Mason guts it out again

OWINGS MILLS -- Derrick Mason's face was etched in pain, and the Baltimore Ravens' veteran wide receiver kicked his legs uncontrollably as doctors attended to his aggravated dislocated left shoulder. It looked bad, like he wouldn't be able to continue.

His damaged left arm wouldn't cooperate. He couldn't raise it over his helmet to extend for catches. He couldn't even pump his left arm while accelerating into his patterns.

"You could see it in his face," fullback Le'Ron McClain said. "He's the man and he does what it takes to make this team win."

In one of the grittiest, most courageous displays in franchise history, Mason shuttled in and off the field for medical assistance and ultimately wound up making one of the biggest plays in the Ravens' 33-24 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

Following his 13-yard touchdown catch in the left corner of the end zone from rookie quarterback Joe Flacco, Mason couldn't even follow through on his trademark home run swing he likes to do after scores.

"It's hard for me to raise my arm," said Mason, who gutted it out through an injury that required a pain-killer. "It got better at halftime, but it was still hard to run and move the arm. Joe has done an excellent job for me. He's putting the ball right where I don't have to move into my hands."

Mason caught six passes for 66 yards, three more yards and one more catch than Cowboys star wide receiver Terrell Owens.

There probably couldn't have been a greater contrast than the dedication and heart of Mason compared to Owens protecting himself to avoid hits on pass plays and half-heartedly pursuing errant throws from Tony Romo. Plus, Owens jogged on nearly every route where he wasn't involved as the primary receiver.

With two healthy arms, Owens behaved as if they only had the length of an alligator's appendages while Mason put his body on the line repeatedly.

Mason was stoic in playing through an injury that first occurred Nov. 9 against the Houston Texans when he landed awkwardly on his elbow and gruesomely popped his shoulder out of joint.

"We had guys banged and bruised, guys playing with one arm," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "We have a bunch of mighty guys in that room and I couldn't be more proud of them. It's a credit to Derrick Mason. He's one of the toughest players I've ever been around."

After the initial injury, Mason returned to the field in the second quarter for three catches for 33 yards.

In the third quarter with the Ravens leading by two points, Mason dove onto the ground with reckless abandon to recover a McClain fumble at the Cowboys' 24-yard line.

He sacrificed his body one more time for the good of the team.

"Look at Derrick Mason, he's been battling the whole year since the Houston game," Flacco said. "But he comes out here and you don't even know it. He comes out here and plays his butt off. And that's what we did to win. He's a warrior."

On the touchdown that boosted the Ravens to a 16-7 lead that nearly put the Cowboys away, Mason lost cornerback Anthony Henry by willing his body into a sharp pattern than left Henry lost and confused.

Flacco did his part by delivering the throw with perfect timing so Mason could gather it in with his good, right arm after signaling to Flacco that he was open and secure the football against his body on the edge of the sideline.

"When you have a quarterback like that, you thank him because he puts it only in places where I can catch it," Mason said.

Added Flacco: "Nah, he's completely lying. He's just trying to be nice."

Mason, who leads Baltimore with 74 receptions for 960 yards and five touchdowns, chalked up his performance to simply knowing the stakes and responding accordingly. The triumph puts the Ravens (10-5) in position to clinch a wild-card berth as the sixth seed in the AFC with a win next week over the Jacksonville Jaguars at M&T Bank Stadium.

"This was a two-game series for us: All hands on deck," Mason said. "There were a lot of guys out there, beat. That just shows the perseverance that we have as a football team. We understood what situation we were in."

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