Amidst the chaos of the second half at Soldier Field between the Redskins and Bears, one player managed to overcome the confines of mediocrity and shine in the Windy City. Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall intercepted four Jay Cutler passes, returning one 92 yards for a touchdown, propelling Washington to an important 17-14 win over Chicago.
Hall's huge day tied an NFL record for the most interceptions in a single game and even more remarkable was that all four picks were in the second half. Washington's defense also recovered a pair of fumbles, giving them six takeaways for the game and saving an offense struggling to produce points under Donovan McNabb.
With the Bears in the red zone and Cutler looking to build on a 14-10 lead late in the third quarter, Hall made spectacular one-handed interception and took off down the sideline. He found a convoy of blockers in front who escorted him into the end zone to put the Redskins on top for good. Later with minutes remaining, he made another interception on a Cutler bomb to allow McNabb and a beleaguered Redskins offense to run out the clock and enjoy a victory.
McNabb and the offense failed to score in the second half despite a strong day on the ground from new starting running back Ryan Torain. Making just his third start as a member of the Redskins, Torain rushed for 125 yards on 21 carries against the third best run defense in the NFL as Washington adopted a more conservative gameplan late to take the pressure off of a struggling McNabb.
McNabb went 17-32 for 200 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions; his worst game with Washington. The Redskins offensive line held Julius Peppers sackless, but McNabb was clearly flustered in the pocket for much of the day and as a result the offense failed to consistently move the football.
The Bears faced the same issue for much of the day, and whenever it appeared as if one of the offenses was beginning to get untracked, turnovers ensued. There were eight fumbles and six interceptions between the two teams as eight of the 13 possessions in the second half ended with a turnover.
The Redskins had every opportunity to establish a commanding lead early as they started beyond their own 40-yard line four times in the first half. However, McNabb ruined a promising drive in the first quarter by throwing an errant pass, which was deflected in the air and returned 54 for a touchdown by D.J. Moore to put Chicago up 7-0.
There were other blown chances as well. Anthony Armstrong and Chris Cooley dropped passes that would have extended a possession and McNabb misfired on several attempts.
After the mistake, Washington settled down as McNabb led a pair of scoring drives to put Washington ahead 10-7 in the second quarter. Santana Moss hauled in a 24-yard touchdown reception, highlighting a five catch, 63 yard effort. Then Graham Gano hit a 46-yard field goal on the following Redskins drive as Chicago's offense sputtered.
Cutler was sacked three times in the first half, and the Bears had minus-5 yards of offense after a quarter of play. Cutler finished at 26-40, 281 yards, one touchdown, and four interceptions, continuing a string of forgettable games for head coach Lovie Smith's prize quarterback. Moore's touchdown was the only thing keeping Chicago in the game until Cutler put together a late drive to give them the lead at halftime 14-10.
With 4:13 remaining in the half, the Bears had just one first down, but they added five on a seven-play drive, capped by a nine-yard touchdown toss from Cutler to receiver Johnny Knox. The Redskins had dominated the entire half in terms of yards, time of possession, and field position, but McNabb's interception and inability to maximize great field position left them in a hole heading into the locker room.
Chicago continued to move the ball on their opening drive of the second half. They brought it down to the Redskins' one where it appeared Cutler had reached out to break the plane of the end zone on a sneak to score. However, officials ruled that he was short and London Fletcher had stripped him of the ball. Smith didn't challenge and the Redskins escaped a 21-10 deficit.
With his back right at the end zone, McNabb made an ill-advised throw to his left, which was intercepted and returned for a touchdown again by Moore only to be called back after Washington was whistled for a delay of game penalty. Fans at Soldier Field voiced their displeasure, but little did they realize the comedy of errors was just starting.
The following six possessions ended with a turnover. The Bears drove inside the Redskins' 30 twice, but Cutler threw a pick to Hall and Matt Forte coughed up the ball to stifle Chicago's chances. McNabb returned the favor with a terrible pass intended for Joey Galloway that was intercepted and Torain fumbled inside the Bears' 20-yard line. Gano also missed a 37-yard field goal attempt with Washington in the red zone.
However, Hall's final interception allowed Mike Shanahan's team to close out the game by taking a knee; something the Redskins were unable to do in their previous three victories. Washington improves to 4-3 after beating Chicago, and the team has already equaled their win total from last season's 4-12 debacle. Next week they head to Detroit to take on the 1-5 Lions.
Defensive Player of the Game: This one's a no-brainer. Four interceptions in one half is other-worldly even for a guy who has given up nearly 40 reception this season. Hall has a pair of touchdowns this year and both are responsible for Redskins wins. He's the difference between 2-5 and 4-3, but I still get angry when he gives up a third down conversion due to soft coverage. Thus, my love-hate relatiionship with the $56 million man continues. He's fine by me...for now.
Offensive Player of the Game: Torain tried hard to lose this award with a bad fumble deep in Bears' territory, but he kept running hard and saved the Redskins from an evil Donovan McNabb twin (memo: McNabb must improve if the 'Skins want to make a play-off run, but we'll get to that later in the week). Back-to-back 100 yard rushing games is unheard of in these parts and Torain may have locked down the running back job for the rest of the year with Sunday's effort.
Game Notes: The last Redskins to have three or more interceptions in a game was Champ Bailey in 1999 against the Arizona Cardinals. Bailey notched the trifecta against Jake Plummer, a former Shanahan quarterback.
Another memorable moment occurred late in the game when Redskins' safety LaRon Landry lowered his head to make a tackle, but failed to realize a Cutler pass was heading right towards him. The ball ricocheted off his helmet and flew back 15 yards into the hands of left guard Chris Williams for a four yard reception.
Out of the eight fumbles in the game, Washington recovered seven.