The Matchup DeAngelo Hall, Redskins Need to Right the Ship
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WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – The Redskins last faced the Bears a week shy of three years ago. The big story before the game was the reunion of Washington coach Mike Shanahan with Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler, whom he had drafted 11th overall for Denver in 2006 and made the starter that December.
Cutler was still a big story by game’s end, but only for throwing four passes that DeAngelo Hall intercepted, including one that the cornerback returned for the winning touchdown in a 17-14 Redskins victory at Soldier Field. Hall’s four picks tied an NFL record and launched him towards his third Pro Bowl, his first with Washington.
“That day was a lot of fun,” Hall recalled as he and the 1-4 Redskins prepared for Sunday’s visit from the 4-2 Bears. “The touchdown was probably the sweetest one because it was one-handed, but the best catch was probably on [speedy receiver] Devin Hester. I beat him out of the break and laid out to catch it sideways.”
Cutler didn’t have his favorite receiver to throw to that day because fellow ex-Bronco Brandon Marshall was playing for Miami. Marshall had burned Hall – who did have an interception — and the Redskins for 134 yards and two touchdowns on just five catches in a Washington upset of Denver in 2009 and he caught seven balls for 98 yards in a Dolphins victory over the Redskins in 2011.
“Brandon’s a hell of a receiver, but I think I’m one of the top corners and I feel good about our matchup,” said the 5-foot-10 Hall, who is six inches and 32 pounds smaller than Marshall but has the edge in speed.
“You’ve got a quarterback that’s playing very well and you’ve got a receiver like Brandon who’s extremely strong, has great hands,” Shanahan said of what lies ahead for Hall, who has been dueling with the opposition’s top wideout every week. So far, that’s meant dueling with Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson, Green Bay’s Jordy Nelson, Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, and after a break against Oakland, Dallas’ Dez Bryant.
“DeAngelo, you could tell how excited he was to play [against Dallas on national TV],” Shanahan said. “You’ve got a great test against a guy that’s playing extremely well and … DeAngelo played a great game.”
That wasn’t so true during the first three weeks when Hall and Washington surrendered an NFL-record 1,238 yards, but he and the defense reversed course the past two games. Bryant managed just five catches for 36 yards as the Redskins limited the Cowboys to 213 yards.
“It wasn’t just Dez, I feel like I’ve been pretty good football all year,” said Hall, who was waived in a cost-cutting move in March before re-signing for a much lower salary in April. “I feel good. My body feels good. Mentally, I feel good. But my road doesn’t get any easier.”
Maybe that’s why there’s some gray amongst the whiskers on his chin. Although he’s in his 10th NFL season and is one of just two players to ever return four fumbles and four interceptions for touchdowns, Hall doesn’t turn 30 until a month from Saturday.
“I have been in this league a while, but I feel I can still play for a long time,” said Hall, whose interception against the Lions made him one of just five active players with at least 40. “[Cowboys quarterback] Tony Romo told me after the game that I’m one of the toughest guys he plays against. I’ve played against Tony for a number of years and he never said that before. That’s gratifying, but it doesn’t mean much when we don’t win.”
That hasn’t happened often for Hall, who has never been to a Super Bowl and who until Washington’s NFC East title last year hadn’t even been to the playoffs since he was an Atlanta rookie in 2004.
“Last year was a lot of fun,” said Hall, who enjoys playing for Shanahan, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and defensive backs coach Raheem Morris. “I really enjoy playing in this system. Part of the reason we play so hard is that we don’t want to let our coaches down. That’s how we feel about Mike, Haz and Raheem. All those yards [we gave up] was a reflection on them. The onus was on us as players to try to be better and we’re doing that, but we’ve still got a long way to go. Stats are for losers. You play this game to win.”
But the defending NFC East champions have only won once in 2013.
“It ain’t me against Jay, we’re just trying to get a win,” Hall said. “I doubt Jay’s worried about me. He’s so confident as a quarterback, he feels like he can make every throw. Like he said after the  game, if he had to do it all over again, he’d throw some of the same passes. So I am looking to get some balls thrown my way on Sunday.”
The gambling corner from Chesapeake, Va. and Virginia Tech always does.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last three Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March 2011. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin.