Arizona’s offense features a deep-passing attack that requires quarterback Carson Palmer to hold onto the ball longer than in most offenses, and that’s just fine with Falcons sack leader Vic Beasley.
“That definitely makes me smile,” Beasley said. “We’ll definitely work through the week and get a good game plan for the rush. I look forward to going out there and getting that win on Sunday.”
Beasley has 9.5 sacks, which ranks fourth in the NFL behind three players — Buffalo’s Lorenzo Alexander, Kansas City’s Dee Ford and Seattle’s Cliff Avril — who each have 10 sacks.
Falcons defensive end Dwight Freeney has been impressed with Beasley’s play.
“Vic has been great,” Freeney said. “Vic is balling. He listened and he’s taken in a lot of the stuff that I’ve been telling him since training camp, and it has sunk in. Now, you can see it.
“He’s balling, and he’s going to be a force to reckoned with if he keeps on doing what he has to do. He’s finding plays and plays are finding him. It’s great to see it and hopefully he can continue on with that success.”
Beasley knows the overall defensive numbers are not that great.
The Falcons defense is giving up 28.3 points per game, which ranks 29th in the 32-team league. The Falcons are giving up 385.9 yards per game (28th), 102.9 yards rushing per game (16th) and 283 yards passing per game (31).
Also, the Falcons are a plus-3 in turnover differential, which ranks tied for eighth in the league.
Beasley knows that they unit must pick up its play over the final six games.
“This is the final stretch,” Beasley said. “We’ll try to make that playoff push. Try to see if we can win this division. It’s going to come down to the finish, that’s the most important thing.”
The defense should get a boost from Freeney, 36, who has recovered from his grade-2 quadriceps tear and is ready to finish the season in grand style.
“I’m feeling good,” Freeney said. “My body has recovered. That time off was crucial for me. I had that grade-2 quad tear a week after the San Diego week, which pretty much limited me physically for the last three weeks.”
Freeney helped to revived the Falcons’ pass rush early in the season with his hurries and sacks. When his health started to slip, Beasley emerged as pass rusher.
“I’m feeling a lot better right now,” Freeney said. “That rest was absolutely crucial for me, and hopefully, I can get back to playing the way I would like to play.”
Freeney, who played against the Eagles after not playing in the short-week Thursday night game against Tampa Bay, has seen his pass-rush production tailed off in recent weeks. He had just five quarterback pressures in his past three games after he had 18 in weeks 3-5, according to Pro Football Focus.
“It will be great to go out there and play ball the way I know that I can,” he said. “Feeling the way that I know I can is absolutely crucial.”
Quinn attributes Beasley breakout to him working harder in practice and carrying that into the game.
“I totally agree with that one,” Beasley said. “All of the time that they put in with me. It’s from working extremely hard in the offseason and working extremely hard right now.”
Freeney has helped him with how to study tackles.
“Each week brings a different challenge,” Beasley said. “You’ve got different tackles and different schemes. I’m just working within the game plan and taking what I learned throughout the practice week and applying it to the game.”
If the defense can improve and the offense can continue at its record-setting pace, the Falcons know the sky is the limit for them this season.
“We are definitely going to try to play our best ball coming here to the end of the season,” Beasley said. “We haven’t played our best ball yet. There is room for improvement. We’ve got a long way to go. It’s a long season. We are just going to try to keep pressing forward and keep a positive mind-set.”
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