Dilfer's return is not so super

Ex-Raven loses 2 fumbles, is sacked 4 times

Ravens Gameday

Ravens 16, Browns 3


The fans greeted Cleveland Browns quarterback Trent Dilfer with a warm ovation yesterday, but the Ravens' defense welcomed him back to M&T Bank Stadium with the heat.

Dilfer, who helped lead the Ravens to a Super Bowl triumph in January 2001 only to be summarily dismissed by coach Brian Billick months later, faltered in the face of a pressure defense that spearheaded the Ravens' 16-3 win. The 12th-year quarterback was sacked four times, threw an interception, lost two fumbles and, for the most part, struggled through a 16-for-30, 147-yard day.

"They rush everybody and they hit you," Dilfer said. "I knew I was going to get hit today. I knew they were going to come after me. And it's my job to sit in there and throw strikes with people in my face.

"That's what I'm most disappointed about. We had some opportunities, we got some seams open, we got some crossing routes open like I felt we would. There were some holes in the defense and I wasn't able to deliver strikes with people around me."

Going into yesterday's game, which left both teams at 2-3, whatever offense the Browns had managed to generate had come on the strength of Dilfer's arm. After five games, Cleveland still hasn't scored a rushing touchdown.

The Ravens defense, meanwhile, had its most productive day of the season with three turnovers, including two fumble recoveries that set up 10 points.

On the Browns' first offensive play, Dilfer failed to field a low shotgun snap from center Jeff Faine and Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis recovered at the Cleveland 20-yard line. Five plays later, the Ravens scored the game's only touchdown.

In the second quarter, the ball was knocked loose from Dilfer on a sack by defensive end Terrell Suggs and linebacker Adalius Thomas recovered at the Browns' 36 to set up a field goal that made it 16-0 at halftime.

And when the Ravens' ever-shifting 46 defense did give Dilfer an opportunity to do some offensive damage, he failed to cash in.

"Their trickery is part of what makes them good, but what they give up by doing that is that they spring people open at times," Dilfer said of the Ravens' complex defensive scheme. "And teams who have been successful against them make them pay when they spring people open. I didn't do that today."

Since Dilfer left Baltimore, a long succession of quarterbacks has struggled. And with each quarterback disappointment, Dilfer has become all the more popular among many Ravens fans. Yesterday's pre-game applause reflected that.

"I was very focused on the game so I didn't hear much," Dilfer said. "I tried to go in emotionally not hearing anything - cheers, boos, Ray [Lewis], whatever. I was focused on the task at hand. I feel like I had prepared great for the game. I felt like I was in a great place before the game. I just didn't play as well as I wanted to."

Thomas said that the Ravens still have high regard for their former teammate.

"It means a lot. He's a nice guy," Thomas said of the quarterback's return to Baltimore. "He was a great leader. You see him go out and you wish him luck, until he plays against us. He's a class act."

Leading up to the game, Dilfer played down any special significance about a return to M&T Bank Stadium as a starter for a divisional foe. And Browns coach Romeo Crennel agreed that the circumstances didn't seem to affect his quarterback.

"I don't think he was too pumped at all," the first-year head coach said. "That certainly didn't seem to be the case."

However, Crennel did concede that after falling behind 16-0 and only being able to score a field goal on a 7-minute, 23-second third-quarter drive, his team began to press.

Asked if that included Dilfer, Crenel said, "I include everyone in that statement - coaches, players, everybody."


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