Cornerback DeAngelo Hall gave the Redskins the lead they needed on Sunday when he stripped Dallas Cowboys running back Tashard Choice, picked up the ball and ran 32 yards for a touchdown -- and a 10-0 Redskins lead heading into halftime.
Hall made the play of the game with only 4 seconds left in the second quarter and the Cowboys facing a 1st and 20 at their own 36-yard line, sending the record opening day Redskins crowd at FedExField of 90,670 into euphoria and a rousing chorus of Hail to the Redskins.
Surprisingly, instead of running out the clock, quarterback Tony Romo dumped the ball to Choice in the right flat, where Hall came up and poked the ball loose.
"That was huge," said linebacker Brian Orakpo, who forced a holding penalty on the last play of the game to nullify a Dallas touchdown and end the opener with a 13-7 Redskins win. "That was huge momentum for us. A huge turnover before halftime and that was the game right there."
Players on the offensive side of the ball were also appreciative of Hall and the defensive effort.
"I've never seen anything like that," said tight end Chris Cooley, who ended the night with six receptions for 80 yards. "Just an outstanding football play by our guys. It was crazy – those were the points that won it for us."
Those points may have won the game for the Redskins against their biggest rival, but Hall got all the motivation he needed from the first row.
Joan Hall, DeAngelo's mother.
(Ross Hollebon photo)
His mother, Joan Hall, like she does every week, gave Hall his inspiration and a level head. He snuck over to her before the game to give her a quick hug, which is nothing new for the veteran defensive back.
"She's at every game," said Hall. "Home, away. It's been like this since middle school. She's always the person I see before the game, after the game, whenever I get a break or make a big play."
And what will happen with the ball Hall returned for six points and a critical touchdown?
Hall has that planned out before he ever laces up his cleats.
"Every season, always, no matter what the play is," Hall said, "If I make a big play, interception or something like that, she always gets that ball and I write a little message on it to her."
As for the play, Hall took it in stride and credited the entire defense for the opportunity he was presented.
"I've had some big plays in my career, but I don't think I've ever had that big play with the Redskins," Hall said. "It felt good. It felt real good. I've been getting a lot of criticism this preseason about not getting in the end zone.
"I always told these guys, 'In the regular season, we'll get it in the end zone.' It's a testament to these guys. I was able to get my hands on the ball, break it out, pick it up and score."