Redskins' Adrian Peterson still a 'beast' in Falcons' eyes

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons defensive end Brooks Reed isn't surprised to see 33-year-old running back Adrian Peterson having success with the Washington Redskins.

"No. Not at all. He's a beast," Reed said of Peterson. "He's just one of those special players that come around once in a while. I know he's a really tough guy. He's very resilient -- work ethic off the charts. He's come back from a bunch of injuries and outperformed expectations every time. I think he's still got a lot of gas in the tank, for sure."

Reed and the Falcons will see up close Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox) just how much juice Peterson still possesses. Containing Peterson will be one of the top priorities as the 3-4 Falcons try to extend a two-game winning streak and win on the road for the first time this season.

Peterson is fresh off a season-high 149 rushing yards on 26 carries -- including a 64-yard touchdown sprint -- in this past Sunday's 20-13 win against the New York Giants. In the Redskins' five wins, Peterson has rushed for at least 96 yards each time, including a pair of 100-yard games. He stands fifth in the NFL with 587 rushing yards and ranks third in the league with 279 rushing yards after first contact. Peterson also has been a solid checkdown target for quarterback Alex Smith. And he's accomplished all this despite dealing with shoulder and ankle injuries.

"It doesn't surprise me, but it's impressive nonetheless," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said of Peterson's success in Year 12. "And I think when you watch him play, you see his ability to jump-cut. We oftentimes think about how big he is (6-1, 220) and how strong he is. But I think what makes him unique is at that size where he can go full speed and then jump-cut to avoid, you know, to extend plays."

Slowing down opposing running backs has been a tough task for the Falcons this season, but they're coming off an impressive showing against Giants rookie sensation Saquon Barkley, limiting him to 43 rushing yards on 14 carries. Maybe shutting down Barkley will give the Falcons a little momentum in preparation for Peterson.

"I wouldn't [go] as far as shut down," Quinn said of the defense's showing against Barkley. "For this year, [it qualifies as] a shut down."

Quinn wasn't sure what to expect against Barkley, but that isn't the case with Peterson.

"I know exactly who Adrian is and, playing against him, how tough he can be," Quinn said. "For us, tackling, our leverage, our pursuit -- those are things that we're really looking to improve."

The Falcons haven't faced Peterson since 2015, when he was still in Minnesota and four years removed from a miraculous ACL recovery. In that '15 game, Peterson rushed for 158 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns in the Vikings' 20-10 win.

Reed is one of five Falcons in the lineup who faced Peterson that day. The others are defensive end Vic Beasley Jr., defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, and cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford.

"I mean, we just have to have the same mentality: getting off blocks, driving our feet on tackles and not sliding off tackles, and not leaving our feet when we tackle," Reed said. "Just corralling and being sound in our defense and executing calls is going to be important."

Having the disruptive Jarrett back from an ankle injury certainly made a difference against the Giants and Barkley, so look for Jarrett to have an impact again. Defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel has rotated different bodies at linebacker and safety with hopes of keeping guys fresh and getting the surest tacklers on the field. Plus, the Falcons are coming off their bye week, so guys should be more energized anyway.

There will be pressure on the defensive line to contain Peterson from the jump.

"Adrian Peterson has been a freak since I saw him his freshman year at Oklahoma, so if anyone could still do it, it would be a guy like that," said defensive end Derrick Shelby. "For us, you just don't let him get started. You can't let him get his feet started and then get a full head of steam, because he's a load to bring down."