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Dilfer takes aim at new streak

Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Talking about facing trouble, Trent Dilfer tells this story about getting beaten up in high school.

He says he was a 17-year-old who got into a lot of fights.

''I got jumped one time in Burger King,'' Dilfer says. ''I thought I was going to die, and it just got worse and worse. But you can't quit. Finally, I'm lying on this Burger King table and I'm realizing, 'You better do something, or this might be the end.' ... So you get up and you say, 'Come on, you got any more?' You just keep going and going. Eventually I won.''

Dilfer offered that allegory to suggest that he and the rest of the beaten-up, ego-battered, 0-2 Seattle Seahawks will rise from the training room table and fight back, starting Sunday against the New York Giants in Giants Stadium.

They're a miserable bunch right now. They thought they had the talent to go to the playoffs, maybe win it all as they opened a $430 million stadium. But they've come out with a defense like a sieve and an offense that has stalled too many times within sniffing distance of the goal line.

Through all the twists over the past few years, from castoff with Tampa Bay to Super Bowl champ with Baltimore to sub then savior for Seattle, Dilfer hadn't lost in 15 straight games as a starter until the Cardinals beat the Seahawks 24-13 Sunday.

That streak put him in some heady company with Jim McMahon (25), Joe Montana (17) and Ken Stabler (16). Now he wants to start over and show he really deserves to be mentioned with them.

Dilfer's blood was rushing something fierce Sunday after a month on the sideline with a sprained knee. He bolted out of the tunnel when the announcer called his name, and he ran right past the rest of the offense into the end zone.

''We're waiting for him and he never came back,'' center Robbie Tobeck said, laughing. ''We felt that emotion right off the bat with Trent today.''

Dilfer showed quick feet, good timing and the alertness to call a half-dozen audibles at the line. He hit on 29 of 47 passes for 352 yards and no interceptions. But the Seahawks broke down three times near the goal line -- twice on fumbles from the 6 and the 9, once on downs at the 1 -- and the team is officially on Red Zone Alert.

Dilfer did about all he could to get his team going. On the sidelines, he waved his arms and a towel to the crowd and the defense. The crowd, at least, responded.

But he didn't march on the field to stop Thomas Jones from rushing for a career-high 173 yards. He didn't recover teammates' fumbles. He didn't play on the special teams to prevent MarTay Jenkins' 95-yard kickoff return.

Dilfer insists he's as much to blame as anybody on the Seahawks, even if that's not quite true. It's the sort of thing that a leader says, that he takes responsibility. He even offered a public apology to Seahawks fans for the loss.

Leadership is what separates the great quarterbacks, men like Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana, from all the guys with cannon arms and swift legs. More than any of his other talents, Dilfer has shown himself to be a leader on the field, and that quality may help him right the Seahawks yet.

Dilfer thought these Seahawks were the most explosive team he's been on, more so even than the Baltimore Ravens he led to a Super Bowl victory over the Giants two seasons ago. So far they've only been self-exploding, but Dilfer hasn't lost faith.

''I really believe in my heart that we're going to be one of those teams,'' that makes the big plays to win, Dilfer says. ''Each one of those teams I was on, we went through our times where we weren't that way. When you have guys that care about one another and want to be good, you learn from them. You don't look at the guy next to you and blame somebody else. You look in the mirror and think about the things you can do differently. That way you don't make the same mistake the next time.''

Dilfer said he will study the films of the game ''as closely as I've ever watched a film'' to see what went wrong.

''If I fix that, we win,'' he said. ''That's how I will approach it.''

Unless Dilfer wants to play on defense and special teams, too, he can only hope the rest of the Seahawks will approach it the same way.

Steve Wilstein is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at swilstein@ap.org.



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