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Published: Monday, 10/10/2005

Dilfer providing heady return for the Browns

CLEVELAND - All hail to Cleveland Browns coach Romeo Crennel for getting the most out of reclamation-project quarterback Trent Dilfer. Dilfer, who cost the Browns a fourth-round draft pick, is off to an impressive start.

When he signed with the Browns after four seasons as a backup in Seattle, all he wanted was another chance to lead another offense, another chance to prove he wasn't washed up.

That chance was on display again yesterday when Dilfer showed the rebuilding Browns how to win the type of game they'd grown accustomed to losing.

He played a heady game, overcoming some early mistakes, rallying the Browns and tossing a pair of touchdowns late in the fourth quarter to spark a 20-10 comeback win over the Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

"That's why you have to play 60 minutes," said Crennel, whose Browns improved to 2-2. "Even though we were not clicking early, we found our rhythm and were able to make two big plays to win the game.''

Sometimes you get what you trade for. Sometimes you get a little bit more.

Cleveland may have hit the jackpot with Dilfer, 33.

Browns' receiver Antonio Bryant, left, celebrates his second fourth-quarter score with teammate Frisman Jackson. Browns' receiver Antonio Bryant, left, celebrates his second fourth-quarter score with teammate Frisman Jackson.
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After failing to re-sign veteran Kelly Holcomb, the Browns targeted Dilfer, who won a Super Bowl in Baltimore.

Crennel handed him the starter's job and told him it was his to lose.

Most of the credit for yesterday's win against Chicago's stout defense has to go to Crennel, his offensive coaches and Dilfer.

They manufactured a passing attack when nothing else the Browns tried worked all that consistently.

The Browns had trouble with their running game, gaining 76 yards in 22 carries. The lack of a running game put even more pressure on Dilfer to produce.

Dilfer was intercepted twice in the first half. He missed some open receivers that caused Crennel to get in his face on the sideline in the second half.

"I think basically he was inaccurate," Crennel said. "If a guy's open and you don't hit him, that's not the defense."

Dilfer wasn't perfect over four quarters, but he avoided making mistakes during Cleveland's comeback. He was 5-of-7 for 83 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

He played heady and tough. He navigated the pass rush with poise. He stepped up in the pocket to make throws.

His two best throws of the afternoon were 33 and 28-yard touchdown strikes to Antonio Bryant for the go-ahead and buffer scores in the fourth quarter.

"We worked on it Wednesday after practice," Dilfer said. "He was itching for the ball."

Dilfer's second touchdown pass, set up by a Browns fumble recovery, came less than a minute after the first TD and made it 20-10.

"When you're not playing well as a quarterback, what I've learned is, you can't panic," said Dilfer, who was 23-of-34 for 218 yards. "The challenge with this football team is, when things go bad, people get frustrated. My challenge is not to let that happen."

Dilfer isn't Cleveland's long-term answer at quarterback, not with rookie Charlie Frye waiting in the wings, but he gives the Browns the best chance to win in 2005.



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