In the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl victory over the Los Angeles Rams, NFL defensive player of the year Aaron Donald’s impact was fairly limited – five tackles (one solo), no sacks, one quarterback hurry. New England right guard and former Georgia Tech All-American Shaquille Mason played a large role in keeping Donald off of quarterback Tom Brady, demonstrating again the skill that has made him one of the NFL’s preeminent guards and someone the Patriots deemed worthy of a five-year, $50 million contract extension in August.
In the NFL’s highlight video of the Super Bowl (below), Mason showed again and again his effectiveness against Donald and fellow tackle Ndamakong Suh.
On a first-quarter pass play (an interception by quarterback Tom Brady), Mason goes one-on-one with Donald and puts him on the ground.
On a first-down run play in the first quarter by running back Sony Michel, Mason pulls and barely gets a piece of linebacker Dante Fowler, contributing to a loss.
On a first-down pass play midway through the first quarter, a 19-yard completion to tight end Rob Gronkowski, Mason and right tackle Marcus Cannon stalemate Donald, whose challenge is something less than vigorous.
On a second-and-10 play late in the first quarter, Brady completes a 25-yard pass to wide receiver Julian Edelman. Mason gets his hands inside Donald’s frame at the snap, and he and Cannon neutralize the threat.
On another first-quarter pass play (a sack), Mason again with help from Cannon, keep Donald far from Brady. When Brady is brought down, six seconds into the play, Mason and Donald are still near the line of scrimmage, with Donald, who this season set an NFL record for sacks by a defensive tackle, well out of his rush lane.
On a third-and-1 early in the second quarter, Mason brawls with lineman Michael Brockers, helping form a clean pocket for Brady, who completes a 25-yard pass to Edelman, a play that sets up the game’s first score, a field goal by Stephen Gotskowski.
On a fourth-and-1 play late in the second quarter, Brady throws incomplete to Gronkowski for a turnover on downs. But on the play, Mason goes one-on-one with Donald and rides him out into Cannon, taking him out of the play.
Against Donald, it’s another successful block for Mason, on a 3rd-and-4 inside the Patriots red zone on New England’s first possession of the second half, a 27-yard pass to Edelman. Mason helps center David Andrews to again give Brady the time to make a big play.
On a 3rd-and-2 on the same drive, this time an incompletion to Edelman, Mason keeps Donald from getting free, holding him off with a late assist from Andrews.
On a toss to the right side to Michel, Mason double teams Suh with Andrews and then releases to find linebacker Mark Barron, who is flowing to his left to plug a lane. Mason gives him a shove to take him out of the play. Michel cuts it back for a 19-yard gain.
On the opening play of what proves to be the game-winning drive, Brady loops a play-action pass for Gronkowski for 18 yards, throwing from another clean pocket. Mason teams with Andrews and Cannon to wall off Suh and Brockers.
Mason makes a blitz pickup on one of the most significant plays of the game. On a 2nd-and-3 from the Rams 31, Mason double teams Suh with Andrew, but then detaches to engage to pick up linebacker Samson Ebukam, again giving Brady the time and space to patiently wait for Gronkowski to get downfield for a 29-yard gain to the Rams 2. The seeming nonchalance with which Brady throws indicates the level of protection provided by Mason and the New England line.
On the play following the long reception to Gronkowski, the game-winning touchdown goes to the left side, a handoff to Michel behind left tackle Trent Brown and Gronkowski with a lead block from fullback James Develin. Mason is not play side, but does his job with high effectiveness, taking on Donald and putting him on the ground.
Mason makes a play to help seal the game. The Patriots face a 2nd-and-9 on their own 5, trying put the game away with a 10-3 lead. On a handoff to Michel going right behind him, Mason gets help from right tackle Marcus Cannon against Donald, driving him to his right, out of the hole that Michel runs through for a 26-yard gain that gets the Patriots out to their 31. It’s arguably the biggest play of New England’s field-goal drive for a 13-3 lead.
On a second-and-7 later in the drive, the run play to running back Rex Burkhead goes away from Mason’s side, a 26-yard gain. Mason again keeps Donald out of the play.
On a third-and-1 at the Rams 23 on the same drive, the Patriots fail to pick up the first down on a run by Michel behind left tackle, but Mason does his job on his side. He and Andrews combined to put Suh on the ground, and then Mason picks up linebacker Cory Littleton as he charges the gap.