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A Cowboys backup defensive lineman made everyone wonder what's the matter with Aaron Rodgers

The Cowboys defense had a good day against the Rodgers and the Packers. Defensive lineman David Irving had a GREAT day.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

If you have been reading my stuff here on SB Nation for awhile you probably know that a long long long long long time ago current Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was my defensive line coach down here in Tampa. I had some pretty good coaches while I was in college, but Coach Marinelli was on a whole other level. It wasn't just the football knowledge that he dropped on us on a daily basis that made him a great coach, but also the way he held us accountable for our play on the field.

For instance, I was used to being judged by my coaches in college on whether or not I lined up correctly and whether did what I was supposed to do on any given play. If I did what was "called for," then I could expect to get a good grade for that play.

With Rod, however, while he took into account those things, he was much more interested in whether you affected the outcome of the play or not. Did you actually make the play? Did you make something positive happen for your team?

After each game he would give us our individual "factor" grades which were based on if you made the tackle, got a sack, forced a double team, got pressure on the quarterback, etc. You could have lined up perfectly and taken on every block with textbook technique, but if you hadn't actually made any plays or did something to help your teammates make them, your factor grade wasn't going to be worth a damn. Didn't matter if they were running away from you, throwing the ball quickly or any other excuse, a premium was put on making plays, period.

Too many low factor grades might just mean you would be getting your walking papers. The message was clear; whether you were in for five plays or a hundred you had better find a way to make something happen when you were in there.

I don't know if Coach Marinelli still uses that grading system now that he runs the whole defense. If he does I would imagine that Cowboys second year defensive lineman David Irving's factor grade was off the damn charts when he handed them out on Monday.

Irving didn't even make an appearance in the game on Sunday until the second quarter was more than half way over, but it turns out he didn't need a lot of reps to make one hell of an impact on the game.

* * *

The first play that Irving was a factor on came with just 22 seconds left in the first half. He was lined up inside as a nose tackle as the Cowboys went to a three-man rush, and he ended up hauling ass down the field to catch up to Ty Montgomery, who had been lined up in the backfield at running back, 13 yards down the field to get an assisted tackle while also trying to snatch the ball out of Montgomery's hands. It was kind of a harbinger of things to come in fact.

As you might expect of a guy who didn't get any reps in the first quarter, the third quarter had almost completely come and gone before Irving got any playing time in the second half as well. But hey, at least when Irving finally did get into the game again it probably wasn't going to be a high pressure situ ... oh.


Well, damn.

So, Irving's first play of the second half just so happened to be a first-and-goal play at the Cowboys one-and-a-half yard line with the Packers offense starting to gain a lot of momentum. The score was 20-6 at the time and a touchdown would have put the Packers right back in the game. With the prospect of three or four plays for them to gain a yard and a half, Green Bay scoring at least a field goal seemed almost a certainty.

Irving, who is 6'7 and only 275 pounds or so by the way, lined up as a shaded nose tackle, this time as part of a four man line. While Irving looks kinda skinny lined up as a defensive tackle, it's worth mentioning that he has some ridiculously long arms and the guy is plenty strong for his size.

He appeared to be trying to run a Tom game with the three technique, Terrell McClain, where Irving penetrates in his A gap while McClain wraps around behind him in the B gap.  This is normally something the defensive line runs when they are expecting pass. It's helpful because it both allows them to get pressure on the quarterback and, maybe more importantly, clogs the lanes in front of the quarterback to make it harder for them to step up in the pocket.

The thing is, the Packers weren't actually trying to throw the ball there. Instead, they went with a quarterback draw which they probably thought would allow Aaron Rodgers to run in just about untouched. Yeah, they thought.

The offensive tackles did a good job of inviting Dallas' defensive ends up the field and then keeping them from coming back inside. For a minute it looked like the middle was wide open for Rodgers to mosey on in for the touchdown.

That all changed in a flash when Irving, who had initially been banged around by the right guard T.J. Lang and center J.C. Tretter, crossed Tretter's face to get right in Rodgers' running lane. Even then Rodgers appeared to have a chance to change directions and dive in the end zone, but Irving reached out one of those long ass arms and tapped the ball right out of Rodgers' hand.

Not satisfied just to cause the fumble, Irving then pounced on the football that was still rolling around on the ground after it squirted away from Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga. Cowboys ball.

That was a great play and it had a huge impact on the outcome of the game, but for once Irving didn't have much time on the sideline to bask in the aftermath. Just a few plays later Dallas' super-rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott threw the first interception of his young career, and the Packers were right back in the red zone threatening to score.

* * *

On the first play of that drive with 20 seconds left in the third quarter and the Packers at the Cowboys 16-yard line, Irving lined up at three technique and was able to take down Eddie Lacy right at the line of scrimmage for no gain.

Two plays later on third-and-10 from that same 16-yard line, Irving lined up as a three technique again. This time he bull-rushed Lang back a few steps, then jumped up and knocked down Rodgers' pass attempt.

The Packers ended up having to settle for a field goal instead of a touchdown in what was a definite win for Dallas' defense in that situation. Irving was a "factor" on two of those three plays.

That drive extended into the fourth quarter and Irving was saving his best for last.

With 3:12 left in the game and the Cowboys now leading 30-16, the Packers were once again trying to mount a comeback. The had made it to their own 48-yard line and were facing a second-and-2.

Dallas elected to go with a three-man rush (which I fucking hate) and Irving was back at nose tackle. With a three-man rush, that obviously means the offensive line can double team at least two of the pass rushers, and Irving, at least initially, was one of the three rushers they chose to double.

He took on Tretter and Lang and somehow managed to push them both back about 5 yards before his momentum was stymied and he fell to his knees. Fortunately for Irving, Bulaga was getting beaten by the Cowboys' Ryan Davis, so with Irving on the ground, Lang decided to help his right tackle and leave Irving one on one with Tretter.

Just seeing a guy get back up off the ground in that situation isn't exactly the norm, but Irving took it a step forward and not only got up, but went right back to pushing Tretter into Rodgers' lap. He got just close enough, stuck his hand out, and once again was able to knock the ball out of Rodgers' hand.

The Packers were fortunate that backup left tackle Jason Spriggs was able to corral the ball this time and even advance it a yard to set up a third-and-1. Little did they know their luck was about to completely run out.

On the very next play, the Packers tried to run the ball with Montgomery again. It actually made a lot of sense because the Cowboys were still in their three-man line and all they needed was a yard to get the first down. The truth of the matter is that Montgomery did get more than just 1 yard, but thanks to Irving he didn't finish the play with the ball in his hand.

Yes, David Irving forced another fumble the very next play after he sacked Rodgers and made him fumble. And this time the Cowboys were able to recover the fumble which effectively ended any chance of a Green Bay come back and thus the game.

If you are counting at home that was a sack, three caused fumbles, including one he himself recovered, a pass break up, a tackle for no gain and an assist. Oh, and Irving did all that in just 19 plays!

Keep in mind that heading into that game Irving only had one measly tackle and one pass breakup to his name for the season and that he had missed the prior week with a concussion. His breakout game couldn't have come at a better time.

Even with so little playing time, Irving made sure the Packers felt his presence on Sunday. He was a huge factor in the Cowboys beating the Packers and that's why he is my choice for Hoss Of The Week for Week 6 of the NFL season.