Linebacker Bruce Irvin
If the Oakland Raiders game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday would've been a home game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, there would've been a lot of Bruce Irvin chants raining down from the seats.
No. 51 has been on a tear recently, terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, and wreaking havoc on offensive lines with regularity. Over the last three games, Irvin has totaled five sacks and 15 tackles, which has provided a jolt to the Raiders pass rush.
In 2016 – Irvin's first season with the Raiders – the former West Virginia Mountaineer forced six fumbles, tallied 57 tackles, and seven sacks. At 30 years old, he's having arguably a better season, as he's already eclipsed his sack total from a year ago (7.5 in 2017), and is just a half a sack away from tying his career high (8).
The Raiders coaching staff has reiterated all year that sacks typically come in bunches, and Irvin is proving that theory to be true.
Against the Chiefs in Week 14, Irvin spent a majority of the afternoon penetrating the opposing offensive line, finding ways to disrupt quarterback Alex Smith's timing. The six-year pro had a quality day at the office, but to him, it means nothing if the team doesn't win.
"It's cool, but we didn't win," said Irvin regarding his performance. "Our objective is to win the game, and that was unfortunate. We have to keep pushing. It is what it is. They just outplayed us today. We just got to get back in the office and prepare for Dallas next week."
To Irvin's point, the team can only move forward from here, and refocusing on this weekend's make-or-break battle with the Dallas Cowboys is imperative. While the "Slash Brother" has been effective over the last few weeks, the former Super Bowl champion has his eyes set on bigger and better things. It's that attitude that drives him to make plays on the field, and his peers know they need him to succeed.
"Bruce is a talented pass rusher," said fellow linebacker NaVorro Bowman. "We need him to do those things. He takes that and runs with it and makes those plays that we need."
Between Irvin, Bowman, defensive end Khalil Mack, and defensive lineman Denico Autry, the Raiders pass rush has totaled 12 sacks since Irvin's surge in Week 12 and have showed no signs of slowing down.
While Irvin's efforts on the field are being commended, and for good reason, what he's doing off the field is impressive as well. He's the team's Walter Payton Man of the Year award nominee, which is given to a player whose volunteer and charity work in the community is a step above the rest.
From the streets of Atlanta, to a leader on and off the field for the Silver and Black, Irvin's journey is one of perseverance and opportunity. The Georgia-native recently told his story in a Players' Tribune piece highlighting how he overcame obstacles of being homeless, incarcerated, and shot at, to the man he is today.
Irvin is a fighter, and while the Raiders' postseason hopes hang in the balance, if he continues playing at his current level of production, it's possible he might help the team get there.