Bucs are 4 real
Pat Yasinskas, The Tampa Tribune, published 22 September 1997

The longer a secret lasts, the better it gets. So enjoy this one while you still can. After years as a laughingstock, the 4-0 Bucs - and their quarterback - suddenly have landed on the NFL's elite level. But this was more impressive than any of the three previous wins as quarterback Trent Dilfer flirted with perfection for one of the few times in his career.

The Bucs dismantled the Dolphins and it couldn't have come at a better time. Besides the sell-out crowd, the world was watching, courtesy of a TNT broadcast as the Bucs held their official coming-out party. "I think our team has been confident all along," Tony Dungy said. "But we really wanted to show the national audience what we're all about."

Even in areas where the signal was weak, the message came through loud and clear. The Bucs are for real - and so is their quarterback. Dilfer, who only two years ago threw just four touchdown passes the entire season, had the first four-touchdown game of his career. That helped keep the Bucs undefeated, in first place in the NFC Central and put them within one victory of matching the best start in franchise history. "My first couple of years, I got caught up too much in trying to be a leader," Dilfer said. "Right now, I'm just trying to be Trent Dilfer."

The Bucs remain the only unbeaten in the NFC and they hold a one-game lead on the Green Bay Packers in the division. A win next week at home against Arizona would match the 5-0 start of the 1979 team and set up what could be a huge game in Green Bay on Oct. 5. "I think we would have won a lot of money in Vegas if we said we'd be 4-0," Dungy said.

But the odds might have been longer on Dilfer having the game of his life. He completed 18 of 24 passes for 248 yards and outdueled Miami's future Hall of Famer Dan Marino (24 of 37 for 235 yards and two touchdowns). Dilfer was in his comfort zone all night as the Bucs ran their franchise-best home winning streak to seven games. He threw touchdown passes of 58, 38, 3 and 1 yards and the offense was so solid the Bucs didn't have to punt. That happened only one other time in franchise history (Nov. 22, 1981 against Green Bay). "Trent was pretty flawless," Dungy said. "It was just a solid game by our offense when we needed it."