It doesn’t seem real that the Dallas Cowboys are not only 5-1, but have cruised through a couple of opponents that were supposed to be real challenges. And against the Green Bay Packers, there were plenty of players that could easily be awarded a game ball. It includes the usual suspects, plus some who stepped their game up this week. But this week, the award is going to a player who made only a handful of plays, but had one spectacular, high-impact contribution that may have changed the course of the game and set things inevitably on the path to the eventual 30-16 beating of the Packers in front of their home crowd. It goes to David Irving for his strip-sack and recovery inside the five-yard line, snuffing out what could have been a rally for the Packers.
Irving is not getting a lot of snaps in the defense yet - and that needs to change. On this play, he demonstrated his quickness, relentlessness, strength, and extreme wingspan. It was not the only big play he made in his limited work. He also knocked down a pass in the red zone to snuff out another touchdown opportunity, and had two more forced fumbles in the game. But no play was bigger than the triple helping of damage he dealt with this one. Green Bay had a first and goal at the one-yard line, and a touchdown would have closed the gap to seven points. Aaron Rodgers was not consistent during the game, but he still made several key completions as the Cowboys struggled to get pressure on him, often resorting to the three man rush they have been using as they put increasing trust in the secondary to shut the receivers down. By getting to Rodgers for the lone Cowboys sack of the game, Irving stopped the threat and made any attempt at a comeback much harder. It deflated the Packers as it lifted up the Cowboys. Emotion plays a big part in NFL contests, and this was a huge emotional swing that not even Dak Prescott’s first career interception a few moments later could completely reverse. It was the play of the game, it robbed Green Bay of four points as they had to settle for a field goal after the interception, and that is why Irving gets this recognition.
It does almost feel like so many others are being slighted. Prescott continues to amaze, and the argument about keeping him as the starter when Tony Romo is ready will just get more and more heated. Ezekiel Elliott is building a heck of a case to be league offensive MVP, much less offensive rookie of the year. And the real MVP of the team may be that offensive line, which shredded what was widely advertised as the best run defense in the league while generally providing excellent protection to the quarterback. Cole Beasley has become a true weapon while Dez Bryant is out, and Jason Witten continues to make real contributions as he plays in what seems like his 53rd season while setting some records of his own. Defensively, Sean Lee and Barry Church continue to be rocks as the team’s best tacklers (although Lee was involved in an unfortunate friendly fire situation that caused a Morris Claiborne concussion) and Anthony Brown would be the steal of the draft for Dallas if it was not for that quarterback fellow.
But this one goes to Irving. And really, with the way the team is playing, there is an argument to be made for multiple game balls. We’ll put that off for now, and keep it to one. Besides, the only thing that really matters is that W at the end of the game. With five in a row, the season is turning into something special for a Dallas team that many expected to be struggling to make it to .500 this year. These game balls are really just a bright spot in some true team efforts.
At Lambeau Field, Irving just had one moment that was the brightest of them all.