to prevent teams from making the long trip two straight seasons.