Were the Ravens targeting Aqib Talib?
If it looked like Ravens receiver Derrick Mason was having his way with Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib on Sunday -- and clearly the official with which Talib had a postgame shouting match felt that way given his vivid assessment of Talib's performance -- you are on to something. But there might be more to this than meets the eye.
Mason caught eight passes for 87 yards, most within earshot of Talib. But while Talib was the closest defender in most cases, coach Raheem Morris defended his star cornerback, attributing Mason's catches more to the particular coverages and not a result of Talib being beaten.
Morris said the defense was playing what's considered "thirds", which essentially is a coverage that divides the secondary into three sections, each manned by a defensive back. The coverage was used, Morris said, because Morris decided to send his safeties on a number of blitzes throughout the game.
But Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco and Mason -- a 14-year veteran -- reacted well, hooking up on hitch routes that allowed Mason to catch balls underneath the coverage.
"We were playing some three zones to try to stop the run like we played last week (at San Francisco)," Morris said. "(Flacco) recognized it. . . I wouldn’t actually call it going after Aqib. He was in thirds on most of those plays. Any time he was in man (coverage) he really stood up and played well. Whenever you play thirds, you’re going to have an opportunity to throw hitches. . . Good job by (Mason)."
But there was no such excuse on Mason's back-breaking touchdown catch before the half. On that play, the Bucs were playing Cover 2, Morris said, but Mason "got behind our defender and it was a great throw by Flacco."