Niles Paul is in a transition year; one year removed from his rookie season and already moved to another position.
One facet where Paul needs no adjustment is special teams, where he came into the game with five tackles and two punts downed inside the 20. He padded those numbers with a vicious hit in punt coverage and another kick downed at the 3-yard line.
He discussed the hit in the locker room after the game.
"I just knew that was my opportunity to get down there, kicking it to my side, and make a big play," he said, discussing the single coverage. "I didn't see [Vikings returner Marcus Sherels] fair catch it, so I just took my shot."
The hit launched Sherels two yards backward and removed his helmet in the process. Paul said he waited to celebrate the highlight hit to ensure it was clean.
"I was looking around to make sure I didn't get the flag because his helmet came off," he said with a grin. "I didn't feel like it was a helmet-to-helmet shot, I just threw my shoulder at him.
"If he didn't fair catch the ball, that's his fault. I lowered my shoulder, felt like a made a good play."
Paul has a history of intense special teams hits, delivering a pair against the St. Louis Rams in Week 4 of the 2011 season, one of which was ruled unnecessary roughness. That was not the case today.
"I felt like it was a clean hit," he said. "I let him catch the ball first."
For Paul, his role on special teams is as important as a contribution on offense, and is something he looks forward to all week.
"That's my job," he said. "[Special teams coordinator] Danny [Smith] puts me in an opportunity to make that play, and we expect me to make it. I just saw the opportunity."
Paul also played a key role late in the third quarter, downing a 43-yard Sav Rocca punt at the 3-yard line. This was the only punt downed inside the 20 today, and led to Madieu Williams's interception and touchdown return at the start of the fourth quarter.
"After the adversity we were facing on punting, it felt good to get a few good plays on special teams," he said. "Usually they tell returners to not do inside the 10.
"Once I see him fair catch it and get out the way I knew that was my opportunity to go get the ball."