On the hot seat: Falcons’ pass rush has only 11 sacks

Atlanta Falcons linebacker James Vaughters (93) works during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Sep. 12, 2021, in Atlanta. The Philadelphia Eagles won 32-6. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Falcons linebacker James Vaughters (93) works during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Sep. 12, 2021, in Atlanta. The Philadelphia Eagles won 32-6. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)

Credit: AP

FLOWERY BRANCH -- The Falcons’ pass rush ranks last in the NFL in sacks (11), and the team released Jacob Tuioti-Mariner this week. He was tied for the lead with two sacks.

The defensive front – the line and linebackers – will be on the hot seat to mount some pressure against Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott when the Falcons and Cowboys meet at 1 p.m. Sunday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Outside linebacker Dante Fowler returned to practice this week, but he likely is not ready to play.

James Vaughters came up with a big sack-strip against the Saints that outside linebacker Steven Means returned for 32 yards and set up a key touchdown.

Fowler, Tuioti-Mariner and Deion Jones are tied for the team lead with two sacks.

Grady Jarrett, Ade Ogundeji, Marlon Davidson and Foye Oluokun have a sack each.

Oluokun had a potential sack erased against the Saints when he was called for roughing the passer.

“His eyes got big and he pump-faked,” Oluokun said. “I’m not going to jump. I’m just going to run through the dude (next time).”

Oluokun has been sent on a blitz 34 times this season, according to Pro Football Reference.com advanced stats. He has two hurries and five hits.

“I did my own little version of my blitz,” Oluokun said. “I came late. I was just trying to do too much. (Next time) I’ll just run through him.”

Prescott was sacked twice and hit five times in the 30-14 loss to the Broncos on Sunday. Overall, the Cowboys have allowed 14 sacks.

Means has been limited this week with a knee injury. He has won the respect of defensive coordinator Dean Pees.

“He knows what to do,” Pees said. “He is dependable and trustworthy. Steven Means will play 100 miles an hour and give you everything that he’s got on every play. He’ll be in the right spot and do the right thing.”

Means has 19 tackles, two quarterback hits and two tackles for losses.

“Yeah, he may get blocked,” Pees said. “What defensive lineman and end hasn’t. OK. Whatever. Nobody has played 100 percent in a game, but the thing that I love about Steven is if you ask him to do something, he’s going to do it like you asked him to do, like you coached him to do it.”

Means also adds some intangibles to the defense.

“He is great personality on this team,” Pees said. “He’s a guy who’s worked from the ground up. Nothing has been handed to him. ... I love guys that you can just trust.”

-Staff writer Anfernee Patterson contributed to this article.

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Atlanta Falcons schedule and scores

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons 30, Dolphins 28

Panthers 19, Falcons 13

Falcons 27, Saints 25

Next four games

Falcons at Cowboys, 1 p.m. Sunday

Patriots at Falcons, 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18

Falcons at Jacksonville, 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 28

Tampa Bay at Atlanta, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 5