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Derrick Mason caught six passes for 77 yards on the Ravens’ first drive of a 27-21 loss to the New England Patriots, including a 20-yard touchdown.
He finished with seven receptions for 88 yards, as the final grab didn’t come until there were three minutes left in the game.
So where did Mason go in between those two catches?
Because I sat in the press box at Gillette Stadium, I can confirm that Mason was on the field. Mason said it can be attributed to the Patriots’ desire to take him out of the game with extra defenders focused on him.
“They started playing a lot of double coverage, rolling a guy up,” said Mason. “They would shade to me, and sometimes they even had three guys running with me.
“The fact that we have so many weapons didn’t make it an issue. That allowed Todd [Heap] to get some big catches. Kelley [Washington] was playing well, and Mark [Clayton] made some huge catches in the second half. When you’re effective, especially on the first drive of the first half, you can expect to see some change in the coverage. I saw that, and it gave other guys the chance to make some plays. We have the guys here to do that.”
Clayton added five grabs for 45 yards, while Heap and Washington had four each.
The touchdown – on which Mason got hit low as he jumped and landed hard on his back – seemed like a simple game of pitch and catch.
“They (Patriots) came out playing single coverage and that is what we thrive to get,” explained Mason. “If you are going to play single coverage and think you are going to get to us, we are going to beat you.
“So that’s what we did. Then, they started mixing things up somewhat. As an offense we were just trying to find some holes in their defense, and some other guys did that.”
The connection between Mason and quarterback Joe Flacco has blossomed, building on what the duo established in 2008, when Mason led the team with 80 receptions for 1,037 yards.
Mason attributes that both to practice and what they do away from the gridiron.
“I think the biggest thing is the chemistry off the field,” Mason said. “Not only do we have it out there, but I think we have chemistry in the locker room. We joke and have fun with one another, and we go out and get the job done.”
I see it every day, but the media gets a glimpse into Flacco and Mason’s connection on Wednesdays, when select players head to a podium and speak to a group of reporters and cameras.
Mason, the veteran, usually goes early. And when he’s followed by Flacco, Mason always introduces him as “No. 5 on the field, and No. 1 in your hearts. Ladies and gentlemen, Joe Flacco!”
I’d like to have my personal Ed McMahon, too, but I don’t think whoever would do that for me could regularly beat an NFL cornerback.