The Washington Post

Redskins get signals crossed on fake punt

(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

MINNEAPOLIS — The special teams misadventures for the Washington Redskins continued during Thursday night’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings when punter Sav Rocca threw an incomplete pass on a fake punt on which the intended receiver, Niles Paul, wasn’t expecting a pass to be thrown.

The third-quarter gaffe was inconsequential because the officials called the Redskins’ Jerome Murphy for a false start penalty. The officials ruled that the penalty came before the snap and Rocca’s pass, which landed on the turf near Paul, didn’t count. The Redskins, given a reprieve, punted. But a 20-yard return and a personal foul on the Redskins’ Darrel Young still enabled the Vikings to begin their drive in Washington territory. Minnesota scored a touchdown on that drive to take a 28-27 lead en route to a 34-27 victory.

Rocca said the fake punt was put on when Reed Doughty, lined up behind the center, gave the signal for it by touching his hands to his helmet.

“It was called on,” Rocca said. “But it wasn’t supposed to be on. … If [Paul] had seen it, it would have been fine. But he didn’t see it. … It’s generally we wait a couple punts to see what their formation is. And that was the first punt. So actually it wasn’t supposed to be on.”

Paul, lined up to the far right of the formation, sprinted down the field to try to make a tackle on the punt. He never looked for a pass from Rocca.

“I think everyone on the inside [of the formation] heard Reed call it,” Rocca said. “I didn’t hear it because I could just see his signal for it. But Niles, being outside, wouldn’t have heard it. … Because it was the first punt, it wasn’t supposed to be on.”

Paul also said the fake was not supposed to be on in that situation.

“It was just a miscommunication,” Paul said. “Keith [Burns, the special teams coach] would alert that play. That wasn’t supposed to be called. … It wasn’t alerted because it was the first punt. That’s why nobody knew. … Keith would’ve alerted it from the sideline. Keith has to tell us that call was alerted. It wasn’t alerted. It wasn’t supposed to have been played.”

Paul said he actually thought the punt had been blocked when he heard the crowd cheer the incompletion.

“I thought it was a punt,” Paul said. “I just heard the crowd roar. So I thought it must’ve been a block and I was just looking for where the ball was at.”

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

What’s ahead:

● Mike Jones’s five observations, and Mark Bullock’s position-by-position review.

More on the Redskins & NFL:

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Wise: If Griffin doesn’t get some help, he’s going to get hurt again

At 3-6, the Redskins are in a desperate but familiar place

Bog’s Redskins-Vikings Best and Worst | Hundreds protest name in Minn.

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Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

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