Beasley con­cedes Fal­cons’ play­off hopes ‘slim’

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - SPORTS - By D. Or­lando Led­bet­ter dled­bet­ AJC staff writer Tim Tucker con­trib­uted to this re­port.

FLOW­ERY BRANCH — Af­ter start­ing the sea­son poorly, the Fal­cons know that their play­off clock is tick­ing.

“With the sense of our record be­ing 1-4 right now, play­offs hopes are slim,” de­fen­sive end Vic Beasley said. “But ... we are still in con­trol of our own des­tiny. We have to go out there and per­form.”

The Fal­cons face the Buc­ca­neers (2-2) at 1 p.m. Sun­day at Mer­cedes-Benz Sta­dium.

The Fal­cons are in a big hole. Since 1978, only nine teams have started the sea­son 1-4 and made the play­offs. No team has started 1-4 and made the Su­per Bowl.

The Fal­cons are brac­ing for the re­turn to the start­ing lineup of Tampa Bay quar- ter­back Jameis Win­ston. The Bucs are av­er­ag­ing 358 yards pass­ing per game.

“We know that they can air it out,” Beasley said. “We know what type of player Jameis is and what he can do. We def­i­nitely have to get some pres­sure on him and try to dis­tract him and get him off the spot. Try to get him to throw us a cou­ple of picks hope­fully.”

The Fal­cons have only eight sacks this sea­son. Beasley, who has one sack, knows the Fal­cons need to rush bet­ter against Win­ston.

“Our rush can def­i­nitely dis­rupt the game, even in our big­ger man pack­age, our base per­son­nel,” Beasley said. “If we can get on and off blocks and rec­og­nize the play ac­tion, it will be benefi- cial for us.”

The Fal­cons are try­ing to play with­out four starters on de­fense and one on of­fense. Beasley senses things are com­ing to­gether. But there is a sense of ur­gency.

The units need to start play- ing well, right now. Not down the road.

“We’ve seen glimpses of it,” Beasley said. “(We’ve had) good per­for­mances from cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als who are new to de­fense and new to the of­fense. We are look­ing for­ward to big­ger and bet- ter things. With this be­ing a di­vi­sional game, it’s a big matchup for us and a very im­por­tant game.”

Free­man, Jar­rett out again: Run­ning back Devonta Free­man, de­fen­sive tackle Grady Jar­rett and de­fen­sive end Der­rick Shelby were de­clared out of Sun­day’s game by Fal­cons coach Dan Quinn on Fri­day.

Free­man also has a groin in­jury to go with his foot in­jury. Cor­ner­back Justin Bethel (knee) fully par­tic­i­pated in prac­tice.

Jar­rett has an an­kle sprain, while Shelby also has a groin in­jury.

Free­man played in the opener, but missed the next three games with a bruised knee.

Jar­rett missed the Pitts- burgh game af­ter suf­fer­ing an an­kle sprain in the third quar­ter against the Ben­gals on Sept. 30.

With Jar­rett and Shelby out, Steel­ers run­ning back James Con­ner rushed 21 times for 110 yards and two touch­downs in the 41-17 loss on Sun­day.

De­fen­sive tackle Michael Ben­nett IV, who played 18 snaps against the Steel­ers, could see an in­creased role against the Bucs. Also, Quinn said that rookie Dead­rin Se­nat was com­ing off his best game.

Is that the sky? The Fal­cons plan to open the re­tractable roof of Mer­cedes-Benz Sta­dium for Sun­day af­ter­noon’s game. That is sub­ject to change based on weather con­di­tions, the team noted in an­nounc­ing its plan Fri­day.

The roof has been closed for the Fal­cons’ first three reg­u­lar-sea­son home games this year and for all but one of their reg­u­lar-sea­son home games since the sta­dium de­buted last year. It was open for the Sept. 17, 2017, game against Green Bay.

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