Last Monday, the Green Bay Packers totaled more yards for defensive pass-interference penalties than the combined output of Ravens receivers.
Packers cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson were penalized a combined four times for 115 yards. Meanwhile, Baltimore's wideouts were targeted only 17 times by quarterback Joe Flacco, catching seven of those attempts for 68 yards.
On the televised broadcast of the game, ESPN analysts Ron Jaworski and Jon Gruden called out the position group – one that was under intense scrutiny in the offseason – saying the receivers couldn't get separation from Green Bay's defensive backs.
Derrick Mason bristled at such a notion.
"I don't know what they consider separation is, honestly," said Mason, who caught two balls for 13 yards. "It's all up for being determined of what it is, and your perception of separation is different from someone else's perception of separation. I don't know if they're saying, 'Well, he's not two yards in front of him, or three yards away from him.' You'll never be that way in this league, unless the guy just falls down or he's jumping the play."
But, the Packers were covering so close that Mason himself was flagged for offensive pass interference when he tangled with Woodson in the fourth quarter. He expressed his displeasure to the officials, earning a 5-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty when he exploded on the officials.
"[NFL head of officiating] Mike Pereira, you need to really see about what's going on in that back end," Mason exhorted. "[Commissioner Roger] Goodell, you can fine me if you want to, but it's getting ridiculous with the amount of calls. I can see if it happened once or twice, but it seems like, with us, it happens every time, and we never seem to get the call.
"Do we make an excuse for it? No we don't. But you have to point it out when it happens if it happens more than two or three times. Every time they always come up with a lame excuse like, 'We didn't see it.' OK, it's fine. But for me, I can't get frustrated in a situation like that."
Flags or not, the Ravens' lack of production is a testament to a passing attack that is looking for a spark after the year's worst showing.
Flacco posted his lowest quarterback rating of the season (27.2), completing 15 of 36 passes for 137 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Tight end Todd Heap got more involved after weeks off the stat sheet with five grabs for 52 yards. After that, the numbers are sparse.
Kelley Washington totaled four catches for 39 yards, and Clayton, who was targeted seven times, had one reception for 16 yards. Demetrius Williams did not make catch, but he did draw two interference calls, including one in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
The Packers' cornerbacks shut down some routes by closely blanketing the receivers, as evidenced by the contact penalties, but Mason feels that his fellow wideouts can and should make the plays anyway.
Williams was especially critical of himself for not hauling in Flacco's passes on both penalties in which he was involved.
"I should have made those plays," Williams said. "Pass interference is a call to help the team, and I should have helped the team in a better way by making the play so that we didn't have to go through all the other things we went though. Each week, I've just got to work on getting better."
Adding to the struggles, there could be a shakeup in the receiving corps. Clayton injured his hamstring in Green Bay, allowing Williams to see some rare playing time.
If Clayton cannot play this Sunday – he did not practice on Wednesday and has a history of hamstring issues – Washington and Williams would be the next players in line Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
"We have to be ready at any time," Washington said. "We're working hard to prepare like a starter every week. We've got guys that can step in for Mark or Derrick. We've got guys just waiting for an opportunity."
With or without Clayton, it is going to take a collective effort to make sure they cash in on them moving forward.
"We've got to make it happen the way we have in previous games," said Mason.
"You can't panic, and you can't look at it as we have no passing game. We've been able to do really well in the passing game, but the other night we struggled just a bit. Are you going to throw it all away and say you can't pass the ball anymore? No."