Darrell Green had gone six games and seven weeks without an interception, and when he finally got one Sunday, it came on a play that was anything but dramatic.

The Redskins-Saints game had long since been decided, and instead of running one-on-one with a wide receiver six inches taller and 30 pounds heavier, Green found himself near the back of the end zone cradling a Steve Walsh lob pass.

His celebration lasted about 30 seconds. It may not be the play that sends him to a fourth Pro Bowl and it didn't make the network highlight shows, but it reminded the Redskins about what a terrific -- if sometimes invisible -- season he has had.

It reminded them that he has not only gone long stretches without an interception, but long stretches without a ball even being thrown in his direction. It reminded them that on a defense that has played better than almost anyone expected, their best day-to-day performer has been cornerback Darrell Green.

"He's playing great," secondary coach Emmitt Thomas said. "He's probably the best cornerback in the league right now. The only guy close might be {Kansas City's} Albert Lewis. This definitely is the best I've seen him play."

Thomas said Green was playing on about this same level last season when a fractured wrist ended his season in Week 7. Green has recovered and picked up where he left off, with teams having so much respect for him that they begin their game plans by looking someplace else for completions.

Thomas said the lone route that Green has seen consistently is the short pattern across the middle. "Those passes are thrown low and are hard to intercept," he said. "He has such an ability to recover and make the play that teams don't try a lot of other stuff against him."

Green said that's the way it's supposed to be. He's midway through his eighth season, has celebrated his 30th birthday and has gone against the NFL's best receivers for around 100 games.

"I think I've had great years before, but the more you play, the better you're supposed to be," Green said. "I'm thankful to be physically able to keep going out. It's a blessing."

He has 24 career interceptions, including four this season, two behind NFC leaders Wayne Haddix of Tampa Bay and Chicago's Lemuel Stinson, who is out for the season. He got one in each of the first three games, then didn't get another for almost two months.

But when he went to the Pro Bowl in '84 and '86, he intercepted only five passes in each season. He went in '87 after intercepting three in that strike-shortened season.

"I don't want to say the Pro Bowl is important," Green said. "Gratifying is more the right word. Last year and this year have been the best years of my career, and I'd like to have that honor. But it's a team game, and if we're winning ballgames, I have to be happy about that. Everyone wants individual honors, that's human nature. But at the same time, you have to remember what you're out there for."

He said he has taken it for granted that there may be days when quarterbacks won't challenge him. But he said the challenge can be that much greater to stay sharp and keep opponents from scoring. His four interceptions are tied with Martin Mayhew for the team lead, but he's first with eight deflections.

"They never have thrown at me a lot," he said, "and I didn't expect them to. I understand what my job is. It's hard for me to get interceptions at this point in my career, the way I play. By the same token, there have been a number of games where my receiver didn't catch any balls. So if there are no interceptions and no catches, I win that matchup."

His numbers are a lot like those of a Washington defense that is ranked eighth in the NFC in yardage and first downs, but trails only Chicago, San Francisco and New York in points allowed.

The Redskins have 12 interceptions, sixth most in the NFC, and went a month without one. "That's going to happen," Green said. "You see some guys with a lot of interceptions, and you know they're not better players than you are. I played exactly the same way last year, so it doesn't have anything to do with missing the team last year. I do appreciate the game more. I'm thankful I've got this talent and that I'm using it."

Trips to Texas, like the one on Thanksgiving Day to play the Cowboys at Texas Stadium, have always been special, and he said this year's game will be special as well. He scored his second career touchdown on an interception return against the Cowboys in Week 3 and got his first against Dallas in 1984.

It's special, too, because he was raised in Houston, went to college at Texas A&I and still has dozens of friends and relatives there. He said he'd considered having them up to the game, but "remembered what a tradition Thanksgiving had been at our house. We had a large family {seven kids} and Thanksgiving was one of those days we were all together. I didn't think it'd be fair to take them away from that to go to a football game, so I asked that they stay at home and enjoy it on television. I'll play the game, shoot back home and have a late dinner with my wife and kids. That's what Thanksgiving has been about."

It has been about other things as well and Green spent part of last night delivering turkeys to homeless shelters in the Washington area. He's the same guy who, when a restaurant owner attempted to buy him dinner, said: "I'm not the one who needs it. I can suggest some people who do."