Dilfer gives usual performance -- erratic, yet effective
Updated: Monday January 29, 2001 9:32 AM
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- As expected, his numbers were not sensational. As always, he threw several passes that wobbled and went awry.
Dilfer's final winning performance of the season came in the most significant game of his life and in the same city where he experienced the most disappointment of his career.
Cast aside by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a year ago, Dilfer enjoyed a triumphant return Sunday night in the Super Bowl. He went 12-for-25 for 153 yards and one touchdown, numbers that did not conjure memories of Joe Montana or Joe Namath.
But, like those two great Super Bowl quarterbacks, Dilfer walked off the field a winner, helping Baltimore beat the New York Giants 34-7.
"I've never felt anything this good," Dilfer said. "The last month I've meditated on a verse in the Bible: Everything is possible for he who believes."
One year ago, the Bucs benched him and ultimately told him he wouldn't be their starter. Dilfer signed as a free agent with Baltimore and stepped into the role as backup to Tony Banks.
But after Banks struggled, coach Brian Billick called on Dilfer in the eighth week of the season to pull the Ravens out of their skid. He failed to produce a touchdown in his first start, against Pittsburgh on Oct. 29, but never lost again.
"He let the defense do the job and got out of the way," Ravens owner Art Modell said.
Dilfer's job this season was to avoid giving the ball away and allow one of the best defensive units in NFL history to do the rest. It was a role he accepted, and handled well.
Baltimore won 11 consecutive with Dilfer at quarterback, a run that culminated with a victory in the most important game in franchise history.
"We're a great football team. We played to our strengths," he said. "I think we're even better than we played tonight."
When he returned to Raymond James Stadium on Tuesday, Dilfer looked around and was overcome by a wave of nostalgia.
"I thanked God for the great memories that I have here," he said.
And now he has one more.
"Obviously, it's pretty sweet," he said. "It was never about revenge. It was about doing whatever I could to win football games for my team."
He won't be going to the Hall of Fame when his career is over, but that's not what Dilfer is about, anyway.
"I'm never going to be the prettiest quarterback. I'm not going to always play the smartest, or throw the prettiest ball," Dilfer said in the middle of the season. "But I'm going to enjoy my teammates, the game, the competition. And when there's a play to be made, hopefully I'll make it."
He did that Sunday.
After completing his first pass for 4 yards, he misfired on seven of his next eight. But the lone completion was a 38-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Stokley, and by the time the Giants matched that score, Baltimore had already put 10 more points on the board.
"I didn't throw the ball very accurately the first half," he said. "I tried to stay relaxed, and I was almost flat. Getting the one to Stoke was big. I settled in after that."
Dilfer left in the third quarter with an injured left hand. He gave way to Banks for a series, then returned to finish what he started.
"I told the doctors I didn't want to go out, but they thought I broke my hand," he said. "I was so mad."
There were times when he was horrid Sunday. He threw a ball 20 feet over the head of Patrick Johnson on one play, and later he lofted a pass out of bounds after Johnson got 15 yards behind his fallen defender.
But he didn't throw an interception, didn't lose a fumble.
What he did do, in short, is exactly what Trent Dilfer did all
season: He won.