FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Vic Beasley Jr. knows all eyes are on him.
The second-year Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker knows expectations for him are high leading into Saturday's divisional playoff matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. Beasley raised the standard by topping the NFL with 15.5 sacks during the regular season, ahead of Super Bowl MVP Von Miller of the Broncos (13.5). He also had six forced fumbles, tied with Oakland's Bruce Irvin for the league lead.
But none of those statistics really matter now. It's all about how the former first-round draft pick from Clemson can impact Saturday's game.
"Yeah, the expectations have been high for me all year," Beasley said. "When they drafted me, those expectations were high. I feel like we all know what it takes to win. It's no different than any other regular-season game. Yeah, it's a playoff game, but you play hard to win every game. The stakes are higher, but the preparation isn't."
Beasley feels like he's well-prepared for whatever seasoned Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has on the agenda. Back when the Falcons faced Wilson in Week 6 of the regular season, the Seahawks QB had just recovered from a sprained MCL. Wilson wasn't nearly his typical mobile self but still managed to make enough plays to help the Seahawks to a 26-24 win.
Wilson enters the divisional playoff game fresh off shedding his knee brace for last week's wild-card game. Beasley knows limiting Wilson's scrambles will be a key factor, because such unscheduled plays can cause much confusion, particularly for a young defense starting four rookies and three second-year players, including Beasley.
"He's a guy that we played against before, and he's a mobile guy," Beasley said of Wilson. "We're just going to try to get after him. But we have to slow the run down, first and foremost."
The Seahawks defeated the Detroit Lions 26-6 last week in the wild-card round, in large part, because running back Thomas Rawls broke loose for 161 rushing yards. But their offense won't run smoothly unless Wilson is making plays.
It wouldn't be a surprise to see Beasley spy on Wilson, at least a little bit. Beasley is the same guy who ran down speedy 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick a few weeks back as if Kaepernick were standing still. Beasley did the same against Cam Newton a few weeks later, although Newton is a little slower.
"I don't have no problem chasing down quarterbacks," said Beasley, who ran a 4.53 in the 40 at the NFL combine. "I'd like to choose my speed over theirs. I don't think that would be a problem.
"We just have to contain [Wilson]. He can extend plays, just like Aaron Rodgers can."
When Wilson is in the pocket, the Falcons need to pressure him as much as possible against a rebuilt Seahawks offensive line that was stronger than expected last week. Beasley likely will be matched up against right tackle Garry Gilliam, a third-year player who was benched for a couple of games during the regular season.
"I think he has good feet," Beasley said. "He seems to be pretty athletic. But I think Russell Wilson is really what makes their offensive line go because he extends plays so much."
Beasley and the Falcons hope the only thing that gets extended Saturday is their postseason.