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Carlos Dunlap makes it clear he wants Michael Strahan's sack record

CINCINNATI -- One of Carlos Dunlap's first orders of business when he arrived at Paul Brown Stadium as a second-round draft pick in 2010 was to peruse the Cincinnati Bengals' record books.

He wanted to know two things: who had the team's single-season sack record, and how many sacks did he have?

Because the NFL didn't formally recognize sacks as a statistic until 1982, the answers to those questions are complex. Technically, two players own the franchise's single-season sack record. Coy Bacon was credited with 22.0 in 1976. The Bengals officially recognize that number as their record, although game books unearthed within the past decade indicate that due to improper crediting of half sacks, Bacon may have actually had 26. Unofficially, Eddie Edwards is recognized as the team's all-time single-season sack leader with 13.0 in 1982. That was the same year the NFL made sacks an official statistic.

Just 4.5 sacks shy of Edwards' mark, Dunlap is tied with Houston's J.J. Watt for second in the NFL this season with 8.5 sacks. Dunlap is close to inking his name in the Bengals' record books alongside the likes of Geno Atkins, who unofficially ranks second in recorded team history with 12.5 sacks during the 2012 season. With six sacks this season, he's right behind Dunlap's unofficial record-setting pace.

"My goal has always been to have more than a 10-sack season," said Dunlap, whose career-high is 9.5.

Double digits aren't his end-all, be-all, though. Neither is the team's single-season mark. Dunlap has his eyes on a much bigger prize: Michael Strahan's NFL-record 22.5.

"I'd rather shoot high and fall somewhere in between," Dunlap said. "I want to hit the ceiling, as well. But that record is something I keep reminding myself of so I can push for that."

Dunlap has no memory of seeing Strahan's controversial record-setting sack at the end of the 2001 season -- he was 12 years old -- but he has watched documentaries outlining the drama behind it.

It was during a game between his New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers when Strahan raced virtually untouched around the right edge for a stop on quarterback Brett Favre, who got down and slid as soon as Strahan came free off the line of scrimmage. Even the tight end who was blocking Strahan didn't put up a fight, and the Giants' star pass rusher was able to get his record-setting stop off a veritable alley-oop from the Packers. Many past sack leaders, like Bacon, weren't happy.

"Strahan -- that was a gimme, man. That was terrible," Bacon said before his death in 2008, according to ESPN's Michael Weinreb.

Dunlap has had sacks taken away from him after the fact (he thought he had one on Joe Flacco at Baltimore earlier this year before it was later changed to being a team sack because Flacco drew an intentional grounding penalty; he threw the ball away while inside the pocket as Dunlap brought him to the ground), so he would have empathized with Strahan had his record-setting sack been taken away.

"He worked hard and he deserved it," Dunlap said. "There's probably a couple of half-a-sacks or sacks out there that he didn't get credit for. Especially nowadays. They come back and take sacks from you all the time."

Beyond the individual accolades, Dunlap is glad the Bengals already have 23.0 sacks, three more than they had all of last year when they were last in sacks.

"It's very refreshing to see because we're playing great as a defensive unit," Dunlap said, praising his secondary's play. "That's why they give us the big bucks to do our job."