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Sunday, November 9, 2008
Atlanta's defense breaking out


Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

ATLANTA -- We've heard a lot about the rapid development of rookie quarterback Matt Ryan.

But how about the development of Atlanta's defense? A week after shutting out the Raiders, the Falcons have held the Saints' high-power offense to two first-half field goals. They've done it with a secondary that doesn't really have any big names and they've done it with starting cornerback Brent Grimes sitting out most of the first half with an ankle injury. Domonique Foxworth and rookie Chevis Jackson have been filling in and they're doing a solid job against Drew Brees and his receivers.

Atlanta's other starting cornerback, Chris Houston, just made one of the biggest defensive plays of the season. With the Saints facing a fourth-and-3 from the Atlanta 28-yard line late in the first half, New Orleans elected to go for a first down, instead of another field goal.

That didn't work out for the Saints because Houston stepped in and knocked down a pass for Marques Colston. One other very big reason the Atlanta defense is playing so well is defensive end John Abraham. Some critics have said Abraham's stats are misleading and that most of his sacks have come against bad teams.

Not sure if the Saints fall into that category, but they're usually very good at protecting Brees. That's not so today. Abraham has one sack (his 11th of the season) and has been putting pressure on Brees consistently. I've zeroed in on the battle between Abraham and left tackle Jammal Brown. Abraham's been winning it and has gotten several strong hits on Brees just as he released passes.

Abraham went down right at the end of the first half. We're not sure what the injury is yet and not sure if he'll play in the second half.