By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 24, 2010; 10:12 PM
CHICAGO - When DeAngelo Hall turned his body and leaned backward to pick off a Jay Cutler pass in the third quarter Sunday, he waited to celebrate until the Washington Redskins offense ran a play, because he thought he might have juggled the ball, and the play could be overturned. When the interception was confirmed, he took the ball to the stands, where his mother was waiting, and presented it as a trophy.
When Hall turned around the Redskins' 17-14 victory over the Chicago Bears with his second pick of the day - an absurdly athletic, one-handed grab that he returned 92 yards for a touchdown - he took the ball and presented it to his aunt, who was seated alongside his mother.
The pair of cousins who came along as well? Surely, they would have to wait.
"Next thing you know," Hall said, "everybody had a ball."
No one in NFL history has intercepted more passes in a game than Hall did Sunday, four picks that not only tied a record held by 18 others, but basically won a game the Redskins had to have. That the performance came in front of four family members, each of whom could boast a souvenir, left Hall smiling. That it came at the end of a week in which it was revealed that he has been battling a back problem - and in which he had a disagreement with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett over coverage schemes - served as a soothing balm.
"We told 'Haz' all week: Whatever he called, we're going to play," Hall said. "We're not going to bitch and complain about any particular coverage. Whatever he calls, we're going to go out there and play it."
The strategy, though, couldn't account for Hall's gifts. The first interception not only involved him twisting his body. His exceptional hands allowed him to cradle the ball even as his torso turned the other way.
The second one defined the day. With less than two minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Bears led, 14-10, and faced third and seven from the Washington 13. Cutler dropped back, only to be besieged by blitzing Redskins, including cornerback Carlos Rogers. When Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox broke into an out route toward the sideline, Hall took him.
"I guess the ball got tipped and hung up a little bit in the air," Hall said. That was enough for him to turn back toward the line of scrimmage, twist at the waist and reach for the ball with his right hand. Somehow, he secured it - and landed on his feet.
"That was the sickest interception I've ever seen," inside linebacker London Fletcher said. Ninety-two yards later, helped by a final block from Rogers, Hall was in the end zone.
"He's a playmaker anyway," Rogers said. "Once he gets his hands around that ball, he's going to make that play."
Hall's hands are good enough that in 2006, when he was with Atlanta, he played wide receiver for a couple of plays in a Falcons game against Tampa Bay.
"I still remember Derrick Brooks almost taking my helmet off," he said.
So he went back to defense. For good. And though he had never picked off three passes in a game, nor more than six in a season (he has five now), his teammates see his ball skills every day.
"I would contest his hands are just as good or better, at times, than some receivers," safety Reed Doughty said. "The hard thing about being a DB is you don't know when the ball's coming a lot of times, so the fact that he can make a quick reaction and see the ball and - boom! - catch it. You don't see D. Hall drop a whole lot of balls."
Yet the Bears, down by just three, kept going at him.
"I've played against him before," Cutler said. "There's no reason to shy away from him."
So they didn't. The next time came from their own 7, when Cutler looked for Knox again, and Hall simply stepped in front of him. On the Bears' final possession, Cutler heaved one downfield for Knox. There was Hall, once again, tying a record that hadn't been matched since Denver's Deltha O'Neal did it in 2001.
"I still haven't really processed it," Hall said. "All we talked about all week was getting a win, getting a win. I've never had more than two picks in a game, six in a season. To be sitting right now with five, four in one game, it's kind of mind-blowing."
In the locker room afterward, Coach Mike Shanahan presented Hall with a game ball. But he already had one for each member of his family in the stands. So at the end of a hectic week, he turned to his defensive coordinator.
"I got enough balls, Coach Haz," Hall said he told Haslett. "This one's for you, man."