ASHBURN, Va. -- Albert Haynesworth bullrushed offensive lineman Chris Williams into quarterback Jay Cutler, knocking the two Chicago Bears players down like dominoes. Now that's an awesome way to get a sack.
Haynesworth also jumped over an offensive lineman to grab Cutler at the 1-yard line, maintaining a strong grip as the quarterback reached to get the ball over the goal line for what appeared to be a touchdown. Redskins linebacker London Fletcher knocked the ball loose and recovered what was ruled a fumble -- and Bears coach Lovie Smith didn't challenge the ruling -- creating a huge turnaround play in a game decided by three points.
Haynesworth has mostly been a distraction and a disappointment since signing with the Washington Redskins last season. Imagine the possibilities if he keeps playing the way he did in Sunday's 17-14 victory over the Bears.
"It would be like Christmas Day, so to speak, getting the gift that you've always wanted," Fletcher said Monday. "That's the reason they brought Albert in here, because of how dominant he can be."
It has been all too easy to pick on Haynesworth and fellow well-paid teammate DeAngelo Hall lately, but, at least for a day, they looked like players worthy of big investments. Haynesworth was disruptive down low, and Hall tied an NFL single-game record with four interceptions as the defense rescued a sputtering offense and moved the Redskins (4-3) back above .500.
"Albert played exceptionally well," said Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, uttering four words that have been hard to come by this season. "It's the best that he's played, obviously, this season. But looking at film from last year, I think it's the best game he's played since he's been here."
The story is a familiar one. Haynesworth didn't want to play for the Redskins this season because they were switching to a 3-4 defense. He skipped a mandatory minicamp, asked for a trade, needed 10 days to pass a training-camp conditioning test and swapped frosty verbal volleys with Shanahan throughout the preseason.
Off the field, the two-time All-Pro has dealt with at least three lawsuits and other legal issues. He recently missed a game after his half brother died in a motorcycle accident, then wasn't allowed to play in the following game -- last week's loss to the Indianapolis Colts -- because Shanahan didn't deem him physically and mentally ready to play again.
"2010 has been the worst year of my life," Haynesworth said after Sunday's game, "so I just want to kind of get it over with and keep playing, hopefully."
From an emotional standpoint, Haynesworth spoke of how he was inspired by the memory of his half brother. From a strategic standpoint, he said the Redskins made his job simpler by taking him out of run-defense packages. Less thinking equals more production -- at least by Haynesworth's reckoning.
"When you have a lot to think about in football, a player's going to play slow," Haynesworth said. "Now that they took me out of the (run-defense) stuff and I can just play the nickel stuff and the stuff that I'm used to, I have a lot less to think about and go -- and just play the game."
Even so, Haynesworth couldn't resist another latent jab at Shanahan, saying the coach should have played him against the Colts.
"I would have loved to play. I played the Colts for seven years, twice a year, so I probably knew the Colts better than anybody on the team," said Haynesworth, referencing his tenure with the AFC South's Tennessee Titans. "But it was his decision."
Shanahan said Haynesworth won't be used solely as a pass-rush specialist with a seven-year, $100 million contract. The coach said Haynesworth played 33 snaps against the Bears -- about half of the defensive plays -- and fared well against both the run and pass.
"He played hard," Shanahan said. "We expect that type of effort out of him."
As for Hall, the four interceptions were a landmark day in a season in which he has allowed too many completions and been slowed by a sore back. It's hardly a coincidence that the Redskins matched their win total (four) from last season on the same day they matched their takeaway total (17) from 2009.
Still, after Sunday's game, Cutler wasn't backing down on Hall, saying: "I still think if we had to play him tomorrow, I'd go after him every time."
Hall responded by appearing on ESPN on Monday and saying that Cutler doesn't "really understand ... the game of football."
"For him to feel like he can come at me right now, it might be a quarterback being a quarterback," Hall said. "But obviously it didn't work out."
Notes: Redskins FB Mike Sellers was wearing a walking boot after the game. Shanahan said Sellers had an injury on the "bottom of the foot" and would be evaluated Wednesday. ... The Redskins planned to have Stephon Heyer alternate series with Jammal Brown at right tackle, but Heyer sprained his ankle early in the game. Shanahan said Brown still doesn't have full range of motion from last season's hip injury. ... S Kareem Moore is receiving limited playing time because of a sore right knee. He sprained the knee earlier this season. ... Shanahan said there's a chance RB Clinton Portis could return in two weeks after the bye, but it's not certain if he would reclaim the starting job from Ryan Torain. ... RB Chad Simpson, who tweaked a hamstring in practice last week, might return to practice Wednesday.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press