After starting 5-0 last year, the Atlanta Falcons lost eight of their final 13 games, finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. Well, after starting 4-1 this year, the Falcons (7-4) are determined to not have a repeat of 2015.
“There was a lot of talk about that,” Falcons linebacker Vic Beasley said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “We just preached finish. We were unable to finish well last year, so we’ve been preaching it this year.”
Beasley, to his credit, has done his part. The second-year Clemson product ranks fifth in the NFL with 9.5 sacks. He’s also forced four fumbles to go with 30 tackles and two passes defended.
“I think I’ve come a long way,” Beasley said. “Last year was a great learning experience and I had a chance to work with players like Dwight Freeney, who has 100+ sacks. It’s been a benefit for me. And then along with the coaches giving me a great game plan and me being able to go out there and execute, (it’s been good).”
Indeed, Freeney may be 36, but the former Super Bowl champion and seven-time Pro Bowler has been a great addition to the Atlanta defense.
“It’s just his knowledge of the game, really,” said Beasley, 24. “Just shedding offensive lineman (in) little sneaky ways. I’ll probably keep that to myself, but he’s a great player and he’s helped me out a lot.”
Offensively, Julio Jones is having another impressive season. He has 65 receptions for 1,140 yards – an average of 17.5 yards per reception – and five touchdowns.
“It’s amazing,” Beasley said. “It’s amazing to see a player like Julio. It’s unbelievable. I’m glad I’m on his team.”
Beasley, Jones and the rest of the Falcons will have a tough task against Kansas City (8-3) this Sunday. The Chiefs have won six of seven, with four of those wins coming by six points or fewer.
“They’re definitely a talented team,” Beasley said. “Like I said, we’ve been preaching finish all year. We’ve had teams where we should have had them beat and we allowed them to get back in the game. So we’re just going to try to finish. Whenever we get up on them, try to put our foot on the floor and keep pounding them.”
There’s still a long way to go in the season, but Beasley believes the Falcons have what it takes to reach the franchise’s first Super Bowl since 1998.
“Oh, no doubt,” he said. “We have a team that can compete for a Super Bowl. We have a lot of great players here, a great coaching staff. It just comes down to executing, just us putting ourselves in the best position to win.”