Key addition to defense shines

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ATLANTA --- The Atlanta Falcons stayed out of the DeAngelo Hall sweepstakes this week.

Who needs DeAngelo when the Falcons have Domonique?

Hall, the former Falcons' cornerback, was released by Oakland before signing with the Washington Redskins this week. The Falcons showed no interest, but they appeared well-fortified at the cornerback position in Sunday's 34-20 win over the New Orleans Saints.

Domonique Foxworth , who was a relatively quiet addition to the roster immediately before the season, is beginning to look like a key to Atlanta's surprising playoff hopes.

Foxworth, making his second start at cornerback for the Falcons, broke up three passes -- all in the first quarter -- and had five tackles as the defense frustrated Drew Brees and the Saints.

Denver traded Foxworth to the Falcons on Sept. 2 for a conditional seventh-round draft choice in 2009. The pick could be higher, based on Foxworth's playing time.

It's looking like the fourth-year veteran will be playing a lot the rest of the way, as he has replaced Brent Grimes in the Falcons' starting secondary.

The Falcons (6-3) finished with three interceptions -- by safety Erik Coleman and cornerbacks Chevis Jackson and Chris Houston . Jackson returned his interception 95 yards for a touchdown.

"They are the best passing offense in the league," Foxworth said of the Saints. "We knew coming into this game that the pressure was going to be on us. We believe in our secondary and we have been playing really well the past several weeks.

"We are proud to put it on display in front of the world against the best passing offense. More than anything, I'm proud of the young guys for stepping up."

Brees attempted 58 passes and had 422 yards passing, but the Falcons were mostly successful in denying big plays.

"Going into the game, we wanted to make sure that we didn't give up any explosive plays," said Falcons coach Mike Smith . "... We did a good job. We got a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Our guys had to play coverage for a long time in terms of Drew being able to improvise and extend plays, but they did a nice job."

Foxworth gave credit to the pass rush led by defensive end John Abraham , who had his 11th sack of the season and four quarterback hurries.

"At no level have I ever played a game where the defensive line put on so much pressure," Foxworth said. "It makes our lives a lot easier."

MY BAD: Brees completed only two passes for 16 yards to tight end Jeremy Shockey , and the quarterback made some animated points in a discussion between the two after an incompletion in the third quarter.

Brees ran up to Shockey on the field, and the two continued the exchange on the sideline.

"That was not a big deal at all," Brees said. "It was just a miscommunication on the protection on the play before. ... Not a big deal. Just trying to get on the same page."

The incomplete pass on third down came after Brees was pressured by Abraham on incompletions the two previous plays.

"Put that on me," said Shockey in taking responsibility for the missed assignment.

Shockey's injury problems continued when he left the game with an ankle sprain.

ABRAHAM OK: Abraham gave the Falcons a scare when he needed attention from the trainers with 1:08 left in the first half after taking a hit. He said he was kicked in the head.

Abraham returned for the start of the second half, but he walked off the field shaking his left arm at least twice after taking a hit to his left shoulder.

"I feel great, just a little beat up," he said.

WORTH NOTING: Jackson's 95-yard return for a touchdown was the second-longest in Falcons history. Tom Pridemore returned an interception 101 yards for a touchdown against San Francisco on Sept. 20, 1981. ... The Falcons did not allow a sack of Matt Ryan for the fourth time this season. ... Ryan has passed for 902 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions in four home games.

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