"Mighty men." Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has used those two words to describe his team this entire season.
In Baltimore's 33-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium, many Ravens lived up to Harbaugh's portrayal, but one would be hard-pressed to find a man who gave more mighty of an effort in his sacrifice for the win than wide receiver Derrick Mason.
He valiantly fought through a re-aggravated injury to his left shoulder and finished the game with six catches for 66 yards and one touchdown.
"You could see [the pain] on his face," said fullback Le'Ron McClain of Mason's fight. "He's the man, and he does what it takes to make this team win."
Mason first dislocated the shoulder when he fell after a catch in the November 9 game at Houston. He came back to finish the contest that day, and has not let the injury stop him since.
"We had guys banged up and bruised. Guys playing with one arm," Harbaugh commented after the game. "… The way they played in this game to find a way to win, whatever means necessary … those are the things that came up in this game.
"We have a bunch of mighty guys in that room and I couldn't be more proud of them and what they accomplished right now."
Mason's first catch at the 9:23 mark of the first quarter ended with him being forced into the turf on his left side by Cowboys corner back Anthony Henry. He was shaken up on the nine-yard grab, and did not get up for several minutes as Baltimore's training staff attended to him. Mason's writhing legs showed how much pain he was in.
But this warrior did not quit.
"Some of the guys have been battling through stuff the whole year," observed quarterback Joe Flacco. "Look at Derrick Mason. He's been battling the whole year, since the Houston game. But he comes out here and you don't even know it. He comes out here and he plays his ass off. And that's what we did to win."
After a short break, Mason returned in the second quarter to keep the offense going with three catches for 33 yards.
Dallas challenged his completion for eight yards that started the quarter, but the play was upheld after review.
Mason's longest catch of the day, 19 yards, came with 6:39 left in the first half, and was a key first-down conversion.
As good as his first half was, Mason's best quarter was arguably the third.
Baltimore was leading the game 9-7 at the 5:50 mark of that quarter. In what could have been a turning point in the game for the Cowboys, Mason sacrificed his body to recover a Ravens fumble at the Dallas 24 yard line to keep the drive alive.
It only took two minutes and 52 seconds for Mason to complete the offensive show he helped to save. He scored the Ravens' first and only passing touchdown.
Mason hid out on the left side of the end zone and called for the ball from quarterback Flacco with his good right arm. He didn't even lift the left when he cradled the ball into this abdomen and made sure both feet were in the blue turf.
"It's hard for me to raise my arm," Mason conceded after the game. "It got better at halftime, but it was still hard to run and move my arm.
"Joe has done an excellent job for me. He's putting the ball right where I don't have to move my hands… There were a lot of guys out there, beat. That just shows the perseverance that we have as a football team."
The fighter scored six points, and after a Matt Stover PAT, the Ravens were up 16-7 and in control of the momentum.
As teammates ran over to celebrate the score, Mason still made an effort to protect his tender shoulder – he embraced hugs from the right side only.
Even though he acted with extra care, it was obvious that mighty Mason relished his valuable role in a must-win game that kept the Ravens' playoff hopes alive.