Irvin starting to fit in on Falcons’ defense

Bruce Irvin had his best game with the Falcons.

No doubt.

Irvin played linebacker and defensive end for the second game in a row and finished with three tackles, 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss and three quarterback hits in the 40-14 rout of the Cardinals Sunday.

He was a major part of the team’s season-high seven sacks. The defense also had nine quarterback hits.

“It was good,” Irvin said. “We’ve been trying to really get on that the last couple of weeks so it’s really good to be able to make some plays out there and have everybody contribute and have everybody get a sack.”

In the Jon Gruden purge in Oakland, Irvin was released by the Raiders and signed by the Falcons after he cleared waivers. He started his career with the Seahawks when Falcons coach Dan Quinn was the defensive coordinator. He was signed to a one-year contract.

“I’m very comfortable,” Irvin said. “I love being here.”

The Falcons had to ease Irvin into the operation and Quinn said that he started playing him more at linebacker  before the Green Bay game.

He’s played six games with the Falcons. He picked up his first sack last week against the Packers before his big outing against the Cardinals.

“I appreciate DQ giving me a chance to go back to being a backer,” Irvin said. “It’s working out for us pretty good. You just to continue to keep building off of it and get stronger each and every week.”

Irvin, who’s from Atlanta, was elated to get away from the Raiders. On his first day of practice with the Falcons, Irvin yelled to the heavens, “I’m free, I’m free,” as he dashed out onto the practice field.

Initially the Falcons envisioned using Irvin, with defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, defensive ends Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley in their version of a NASCAR rush package.

Quinn felt the Falcons got more pass-rush opportunities against the Cardinals.

“I thought more than anything this felt much closer to the version of ball we'd like to play, the turnover margin, the speed that we could play with and the ability to run the ball and convert,” Quinn said. “We had some good stops on third down, so all of those things I thought contributed to making sure our style came through.”

Irvin was able to blend into the defense easily.

“This is a great locker room, so it wasn’t hard at all,” Irvin said. “We have a great (defensive) line room. So, they accepted me and guys really tried to help me catch up. They did a great job of really having my back.”

Irvin is well-respected in the locker room.

“He’s a guy that’s played at a high level for a long time,” quarterback Matt Ryan said. “We were fortunate to be able to pick him up. He’s provided a lot (more) than just the pass rush.”

Ryan was happy to see Irvin and the pass-rush bust loose against the Cardinals.

“Those guys work so hard, for them to get home and be able to do it, it’s always fun to see,” Ryan said.

Irvin split a sack with DeVondre Campbell, who got to Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen first. Irvin came in a millisecond later and blasted the poor rookie.

It was the kind of play the Falcons envisioned Irvin making when they signed him.

“He’s a high energy guy,” Ryan said. “You can feel his effort and attitude. He’s got an aura about him. He doesn’t say a whole lot, but you just feel it from the way that works and from the way that he carries himself.

“He’s a real professional. He understands what it takes to individually play at a high level and also be a part of a defense that plays at a high level.”

Irvin has a sense of humor, too.

Jarrett had two sacks, cornerback Brian Poole, Beasley and defensive end Steven Means had a sack.

“It ain’t no fun if the homies can’t (have) none (sacks),” Irvin said. “And all the homies got a little bit today. It was a great feeling. We needed that. It gave us a lot of confidence that we need to build off of.”

It was also the Falcons first win since Irvin signed with the team.

“I started to think that I was bad luck,” Irvin said. “We’ve been losing since I got here. It’s great to finally get a win with my favorite team in the NFL.”

The Falcons close out the season on the road against Carolina on Sunday and a Tampa Bay on Dec. 30.

“We have to finish strong and finish these next two games like we did today,” Irvin said. “Today shows what type of guys are in this locker room. We are going to continue to fight no matter what is being said outside of here. The only people that matter is the people in this locker room who we go to work every day with.”