Dilfer tosses streak aside
When you stop a 12-year streak one week, what's a 12-week streak the next?
Air Dilfer finally has had a takeoff. For the first time since Sept. 24, Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer threw a for touchdown, finding Horace Copeland for a 20-yard score Sunday.
For historic proportions, it didn't match Tampa Bay ending its 12-year streak of double-digit-loss seasons with last week's win over Green Bay. Just don't try telling Dilfer.
After 277 consecutive scoreless passes, a mind-boggling streak that began after he found Alvin Harper on a 7-yard fourth-quarter touchdown in Tampa Bay's 14-6 Week 4 win over Washington, Dilfer was due a celebration. And he had one, dropping to his knees, his hands and face uplifted in apparent recognition of the football gods. The TD tied the score at 7.
"Some of that was sarcasm," Dilfer said. "It's been a long time. I forgot what it was like to throw one. At the time it felt great. It got us back in the game, and rebounded from that awful mistake at the beginning of the game (an interception by linebacker Ron Cox on the first play from scrimmage). It was definitely an exciting time. But it wasn't like I was doing cartwheels."
With his fourth touchdown pass of the season - just his second since opening day in Philadelphia - Dilfer avoided becoming the first modern-day quarterback to toss as few as three TD passes in a season that included at least 300 attempts. The play, which came with 10:15 remaining in the first quarter, included a play-action fake, and Dilfer rolling right while Copeland ran a deep crossing pattern from left to right.
"It was nice," Dilfer said. "It was a good play, a good call, a great job by (Copeland), and a good job by me of waiting. I had (tight end) Jackie (Harris) for a few yards and I waited. I wanted the touchdown. It was definitely a relief to get that monkey off my back."
Copeland, who led the Bucs in receptions for a third straight game (six for 92 yards) snapped a streak of his own. After his 64-yard scoring reception in the Bucs' 21-6 opening victory over Philadelphia, 13 games passed without a TD. "It felt good," Copeland said. "It felt real good. But it felt even better to know that that touchdown was with a team effort. It wasn't just Trent and myself. It was the offensive line, everybody. It just felt real good to be a part of it."
All the numbers, however, weren't good for Dilfer, who finished 22-of-37 for 226 yards. His three interceptions pushed his season total to 17. Seven have come against Chicago, which has just seven interceptions in 13 games against the rest of the NFL. And then there was the most important statistic, the one that saw the Bucs eliminated from the playoff chase at 7-8, with a nationally televised game against Detroit on Saturday.
"It hurts," Dilfer said. "When I left the game after the last interception, it was a sad time. I was disappointed in myself, and I was disappointed in the situation. We lost and it eliminated us and it s----. (Finishing .500) is the only thing that keeps you going. Now the goal is to play for pride. I'm sick and tired of going out and embarrassing myself in front of the country."
Don Banks, The St.Petersburg Times 1995