“It was probably a confidence,” Irving said. “Confident in my team. Honestly, it’s the team. You feel it. When I feel it, the whole team feels it. ... We feed off each other. We motivate each other. When multiple guys get on the same level, things happen. Things happen.”
Plenty happened for Irving in the fourth quarter. He had two sacks of Jameis Winston. He had at least two of his five quarterback hurries in the fourth quarter as well. He finished the game with two tackles, two tackles for loss and a pass deflection.
In Jason Garrett parlance, he affected the quarterback.
After Winston lit up the Dallas defense to start the second half, going 8-of-11 for 147 yards and touchdown passes of 42 and 10 yards on the Bucs' first two drives to give Tampa Bay a 20-17 lead, Irving made sure the Buccaneers’ quarterback was a non-factor in the fourth quarter.
Winston completed just 3 of 12 passes for 19 yards in the final quarter. He was sacked three times (rookie Maliek Collins had the other sack), intercepted twice (Jeff Heath, Orlando Scandrick) and finished with a 0.0 passer rating in the final quarter.
“I tried to get as much pressure as I could,” Irving said. “Even if I wasn’t getting a sack, I wanted him to see me and try to hurry or just make a bad decision.”
Poor Gosder Cherilus, the Bucs' right tackle, could not handle Irving’s power to the body or the two-man game Irving and Collins worked to get to Winston.
“With David and [Maliek] Collins, I thought you could see a difference in where they were six, seven or eight games ago,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “But what I really see is [defensive coordinator] Rod Marinelli’s signature on the two of them, as well as, if you will, the defensive front. But [Marinelli] has all along thought Irving and Collins were coming, and this was a good time for them to step up.”
Irving has done something like this before. He earned the NFC Defensive Player of the Week award for his three forced fumbles against the Green Bay Packers on Oct. 16. He had a sack of Aaron Rodgers that day as well.
But he had not had a sack since, until Sunday. He had come close, with seven quarterback pressures in the last two games, but close is not good enough for Marinelli.
“I want to keep going it, I want to keep it consistent,” Irving said. “I’d hate to have a game like this and then the next game I don’t do as much. But, I mean, we play against great guys in this league. We go against great teams, great O-lines each week, so I’m not perfect. Just keep playing. Just keep practicing and I’ll see what happens.”