LAKE FOREST – Forget the box scores. Stop studying the tape.
If you want the authentic scouting report on Jay Cutler and DeAngelo Hall, two major talents with double-major confidence, then James Anderson is your guy. The Bears’ eighth-year linebacker played alongside Hall at Deep Creek (Va.) High School and Virginia Tech, and now he plays with Cutler on the lakefront.
“Cutler’s crazy, bro,” Anderson said.
“D-Hall, he’ll stand his ground,” Anderson said. “He’s not real scared of much.”
No individual battle will be more intriguing than the cocky quarterback vs. the equally cocky defensive back when the Bears (4-2) visit the Washington Redskins (1-4) on Sunday at FedEx Field. Both Cutler and Hall were high first-round picks who believe they can make any play, at any time, no matter the odds.
This isn’t a chess match. This is high-stakes poker.
One of the two will Go Big, and the other will Go Home.
It’s difficult to imagine anything in between.
Almost exactly three years ago, in their last battle in the Heavyweight Ego division, Cutler bet everything and lost. He was intercepted by Hall, intercepted by Hall, intercepted by Hall and intercepted by Hall as the Redskins’ cornerback entered the NFL record book with four picks in a game.
Hall returned one of those interceptions – a one-handed catch in front of Johnny Knox – 92 yards for a touchdown to help lift the Redskins to a 17-14 win over Cutler’s Bears.
“It’s kind of mind blowing,” Hall told reporters after the game. “I had my mom, my aunt, and my two cousins in the stands. The first ball went to my mom, the second ball went to my aunt, and the next thing you know everybody had a ball.”
Meanwhile, anyone who was in the Bears’ interview room after the game that day will remember Cutler’s disdain afterward. Asked whether he ever considered changing his strategy – say, you know, avoid throwing passes toward Hall’s side of the field – the quarterback scoffed and shook his head.
“No, not at all,” Cutler said. “I’ve played against him before. There’s no reason to shy away from him. I mean, that’s hard for me to say throwing four picks to the guy, but I still think if we had to play him tomorrow, I’d go after him every time.”
None of this surprises anybody, including Cutler’s teammates.
Anderson is in his first season with the Bears, but it didn’t take long for him to realize that Cutler was crazy. The defining moment came on a play in which Cutler took off running, lowered his right shoulder and destroyed Pittsburgh Steelers safety Robert Golden rather than slide for the easy first down.
“I said, ‘Look, man, you can’t keep running over DBs,’ ” Anderson said. “ ‘We need you to play. So you’ve got to get down when you’re playing quarterback.’
“But Cutler has that same mentality (as Hall). He’s fearless, man. He’s a competitor. Whatever it takes to win. And you know whenever he gets on the field, regardless of what happens, he’ll give you all he’s got.”
So will Hall.
Bears receiver and special-teamer Eric Weems knows all about Hall’s ability. The duo played together for the Atlanta Falcons, where Hall entered the league as the No. 8 overall pick in 2004.
Now in his 10th season, Hall has 40 career interceptions, including one that he returned for a touchdown three weeks ago against the Detroit Lions.
“He’s a great corner,” Weems said. “He’s always been great. He’s one of those guys that’s liable to take an interception to the house at any minute. He’s very aggressive. He’s a guy that takes chances, and that’s a good attribute about him.
“When you take chances, you win some, you lose some. But with that being said, he’s won more than he’s lost.”
No argument here.
Why, then, would Cutler risk throwing toward Hall’s side of the field Sunday?
“Why not?” Weems said. “Sometimes, you’ve got to show someone you’re not scared to try him. You don’t want a person saying, ‘Oh, he doesn’t want to come my way.’
“Sometimes, you have to take chances. That’s the game of football, and that’s life itself. It’s all about taking chances.”
• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.