David Irving does not care about drama in December. David Irving cares about game-winning, drive-halting plays to seal a must win for the Dallas Cowboys against a surging Tampa Bay team. The defense as a group forced four turnovers and Irving provided plenty of force to single-handedly disrupt Jameis Winston and stop the Bucs in the fourth quarter after they had a very productive 14 point third quarter.
This game was about momentum and Dallas did its very best to lose it on multiple occasions. For a team as disciplined as Dallas as been, there were a pair of early penalties that forced the Cowboys into long field goal attempts, only one of which they made. For a team that does not force many turnovers, they had excellent field position from two forced turnovers but were able to score only one touchdown and had to settle for one field goal. For a team with the best kicker in NFL history, Dan Bailey relinquished that title to Justin Tucker with a pair of misses, albeit from over 50 yards.
All of this self-inflicted damage and an impressive third quarter barrage by Winston and the Bucs provided Dallas with 20 minutes of game time to determine if they were going to control of the NFC or let the race open up. What happened in the next quarter was classic Dallas Cowboys football as Dak Prescott continued his impressive accuracy, Ezekiel Elliott hurdled his ways to successive first downs and undrafted David Irving absolutely (re-)exploded onto the scene.
You may remember David Irving as the guy who blocked an extra point against Seattle in a loss in 2015. Or, you might remember David Irving as the guy who recorded three forced fumbles (while recovering one) and a sack against Aaron Rodgers a few weeks ago. But you should most definitely remember of him from last night when he recorded two tackles, two sacks, one pass deflection and hurried the elusive Buccaneer quarterback five times. Rod Marinelli has been wizarding this defense all season but he may have found a new ingredient and catalyst to his rather effective pass rush.
The question going forward is just how much playing time Irving will get as the rest of the season plays out, and into the playoffs. Can he manage to keep up production through increased snaps, or is he only able to be disruptive in a reserve role? This is the question Marinelli will have to answer. The Cowboys should be getting Randy Gregory back into the fold, but his contributions can’t be counted on. How much DeMarcus Lawrence and his back heals is another issue for the Cowboys defensive line and the pass rush.
One thing is for sure, the Cowboys pass rush has been getting better and better as the season progresses. The last few weeks they have been a real force. And David Irving may be their breakout star.