Week 15 could best be described as WHO? From Tom Savage to Aldrick Robinson to Matt Moore, a lot of random NFL players were pivotal to their team’s success. But the biggest surprise had to be David Irving, a defensive tackle/defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys.
Irving had 1.5 career sacks coming into Sunday night’s game against the Bucs, and then he somehow morphed into a dominant force, registering two sacks in just 38 snaps, and chasing Jameis Winston around all night in the Cowboys win.
Irving’s night is a reason for Dallas fans to be excited: The defense is a weak link to the team, with a spotty pass rush and an average secondary. It figures to hinder the team in January, when it will likely face dangerous passing attacks like Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, or Eli Manning.
If you’re wondering where Irving came from, the answer: Iowa State. Irving went to junior college, then had a nice season at Iowa State before he was kicked off the team following riots in Ames. He was photographed and seen in video carrying a stop sign and helping take down a light pole. It’s kinda hard to miss the 6-foot-7, 285-pound man in the crowd. This incident, along with a domestic abuse charge (later dropped) had teams back off him in the draft.
The Chiefs put him on their practice squad, and then the Cowboys picked him up.
CATCH TY IF YOU CAN
Ty Montgomery has been solid as the emergency running back for the Packers this season, but he had – by far – his best game Sunday in Chicago. Montgomery set an NFL record for rushing yards by a receiver (162) and he averaged a staggering 10.1 yards per carry.
This is an awesome stat – 156 of Montgomery’s 162 yards came after contact, which may say something about the Bears, but definitely says something about Montgomery’s slippery nature.
It was also the best rushing afternoon for a Packers player in a regular season game dating back to 2005. Who can forget rookie Samkon Gado?
CLOWNEY QUIETLY HAVING A GREAT SEASON
He’s had a quiet career in Houston so far, but former #1 pick Jadeveon Clowney is having the best year of his career. After a strong game against Jacksonville (one sack, three tackles for loss), he’s got a career high in both categories (5.0 sacks, 15 tackles for loss) with two games left. He’s tied for 2nd in the league in TFL behind Cameron Jordan and Olivier Vernon (16).
Reminder: He’s done almost all of it without JJ Watt on the other side.
FIRST CAREER FOOTBALL TOUCHDOWN
The Colts 34-6 beatdown of the Vikings didn’t mean for for Indianapolis, given the comebacks later in the day by Tennessee and Houston, but it did for one player: Erik Swoope. The Colts backup tight end caught his first touchdown pass – not just in the NFL, but ever – in the victory.
Swoope was a basketball standout in high school, then went to the University of Miami where he played hoops all four years. He was on that very good 2012-2013 Hurricanes squad led by point guard Shane Larkin that went 29-7 and went to the Sweet 16. But he didn’t play football.
At the 2014 NFL Draft Swoope wasn’t selected, but signed with the Colts and spent the season on the practice squad. He played in one game in 2015 and this year has appeared in all 12 games.
The Cardinals won’t be in the postseason, but it’s not David Johnson’s fault. The 2nd year running back set a record for the most consecutive games (14) to start the season with 100+ yards, breaking the Edgerrin James record of 13 set in 2005.
Johnson had 53 yards rushing and 55 yards receiving and scored twice in Arizona’s loss to New Orleans.
THE RAIDERS DEFENSE, WHEN IT TRIES, IS SCARY
The Oakland Raiders rallied to beat the Chargers and take over 1st place in the AFC West, and slide back into the #2 seed in the conference. How’d they do it? The offense was humming once again, but it was the porous defense that locked down in the 4th quarter to stop the Chargers. Here are San Diego’s 4th quarter drives, at home, while leading:
4 plays, 9 yards, fumble
3 plays, 9 yards, punt
4 plays, -5 yards, interception
So in the 4th quarter, against one of the worst defenses in the league: 11 plays, 13 yards, two turnovers. Bruce Irvin had two sacks and was relentless chasing Philip Rivers.
Hate to kick someone when they’re down, but what will Jacksonville do with Blake Bortles? He was 12-of-28 for 92 yards in a 21-20 loss to the Texans. The Jags led most of the game – no thanks to Bortles – and then when they needed points from their franchise QB … he couldn’t deliver.
His yards per attempt is just 5.98 and with two games left, he’ll likely set a career high for interceptions. His completion percentage is a career low.
So what’s the move? With the Jaguars going through a coaching change, Bortles will certainly get one more chance to be The Guy in Jacksonville, but I’d expect a quick hook next year if he starts slowly. Best case scenario: If the Jags got an offensive mind as head coach – think, Mike Shula, Kyle Shanahan – I’d like his chances as a career rebound.