Bruce Irvin becoming a sack machine for Raiders

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Bruce Irvin might have been the most upset member of the Oakland Raiders defense when Ken Norton Jr. was fired as defensive coordinator.

Irvin was certainly the most, ahem, vocal, as evidenced by a tweet that expressed his displeasure at the time.

And yet ...

Irvin, who signed as a free agent with the Raiders in part due to Norton’s presence after they were together with the Seattle Seahawks, has been playing his best football since Norton’s departure, with assistant coach/defense John Pagano taking over as defensive playcaller.

With multiple sacks in two of his last three games -- the first time he has pulled that off since his rookie season of 2012, when he had three such games -- Irvin’s five sacks since Week 12 are the most in the NFL in that time frame. With 7½ sacks this season, he is one sack shy of setting a career high.

He sacked Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith twice in the first quarter of last week’s 26-15 loss, giving Irvin a sack in three straight games for the first time since Weeks 11-13 of the 2016 season.

“It’s cool, but we didn’t win,” said Irvin, who is also the Raiders' Walter Payton Man of the Year candidate. “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.”

Irvin had 2½ sacks in Oakland’s first 10 games this season.

Irvin, Denico Autry and Khalil Mack have a combined 11 sacks in Oakland’s last three games, the most of any trio in that span.

“Bruce is a really good player, obviously,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. “He’s quick, he’s fast, he’s explosive, he’s very athletic. He’s a very disruptive player. He’s definitely somebody that shows up in games, affecting the run and also affecting the quarterback on a consistent basis.”

Said Raiders linebacker NaVorro Bowman: “Bruce is a talented pass-rusher. We need him to do those things. He takes that and runs with it and makes those plays that we need.”

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has been sacked 25 times this season. That should open the eyes of Irvin & Co.

“All these guys have been more focused,” Pagano said. “The identity that we’re trying to create, the listening to the plan of how we’re going to attack these things in the rush game, that’s been good for us.

“Bruce and Denico and Khalil and getting those guys going throughout the four-man rush of truly changing it up, getting them moving, is better for us. But Bruce is doing what we’re asking him to do, and he’s doing it at a high level right now.”