HOUSTON – With apologies to Bryan Cox, the defensive coaching staff and even Dwight Freeney, there’s a small chance that free safety Ricardo Allen was at least partly responsible for Vic Beasley’s 15.5-sack, breakout performance this season.

Back in the offseason, Allen cooked up a scheme to light a fire under Beasley, who played through a torn labrum his rookie campaign and only logged four sacks. One day in the weight room this exchange happened between the two defensive teammates:

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“I was talking to Vic [Beasley], it was kind of like me testing him,” said Allen. “’Vic, are you going to take it to the next level this year?’

“He’s like, ‘What do you mean?’

“I said, ‘This is not the year to play around, we’re not playing around this year. I need you getting after those quarterbacks.’ He was like, ‘I’m going to do that for sure.’

“I was like, ‘Nah, I don’t think you’re going to do it. I think I will beat you in interceptions to your sacks.’

“He said, ‘You’re crazy. I’ll give you three sacks for every interception you get.’ I was like, ‘I’ll bet you $5,000 on that.’”

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You know what Beasley did. He erupted on the NFL scene and pulled 15.5 quarterbacks down in 2016. He became a pass-rushing force. Allen grabbed two regular-season interceptions and has two in the postseason (playoffs count in this bet).

Allen didn’t have think at all when asked how many sacks he needed in the Super Bowl to win the bet. He needs two, and that’s only if Beasley doesn’t sack Tom Brady.

The bet has been a fun way for Allen and Beasley to push each other all season.

“His game has come to a whole new level and he came to me all the time and said ‘Rico, you’d better catch up, because I’m not going to stop,’” said Allen. “I would always go to him before the game and say ‘If you get one, I’m going to get one.’”

It definitely didn’t work out that way for Allen, who without an MVP like performance from the safety will be coughing up some dough. Allen doesn’t mind.

“If it took $5,000 to take his game to the level it is, I’ll pay him $5,000 any time he wants to,” said Allen. “He’s a whole new factor in the game. Because people don’t want to see him in one -on-one. He takes a guy out of coverage, he makes a guy slow down and have to chip him. It may slow down out pass rush little bit, but it takes a guy from running a vertical threat or maybe getting another guy out [into a route as a receiver] because he’s that big a factor. He helps other guys around him.

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Most fans, and likely everyone in the Falcons’ facility, likely agree that Allen’s $5,000 to Beasley will be money well spent.