FOXBORO -- Shaq Mason isn't the biggest guard the Patriots have ever had. Far from it. But at 6-foot-1, 300 pounds, he's used his athleticism and undersized frame to his advantage in his second season.
Last week he more than held his own against a talented defensive front featured by the Rams, which included perhaps the league's best defensive player in defensive tackle Aaron Donald. On Monday night, Mason was at it again against the Ravens.
During LeGarrette Blount's one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, Mason single-handedly eliminated defensive tackle Brandon Williams from the play to help give Blount the room he needed to plunge into the end zone and tie Curtis Martin's franchise record with 14 rushing scores in a single season.
Williams was no easy assignment, either. The 340-pounder has been ranked by Pro Football Focus as a top-10 defensive tackle against the run in each of the last two seasons.
"I tell him he’s got built-in leverage because he’s not the tallest guy in the world," Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said of Mason. "That gives him an added advantage in terms of being underneath people and ultimately, playing the offensive line position, that’s really the most important thing. You’ve got to win with leverage and pad level and Shaq has done a nice job of that."
Mason has not missed a snap since Week 2 of the regular season, when he was dealing with a hand injury that limited him. Along with a more consistent starting lineup up front and with the help of offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, Mason has meant a great deal to the resurgent Patriots running game in 2016.
Not only has Mason been able to move bigger defenders off their spot at the line of scrimmage, he's also tapped into his collegiate background with the Yellow Jackets -- where the option offense was a way of life -- to overwhelm opponents when pulling or getting into the open field on screens.
"He’s worked to get back in and really be a strong contributor and a consistent performer for us," McDaniels said. "His attitude has always been very good. He works extremely hard at his craft . . . Practices hard. It’s important to him. He loves the game of football. He enjoys competing and playing. He’s tough. He can really move. He’s got great agility . . . He’s matured, he understands the pro game, he’s more comfortable in our system this year, and I think we’re seeing that in his play."