When the 12th man first heard of Bruce Irvin, many fans and analysts purely saw him as a mid to late round pick. So when Pete Carroll and John Schneider decided to pick him in the first round, 15th overall, people naturally went nuts. Even though pass rushing and DE were both needs for the Hawks at the time, it seemed curious to spend so much for a player that did so little. Moreover, as natural as an athlete as Irvin was, he was still raw, both fundamentally and technique-wise. The thoughts of having "reached" on another pick dampened the hopes of having a potential Aldon Smith or Von Miller to play with.
Enter July. Irvin signs his contract first and reports to camp on time. A brief holdout by Chris Clemons forces the young rookie extra snaps at both the LEO position and the "Raheem Brock" specialist spot. We hear good things about him against the O-Line, about his work ethic, about his development in the rush. We see him mumble a few things about the Redskins. Throughout the summer our fears for a potential bust gradually subsided, and in turn, excitement took over as the countdown to preseason continued.
First came the Titans. Irvin's line: 0 tackles, 0 sacks. Then the Broncos. Irvin's line: 0 tackles, 0 sacks, 1 scrub hit on Peyton Manning. Next was the Chiefs. Yet again, 0 tackles, 0 sacks. Frustration grew as Irvin seemingly continued to do nothing, not even the thing he was advertised for. Finally, against the Raiders, Irvin broke out. 1.5 sacks. A forced fumble. Everything finally came together for once, and seemingly, the worst looked to be over.
Time and time again we see Irvin come closer and closer to getting that elusive sack, from an arm length away, to a step away, to a hand away to an inch away. Even with the apparent lack of pass rush in the past two games everyone held out hope that someday Irvin would make that play. The hope that one day the player that Greg Cosell called "the most explosive player in the draft" would light the fuse on some unfortunate QB. The hope that one day Irvin could do what he do best; eat quarterbacks for breakfast.
On Sunday, that moment finally came.
2-10. Ball on the 19. 7.46 in the 4th Quarter. Shotgun. T. Romo SACKED by B. Irvin and J. Jones. Loss of 5 yards.
Down by 20 with a little over half the quarter to play, the Cowboys are desperate for another score - quickly and effectively. Romo comes out with 11 personnel with two split out to the left, one to the right. It's a deep pass play; Witten and Austin both run fades down the sideline, while Olgetree and Bryant run a medium and short curl, respectively. Felix Jones, the RB, is the checkdown man. The Cowboys need to drive the ball as many ways as they could, but as it's only second down and they are passing, Romo will be trying hard to look for a mistake within the Seahawks' coverage.
The Seahawks counter with a 4-3 formation overloaded to the left. Pete and co. knows the Cowboys can't afford to run right now, as they need points. Short passes to Bryant or quick slants to Olgetree would do little to nothing to progress the ball, and worse, wastes more time if they don't get out of bounds. The only logical options left would be routes running to the sideline, and with a shotgun formation and only Witten and Jones, their passing RB coming in, Greg Scruggs, Jason Jones and Irvin all enter on the line. The trio skews slightly away towards the strength, while Wagner manages double duty in covering the middle and the A and B gaps on the right side.
With almost nothing to lose and a high probability in a pass play, Pete runs a stunt with four of his best pass rushing DL. Irvin, lining up on the outside of Witten, is in charge of checking him if he chooses to block. If not, he slants down hard inside and collaspe the pocket from the interior after three steps towards outside contain. Jason Jones is called to bull rush to the guard's right and eventually end up on contain of the right side. Scruggs loops around the center, starting from the left A gap and eventually transitioning into the right A gap. Clemons has the usual job of rushing outside and keeping contain to his left. The rest of the D is in zone coverage.
Ball is snapped. With his quickness, Scruggs immediately launches himself to the other side of the ball and takes the center with him, forcing the OL to swing his hips and body to the right instead of backpedaling and passing it off to a potentially free LG. Jones on the other side does the same, and his quickness off the line also forces the RG to swing his hips completely - an early sign of him about to get beat. Irvin sees that Witten is running a route and immediately rushes outside the RT with his right shoulder down. Meanwhile, Clemons gets a good jump of the ball and rushes hard at the LT.
Seconds later, the play escalates. Jones, already beating his guy off the ball, quickly sheds him, leaving the RG off balance and about to fall on the ground. Clemons has beaten the LT Tyron Smith off the snap and has already quickly turned the corner (notice how Smith is rotated 180 degrees from where he started - that's how bad he got beat!) and quickly pursuing the outside leverage on Romo, shown by the right arrow in the second pic. Scruggs, although literally mandhandled for a few moments, continues his relentless pursuit of the interior A gap rush, trying to draw the LG 's attention. Irvin finishes his three steps and quickly slants back in for interior A gap pressure and pocket collaspe. This quick interior switch catches Doug Free, the RT off guard, as now he has to transition from backpedaling on a curve to sideshuffling to his left.
Romo, already scanning that Jones has beaten the RG and is about to come for him straight on, prepares to step up in the pocket...
BOOM! Out of nowhere Irvin comes in and crushes Romo from the side. Beating the RT Free, Irvin cleanly wraps him up and drags him down sideways. Jones, who has to check with contain on the left, comes back right inside and finishes the job from behind. As the Cowboys O-Line stand in bewilderment and shame, the roars of the 12th man echo throughout CenturyLink Field.
When Bruce Irvin first introduce himself to the Seahawks community, he told the fans he wanted to make an impact. "I heard about the 12th man" He responded to a question concerning eating quarterbacks "I can't wait to hear 60,000 people yelling, carrying the tradition of 'BBBRRRUUUCCCEEE'."
And at long last, this beautiful, poetic chant is heard.