Near the end of Cincinnati's win over Cleveland on Sunday, Bengals' right tackle Stacy Andrews tore the ACL in his right knee.
His replacement – an undrafted third-year player named Dennis Roland – spent the first two years of his career with Tampa Bay before signing with Cincinnati early in 2008. Before he replaced Andrews for the Bengals' final few offensive plays, Roland had never officially participated in an NFL game before.
A former Georgia Bulldog who spent most of the season on Cincinnati's practice squad, Roland will make the first start of his pro career on Sunday when the Chiefs travel to Paul Brown Stadium.
In related news: with a paltry nine sacks, the Chiefs need to post four more against the Bengals to avoid breaking the NFL's all-time record for pass rush futility.
Four sacks, however, would only tie the existing record of 13. To completely distance themselves from this dubious honor, the Chiefs actually need to register five sacks, which is over half their current total.
Getting back to Roland for a moment, after he replaced Andrews last Sunday, the Bengals ran the ball on all of their remaining plays. In other words, not only will he be making his first start this week, Roland has never actually pass blocked at the NFL level before.
If Tamba Hali doesn't come out of Sunday's game with at least 2.5 sacks, should he be allowed to fly home with the rest of the team?
And how about Gunther Cunningham? The Bengals were having a slew of problems on their offensive line even before Andrews' injury. Just over a month ago, injuries to other linemen forced them to start former Kansas Jayhawk Anthony Collins, a rookie fourth-round pick, at left tackle. An undrafted rookie free agent named Nate Livings had to take over at left guard.
Given the utterly meaningless nature of the upcoming game, there's no reason the Chiefs couldn't make it their singular focus to avoid setting the sack record. I'm sure either Cunningham or Herm Edwards want that particular honor on their resume, to say nothing of the Chiefs' defensive players.
Given these circumstances, if Cunningham – the "Kansas City Icon" (TM Dan Dierdorf) – can't find a way to manufacture at least four sacks against a line comprised of undrafted rookies and practice squad players, should he even be allowed to return to town? Maybe someone can meet him just outside the city limits and hand him his bags.
While we're on the subject of sacks and offensive linemen, Damion McIntosh deserves some praise.
Many fans have been calling for McIntosh to be benched all season, so it's only fair we recognize it when he does something well. I'm sure everyone has seen the replay of his block during the big Jamaal Charles screen play, where he pancaked one Miami defender and then flattened another, driving the second Dolphin onto the body of his downed teammate.
That was certainly quite a play, but it shouldn't go ignored that McIntosh was also part of the Chiefs' impressive effort against Joey Porter throughout the game.
Porter, who leads the AFC in sacks with 17.5, finished Sunday's game without a single entry on the stat sheet. He didn't make a tackle, he didn't record a sack, he didn't really do much of anything. Most of the credit for that goes to Branden Albert, who was matched up against Porter more frequently than anyone else. But McIntosh played a key role in it, too.
After Porter finished the first half without a tackle to his name, the Dolphins adjusted their defensive strategy. During the first two quarters, Porter mainly rushed against Albert's side of the line, although he actually dropped back into coverage on several plays as well.
After halftime, however, Miami began showing a 4-3 look with Porter as a defensive end. After the first snap of the third quarter, Porter switched sides and began lining up against McIntosh. The Dolphins surely wanted to get Porter more involved in the action, and may have thought that matching him up one-on-one with McIntosh was the best way to do it.
But going against the right side of the Chiefs' line didn't bring Porter any closer to Tyler Thigpen. After getting repeatedly stonewalled by McIntosh, Porter eventually began to alternate between the right and left sides of the line. By the fourth quarter the Dolphins appeared to move away from their halftime adjustment, and Porter went back to rushing like a linebacker, mostly matched up against Albert again.
Overall, the Chiefs turned in an all-around great effort against one of the league's top pass rushers. Not only did the two tackles hold their own, Charles and Larry Johnson contributed with some key blocks, too.
To hold Porter without a single tackle has to be considered one of the most impressive performances by the Chiefs' offensive line since their domination of Ray Lewis on Monday Night Football back in 2004.
Here's hoping that all the readers of Warpaint Illustrated have a safe and happy holiday.
See you next year!
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