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Mason is Flacco's Main Man


Whenever Joe Flacco was under duress in Monday's 23-20 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, he made a point to check for Derrick Mason while he scrambled away from pressure.

Considering the blitz-crazy Steelers brought rushers from every imaginable angle throughout the game, Mason was getting a lot of looks.

And just as Mason has shown time and time again, he is coming down with the catch more often than not.

Mason grabbed eight passes for 137 yards to lead all receivers, marking the 16th time he has surpassed the century mark. The 137 yards also tie for the third most in his 12-year career.

Monday also became the sixth-straight contest where Mason has at least shared the team lead in receptions, dating back to a 22-16 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 16, 2007.

For the fiery Mason, his superlative performance was simply another day at the office.

"As a receiver you just have to find the holes, and the quarterback is looking for you to get open, because he knows what defense they're calling," he said. "It's up to the receivers to find the holes, and get in a position where the quarterback can throw the ball. It was good at times, but we have to figure out a way to get a win."

Mason's numbers could easily have been higher. Flacco, who went 16-of-31 for 192 yards and one touchdown, went to Mason six additional times, including an attempt that could have been ruled a touchdown in the first quarter.

Flacco's 15-yard dart was hauled in by a diving Mason, but officials ruled it incomplete. Replays showed that the veteran receiver had two feet on the ground, but there was a question if he bobbled the pass while still in bounds.

The Ravens decided not to challenge the call.

"I thought we had one there," Flacco said. "Derrick just made a great play for me, and that's what your guys have to do. Unfortunately, it ended up not being a touchdown."

Mason did perhaps his biggest damage on a key fourth-quarter scoring drive, when Baltimore desperately needed a touchdown to tie the game.

Getting the ball with 9:13 on the clock, Flacco drove the offense 76 yards in nine plays, culminating in Le'Ron McClain's 2-yard scoring run.

The rookie signal-caller hit Mason with strikes of 15, 10 and 35 yards to move the chains, which shows how much trust the duo has in each other.

"Derrick's a proven veteran," Flacco said. "He's shown that he's always going to go out on gameday and win for you. Anytime you get in a situation, like on third down or something critical like that, he's definitely someone that you want to find."

Both players see their relationship as mutually beneficial, as Mason, 34, aids in Flacco's development from wide-eyed first-round draft pick to NFL quarterback.

Additionally, with a new system under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, Mason feels that he is learning every day along with Flacco, despite his long tenure in the league.

"What keeps things fresh for me is just coming out here every day," Mason said. "Being out here with the guys and learning the game of football. There's something you can learn each and every year in this game. If you stop learning, then you might as well quit." **

Ravens Gameday **

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