Falcons use 2 TDs from defense to keep pace in division
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Dan Quinn figured two touchdowns from his Falcons defense against the Rams was about right.
“We joked that we gave up 14 but they made up for it by scoring 14,” the Atlanta coach said Monday, the day after his Falcons protected their share of the NFC South lead by beating the Los Angeles Rams 42-14.
Quinn noted his offense, defense and special teams all contributed to the win. Two touchdowns from the defense were especially important as they helped the Falcons win easily even as leading wide receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu were held out with injuries.
Vic Beasley continued his breakout season with three sacks, moving him into a share with Denver’s Von Miller for the NFL lead with 13 ½.
On one of his sacks, Beasley stripped the ball from Rams quarterback Jared Goff. Beasley scooped up the ball and ran 21 yards for a touchdown for a 42-0 lead in the third quarter.
Earlier in the game, rookie linebacker Deion Jones scored on a 33-yard interception return.
The Rams fired coach Jeff Fisher on Monday.
The Falcons (8-5) play two of their last three regular-season games at home, including Sunday’s game against San Francisco. The Falcons would win a tie-breaker with Tampa Bay (8-5) in the division, and the Buccaneers play at Dallas next week.
Beasley, who was Quinn’s first draft pick in 2015, also leads the NFL with six forced fumbles.
“I think he’s getting better at what he does,” Quinn said of Beasley’s success in his hybrid role as a linebacker and edge rusher. “The first order of business for Vic is as a pass rusher. ... I think it’s a real product of his skill set and then improving it live.”
Beasley’s big season has helped the Falcons, who are tied for 14th in the NFL with 28 sacks, finally solve their pass-rush problems. Atlanta’s 19 sacks ranked last in the league last season. The Falcons have ranked no higher than 28th since 2012.
Beasley has had four games with at least two sacks this season.
“I think we’re making strides in the right direction,” Beasley said Sunday. “Players are getting turnovers and we’re just trying to make plays out there.”
The Falcons already have matched the wins in their 8-8 finish under Quinn in 2015, when they missed the playoffs following a 6-1 start. On Monday, Quinn continued to carefully avoid any talk of this season’s playoff picture.
“We have no control over things two and three weeks from now,” he said. “It’s how good do you play this week. You look too far ahead and you’re going to miss it.”
Quinn said he expects Jones and Sanu could be limited when the team has its first practice on Wednesday. Sanu (groin) was ruled out earlier last week. Jones traveled with the team to Los Angeles before it was determined in pregame warmups his turf toe injury would keep him out of the game.
“He really had every intention of playing,” Quinn said, adding the team can’t afford to protect Jones for the playoffs if the star can play this week.
“At this time of year you take everything and go for it as hard as you can,” Quinn said.
NOTES: DE Adrian Clayborn (knee) will miss his second straight game this week. Quinn said WR Nick Williams has a concussion. Two new injuries by defensive starters will be watched closely. S Kemal Ishmael has aggravated a shoulder injury and CB Jalen Collins has having his knee checked by a doctor on Monday. Collins moved into the starting lineup when the Falcons lost their top cornerback, Desmond Trufant, to a season-ending pectoral injury.
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