Niles Paul already made his presence felt on special teams Sunday, downing a punt by Sav Rocca at Minnesota’s 4-yard line. The Vikings’ drive eventually ended with Madieu Williams intercepting Christian Ponder and scoring a touchdown for the Washington Redskins.
But Paul’s play of the game was a monstrous hit on punt returner Marcus Sherels.
With 6:18 left in the fourth quarter, Sherels settled under a punt at the Minnesota 35 as Paul torpedoed toward him. Paul drilled Sherels back two yards, knocking his helmet off in the process.
“At that point in time, I say, ‘I’ve got to make this tackle.’ He didn’t fair catch the ball, and that’s his fault,” Paul said. “I took my shot, I led with my shoulder. I felt like I made a good play.”
So did the officials, who did not throw a flag on the punishing hit.
“I felt like it was a clean hit. I let him catch the ball,” Paul said. “If I’d have waited any longer, he’d have been up the middle and impossible to make a play. So I just took a shot.”
Former NFL VP of officiating Mike Pereira agreed. Now a “rules analyst” for Fox Sports, he often posts on Twitter about questionable plays.
“He was not defenseless therefore there is no foul,” he wrote. “He already caught the kick.”