Bruce Irvin has seven of his career 25.5 sacks against Carolina's Cam Newton, a success he hopes to continue Sunday when the two teams meet in an NFC divisional playoff game.
Bruce Irvin’s future with the Seahawks might not be in doubt if he could just play against the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton every week.
Irvin has had an almost eerie amount of success against Newton and the Panthers in his four years with the Seahawks.
Consider that of Irvin’s 22 career regular-season sacks, six have come against Newton. Additionally, one of the 3.5 sacks he has made in the playoffs also came against Newton.
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Consider further that the Seahawks have sacked Newton 13 times in the five games he has played against Seattle — Irvin has seven of those, and has played against the Panthers just four times, missing the 2013 season opener due to his suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs.
Asked to explain his success against Newton on Thursday, Irvin searched for an answer before saying: “Maybe it’s because we are both from Atlanta.’’
That might make as much sense as anything else.
“It’s weird because I always play good against Carolina,’’ he said. “I don’t know what it is.’’
Irvin’s mention of Atlanta, though, recalls the events of the off-season, when the Seahawks did not pick up his option for the 2016 season, which would have paid him $7.8 million.
That Seattle didn’t pick up the option means Irvin — the team’s first-round pick in 2012 out of West Virginia — will be a free agent following the season, unless he agrees to a new contract with the Seahawks before then. That isn’t generally regarded as likely, meaning Irvin could well be playing his last few weeks with the Seahawks.
After his option was not picked up, Irvin later was reported as indicating he hoped to end up back in his hometown of Atlanta for the 2016 season, though he later said he was misinterpreted.
And he since has said only that he’s playing this season and will worry about the future later.
On Thursday, asked if he sees dollar signs every time he makes a sack, he laughed and said “no, man. At this point stats don’t mean nothing. Right now we are just trying to win and get back to the Super Bowl.’’
For this week, though, Irvin’s stats against Newton and the Panthers speak pretty loudly.
He had two sacks in regular season games against the Panthers in 2012, 2014 and this season, and also another sack in a divisional playoff game last January.
Many of the sacks have also come at key times.
In 2012 Irvin had a strip sack late in the game that forced a Newton fumble that clinched a 16-12 win for the Seahawks. And in 2014 he had sacks on consecutive plays to kill a final Carolina drive after the Seahawks had scored the go-ahead touchdown in an eventual 13-9 win.
“Pretty clutch, huh?,’’ Irvin said with a laugh.
In the only game in which Irvin did not play against Carolina, in 2013, Newton was sacked just once. Newton was sacked at least two times in each of the other games he has played against the Seahawks.
Newton is listed at 6-5, 245, which makes him one of the tougher quarterbacks in the NFL to bring down.
Michael Bennett memorably missed a sack on Newton in 2014 and then retorted to a reporter who asked about it “you ever tried to tackle Cam Newton?’’
Said Irvin Thursday: “He’s really hard to take down, so I don’t really know how I’ve gotten him down seven times, to be honest with you. …
“He’s bigger than most of our D-line. He’s like 6-5, 260. So he’s a really big dude. Big lower body, big legs. You’ve got to really wrap him up and just take him down man-to-man.’’
Irvin said one key is to go deeper with his rush, to not allow Newton lanes with which to escape.
He also said cutting off Carolina’s run and turning Newton into a pocket passer is the key to beating the Panthers.
“You’ve really got to be disciplined in your rushes,’’ he said. “Because with Cam you want to make him one-dimensional. You can’t give him a choice where he feels like he can beat you with his legs and his arms. That’s when you are under pressure.
“But when you get a little pressure on him and make him throw — he has a really strong arm and guys with strong arms feel like they can fit balls into tight windows or spaces that are not really there. So I feel if we rush him and stop the run and get him to really try to force throws then I really fee like we’ll have a lot of success against him.’’