QB Trent Dilfer (right), the former Buccaneer, would outperform his Giants counterpart, Kerry Collins, in Super Bowl XXXV
The Baltimore Ravens, newly-crowned Super Bowl Champions, have a comfort zone with starting QB Trent Dilfer, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer. They believe they know exactly what they're going to get out of Dilfer as a quarterback; his remaining Tampa admirers may feel the same way about him as a man.
The second time around, Dilfer will leave Tampa as the winning Super Bowl quarterback, something that never materialized in his six years as a Buccaneer. Even though he reached the pinnacle of his profession in his first year away from the team, Dilfer refused to take any parting shots.
"I like Tampa," said Dilfer in the emotional moments after Super Bowl XXXV ended with his Ravens on top of the New York Giants, 34-7. "I really like the way I was treated here for the most part. When there are high expectations and you don't fulfill them, you're going to get your share of criticism. But the negative voice is always the loudest voice, and to depict Tampa as a city that hates Trent Dilfer isn't fair to the city. There are so many people who made a difference in my life here, and it's neat to share this with them."
Dilfer helped make the difference for the Ravens on Sunday evening, completing 12 of 25 passes for 153 yards, one touchdown and – perhaps most importantly – no interceptions. His counterpart, the Giants' Kerry Collins, was picked off four times. Dilfer's perfectly thrown, 38-yard touchdown strike to Brandon Stokley in the first quarter broke open what was clearly evolving into a defensive duel.
Afterwards, Dilfer reveled in the Ravens' championship but didn't see it as a mark of vengeance against his previous professional surroundings. In fact, he believes that selfless approach, shared by the whole team, was the key to the Ravens' entire championship run.
"It was never about that," he said. "It was simply about doing whatever I could in this football game for my team, and not getting caught up in a lot of selfish things. I think one of the great things you can be as a person is unselfish, and we proved (unselfish) as a football team this year. We decided that if we had enough guys become unselfish, we could win a world championship. That's what we talked about, and we did it. There are very few teams that can say they set out and did what they talked about doing in training camp."
During these past few weeks of forced introspection, Dilfer has maintained that he was unconcerned with his own critical reviews as long as the Ravens were victorious. "I don't care if anybody ever picks me for their fantasy football team," he told Buccaneers.com in an exclusive interview, "as long as, at the end of the show, we're holding the Lombardi Trophy."
Sure enough, Dilfer was able to hoist that trophy on Sunday night. His scoring pass to Stokley, the only offensive touchdown of the first three quarters, beat much-hyped Giants CB Jason Sehorn, who summarized Dilfer's performance in words that would probably please the former Buccaneer.
"He made a great throw on the touchdown pass," said Sehorn. "He threw his best pass of the season in this game, and it happened to be against me. He put it out there exactly where he needed to and it was just a great pass and catch. He was very effective. He didn't turn the ball over, that's what he's done for the past ten weeks. They play ball-control offense and let their defense win the game and that's what happened today."
Sehorn may be right – it may have been Dilfer's best pass of the season. If not, it certainly was his most important, judging from the impact he believes it had on his performance.
"I didn't throw the ball very accurately in the first half," admitted Dilfer. "I felt great. I wasn't nervous, but I think I almost got too calm. I almost got lackadaisical, because I knew my emotions could overcome me early and I really tried to stay relaxed all day long. When I came out, I was almost flat and I couldn't throw the ball with a lot of accuracy. So to hit the one to Stoke was big, and after that I settled down."
The Ravens didn't need much more from Dilfer after that, beyond ball security. A 44-yard pass to WR Qadry Ismail on third-and-two in the second quarter set up a Matt Stover field goal, and CB Duane Starks made it 17-0 early in the second half with an interception return for a touchdown. The Giants never got the lead back under 10 points, turned the ball over four times and finished with just 152 total yards, so the Ravens' 97 yards of offense in the second half was more than enough.
And so the Ravens spent most of the fourth quarter knowing they would be the team celebrating at midfield as soon as the final gun sounded. Dilfer was in the middle of the pack, grinning from ear to ear, surrounded by local cameras that had rushed onto the field. Even with only seconds to collect his thoughts, Dilfer was nothing but grateful for his NFL experience as a whole, including the formative time in Tampa.
"I think, more than anything, faith and perseverance (is what it takes to accomplish a dream season)," he said. "I looked around the stadium and thanked God for the great memories that I have here. I thanked Him for what He did in my life in six years here."