'Sidekick' Bruce Irvin: Robin showed up for the Raiders

SAN DIEGO -- Bruce Irvin has taken to calling himself “Robin” to Khalil Mack's “Batman.” He says he's a sidekick to the Oakland Raiders’ All-Pro defensive end/outside linebacker.

But in racking up two sacks and being a constant thorn in San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers’ side in the Raiders' 19-16 playoff-clinching victory Sunday, Irvin took on a starring role.

“Robin kind of showed up [Sunday], yeah,” Irvin said with a laugh. “Robin woke up with a pep in his step. I had a good breakfast and I just felt good overall about the whole situation. I’m just happy I could contribute and we came out here with this ‘W.’”

Well, they do say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so what did Irvin grub on in the morning?

“I can’t say,” he said. “They might test me.”

Irvin was joking. We think.

His play, though, was nothing the Chargers would laugh about.

While Mack’s streak of eight games with a sack came to an end, Irvin now has seven sacks on the season, one off the career high he set as a rookie with the Seattle Seahawks in 2012.

And that is exactly why the Raiders signed him to a four-year free-agent contract worth up to $37 million with $12.5 million guaranteed -- beyond being Mack’s bookend.

Irvin said he was not brought in to be a follower.

“[Sunday], the way he got around the quarterback, was the best part of it,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said of Irvin, who finished with six tackles, three quarterback hits and a forced fumble.

“But I think from the moment that Bruce arrived, he and Khalil had a natural competition, or a natural kind of bond where they were two alpha males. They were going to push each other really hard every day and compete every day. Bruce has been tremendous for us and is a really great addition to the football team.”

You could say that Irvin’s game was a microcosm of the Oakland defense’s game. It started slowly, tightened up, got beat badly and then made plays at the end to clinch it.

Because whenever Rivers was backed up inside his 10-yard line -- which happened on four occasions -- he simply had nowhere to go and Irvin, who said this is the most consistent he has played in his career, and Mack had only to pin their ears back and rush him.

Both of Irvin’s sacks came as he chased Rivers down from behind.

After the Raiders took a 19-16 lead with 2:40 to play, Irvin said he and Mack had a quick discussion before taking the field.

“We knew we had to get to Philip if we wanted to win,” Irvin said, “and that’s what we did.”

On second-and-10 from the 14-yard line, Irvin took Rivers down for a 5-yard loss. Then, after Mack was in Rivers’ face on an incomplete third-down pass, Irvin and Mack both pressured Rivers enough on fourth-and-15 that the Chargers quarterback threw a ball to Raiders safety Reggie Nelson for the interception.

Ballgame, and the Raiders punched their ticket to the postseason for the first time since 2002.

“I expected to go to the playoffs when I got here,” Irvin said.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” he added, emphasizing "long."

“It just confirms everything I thought when I got here -- a young team, who was ready to take the next step. We’ve just got to continue to get better each and every week and see how far we can take this thing.”

With Robin either riding shotgun or driving.