NFL Nation: Trent Dilfer

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Count Trent Dilfer in.

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Kaepernick
He is a Colin Kaepernick believer.

Earlier this season, the former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst made some news with his criticism of Kaepernick's game. He said the second-year San Francisco 49ers' quarterback was “remedial” in his reads.

Dilfer has changed his mind after watching Kaepernick lead the 49ers to the NFC title game for the second straight season.

On ESPN Sunday night, Dilfer said he has been completely impressed by the improvements Kaepernick has made in the second half of this season. He called it “remarkable.”

The technical Dilfer said Kaepernick is improving his progressions and he is now “climbing the pocket.” He said it was very impressive to see a young player make those strides.
METAIRIE, La. -- As expected, ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer had a lot of insightful thoughts on the upcoming rematch between the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks -- from the reasons why he thinks Seattle’s defense gets away with being so physical in coverage to his belief that the Saints should speed up their offensive tempo the second time around.

Dilfer was in the stadium for the first “Monday Night Football” meeting between the Saints and Seahawks last month. So I was eager to get his thoughts during a Thursday conference call on what he expects the second time around. Here are the highlights from our Q&A:

On whether the Seahawks are as good as any team in the NFL today at disrupting receivers’ routes:

Dilfer: “Yes, Pete [Carroll] and his staff have done a great job in kind of bringing back the ‘80s secondary play. And I know they’re gonna deny this, but there’s no denying it -- they’re convinced that the refs are only gonna throw about 15 flags a game. And they’re not gonna throw all 15 of those in the secondary. So they might get four to six thrown on ‘em. But they figure, if a team’s gonna throw the ball 40 times and we’re gonna get physical 40 times, they’re not gonna call more than six [penalties]. So they’re really playing the odds with how they play in the secondary.

“I mean, it is a lot of roughhousing -- a term we use in the war room, Tom Jackson, [Tim] Hasselbeck and myself. ‘A lot of roughhousing.’ Which is good. I mean, it’s brilliant what they’ve done. But it makes it very difficult, very frustrating for the quarterback and the wide receivers.”

On whether he expects a better effort from the Saints this time around:

[+] EnlargeDrew Brees
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesDrew Brees was limited to 147 yards passing during the Saints' last meeting with the Seahawks, his lowest total of the season.
Dilfer: “I think the Saints can play better -- I know they can play better. They have some matchups that are in their favor. In fact, I was talking to John Lynch last night, who’s calling the game with Fox, and we were kind of going over notes. And we both agree that the Saints have some really favorable matchups. It’s whether they can get to them.

“And what the Seahawks do in Seattle is that crowd noise is so intense. … In my opinion, it [affects] the brain clutter more than anywhere else. Not just the noise, but the brain clutter. It’s so overwhelming, it’s hard to hear yourself think. You lose poise because you’re focusing so hard on trying to hear yourself think and communicate with others, you get frustrated. And they feed off that. And the crowd’s pretty smart. The crowd builds in the moments where they kind of feel the offense panicking a little bit.

“I say all that because I really believe, here’s what I would do if I was the playcaller. I would come out -- especially if I had a quarterback like Drew Brees -- I would come out with a small package of plays, maybe five runs, five passes, a few simple formations, and I would play fast. I would play college, up-tempo, turbo speed at the line of scrimmage early in the game. What that would do is, one, you don’t have to communicate a lot. The snap count isn’t an issue … you’re not under center most of the time, you spread the defense out sideline to sideline. But better than anything else, the crowd isn’t gonna stay at their peak level of craziness for an extended amount of time. … If you’re at the line of scrimmage playing fast, getting play off after play off after play off, they can’t maintain that level. I think it would let the offense kind of say, ‘OK, we’re dictating terms instead of you’re dictating terms.’

“It would not surprise me if the Saints came out and played that way. The mistake they made the first time was they came up and they tried to do all this on-the-line-of-scrimmage, kill system, multiple-play audibles. There was almost an arrogance to it, to say, ‘Hey, we don’t care about the crowd noise. We’re good enough, we’re going to be able to handle it. You can’t play that way in Seattle. So I think they make some corrections, they have some matchups that are favorable, and they can have some success.”

On which matchups are favorable for the Saints’ offense:

Dilfer: “I said this the first time, obviously I looked like a fool, but I still stand by it. Seattle has a very difficult time covering the tight end. Whether it’s man, their man coverage matchups aren’t very good, Kam Chancellor on the tight end, their linebackers on the tight end, especially with K.J. Wright out. And then they play this coverage that’s been pretty well-documented, where it’s zone with the linebackers and the corners play a man technique as long as possible. When you play that, then in a single high safety look, you expose yourself big-time from that hashmark-to-number area on deep crossing routes.

“Now, [an offense has] to protect long enough to get those deep crossing routes off, I understand that. You’ve got to do some things to get the tight end the ball. But there’s gaping holes, both in man and zone, to get the tight end involved or to get slot-type receivers on crossing routes involved. So I look for things crossing the field by tight ends or slot receivers. But they’ve made up for it by complementary performances by other players -- defensive linemen not letting the quarterback get the ball off, a re-route ... manhandling the receiver 12 yards down the field that’s not getting called. So they’re very, very smart at knowing what their weakness is and defending against it.”
Candlestick Park StadiumHoberman Collection/UIG/Getty ImagesOn Monday night, San Francisco 49ers fans will empty out of Candlestick Park for likely the final time.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The odds are strong that Monday night will see the final game at Candlestick Park when the San Francisco 49ers host the Atlanta Falcons.

Barring a complete breakdown by first-place Seattle, the best the 49ers can do as a playoff seed is No. 5. In that scenario, the only way there could be another game at Candlestick – the 49ers move to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara in 2014 – is if they host the No. 6 seed in the NFC Championship Game.

Don’t count on it. According to ESPN Stats & Information, since 1990, a No. 5 seed has never hosted the No. 6 seed in a title game. So prepare to say goodbye to Candlestick on Monday night.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some remembrances of the historic but uncomfortable hunk of cement by the bay, as compiled by ESPN:

[+] EnlargeChris Berman
ESPNChris Berman reported from the field after "The Catch" game in 1982 at Candlestick Park.
“It was not the greatest-played game, but you couldn't have had more exciting a game. … The ball looks like it’s going into the stands and Dwight Clark leapt like a basketball player, made the catch. But the game wasn’t over. There was still a minute to go almost. … It caught even the city by surprise. It was fresh and it was fun, and who knew what they were building at the time. The whole thing sends shivers down my spine, that I was fortunate enough to be there and see it. It’s an iconic game in pro football history, let alone Candlestick. That’s what Candlestick will be remembered for more than anything else: that play, that game, even though there were some unbelievably great games, all the playoff games the 49ers have had there.”

-- ESPN's Chris Berman, who covered “The Catch” from Joe Montana to Dwight Clark in the 1981 NFC Championship Game

“I have a plethora of memories, phenomenal memories of championship games won and lost, Monday night games, big games, December games, games that decided the home-field advantage almost every year it seemed like. The locker room dripping down from condensation. The high tide would come in and you’d get that smell on the field, really soggy when it started to rain. The infield, when the Giants were playing there, with crushed rock, you’d get skinned up all through September and early October. The wind, obviously, early in the season, was always a factor. The stadium needs to close. She’s gone as far as she can go, it needs to be done. But for me, obviously it’s hard to see her go, it’s hard to see it end, and I’ll always miss playing at Candlestick Park. I missed it the second I left the 49ers, and I still miss being in that park. It will be fun to be there Monday night and see the last game.”

-- ESPN NFL analyst and Hall of Fame 49ers quarterback Steve Young

“When the 49ers beat the Giants on 'Monday Night Football' at Candlestick in 1990, I had this old, beat-up car, a Delta ’88. I bought it for $500. It was the worst car you’ve ever seen. The players all made fun of me. They called me ‘Uncle Buck.’ This Giants game is huge, and before we leave for the stadium from the team hotel Charles Haley says to me, ‘I need to ride over with you in that car to the stadium. I’ve got to get in the right state of mind.’ I told him my car might not make it – it was that bad a car. He insisted on riding with me. So he didn’t take the team bus. It’s the biggest game in my life, and my car’s going to break down on the way to the stadium. I don’t have a parking pass or anything. So Haley is out the window yelling at security to let us in. I am a nervous wreck. I think Mike Holmgren and George Seifert are going to fire me – my coaching career is over. Even when we got to the stadium, I was scared to go in the locker room. Fortunately, we won 7-3 and Haley played his tail off.”

-- ESPN MNF analyst and Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden, who started his NFL coaching career as a 49ers assistant in 1990

[+] EnlargeSteve Young
George Rose/Getty Images"I'll always miss playing at Candlestick Park," Steve Young said. "I missed it the second I left the 49ers."
“My first NFL start was at Candlestick against Steve Young’s 1994 49ers team -- and I was pathetic. But it was going home to the Bay Area, close to where I grew up, buying 75 tickets for family and friends. At the time, you try not to get caught up in the nostalgia, the history and who you are playing because they were just awesome. Though I didn’t play well, it’s still a great memory that I was able to have my first NFL start there.”

-- ESPN NFL analyst Trent Dilfer, a Northern California native and resident who played his first NFL game with Tampa Bay at Candlestick in 1994

“I remember going onto the field at Candlestick and warming up. I would go to every corner of the field and throw the football because the wind was different in every area of the stadium. You think it would go right, and it would go left. Some areas you think it would knock the ball down, it would take the ball up. You wanted to know what the wind was going to do to the football, and I always felt that was to the quarterback’s advantage, knowing the wind current in Candlestick Park.”

--ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski, who played at Candlestick as a member of the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles

“The Eagles played the 49ers the last game in the final week of the 1993 season on 'Monday Night Football.' So we play the game and it ends up tied. They played a full 15 minutes of overtime, and with four seconds left Philadelphia was going to try a field goal. The kicker hooks it. He’s going to miss the field goal but the defender came in and roughed the kicker. So the game is over, the overtime period is over, but with a foul on the last play of a period, you extend the period. The Eagles re-kicked and won the game 37-34. It was the longest regular-season game in NFL history -- a full game, a full overtime, plus one play.”

--MNF rules consultant and former NFL official Gerry Austin, who refereed the longest regular-season game in NFL history at Candlestick on Jan. 3, 1994
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Ahmad Brooks did just about everything the NFL can expect from a modern pass-rusher Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. On one of the game's most important plays, Brooks approached Drew Brees with the combination of ferocity and caution that should have allowed him to navigate the league's extensive rules to protect quarterbacks.

Brooks, the San Francisco 49ers linebacker, blew past New Orleans Saints right tackle Zach Strief and aligned his head behind Brees. To initiate contact, Brooks slammed his right shoulder into Brees' right shoulder, and to wrap up, he extended his right arm across Brees' chest.

Brees' upper body snapped back, including his head in a whip-like fashion. In the process, Brooks' arm slid slightly in the direction of Brees' neck.

The ruling from referee Tony Corrente: Personal foul against Brooks, whose slight slip of the arm had violated Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9(c) -- which was amended last spring to specify that a penalty for a hit to the neck of a passer could be called even if the initial contact began below it. The penalty reversed a turnover and gave the Saints 15 yards on the way to a game-tying field goal. Brooks had hit neither Brees' head nor his knees, but he and the 49ers still feel victim to a technicality within the NFL rule labyrinth.

Did the play signify a turning point in the league's efforts to protect quarterbacks? Has it gone too far with its rules in the pocket? Is it unfairly penalizing hits like Brooks' when most quarterback injuries this season have resulted from scrambles or designed runs?

Speaking to reporters later, Brooks said he "basically bear-hugged" Brees and added: "That's just how football is played."

The NFL confirmed that sentiment, fining Brooks $15,575 for the play.

Brees, meanwhile, implied the penalty was justified because it was violent and left him with a bloody mouth.

"I don't think what Ahmad Brooks did was intentional at all," Brees told reporters. "I think he's a heck of a football player and a clean football player. A hard-nosed, clean football player. But you look at the result of that … and again in real-time … You can slow it down all you want and watch it and say, 'Look where the [arm is].' But I can tell you how I felt when I got hit. It felt like I got my head ripped off. And I get up and I've got a mouth full of blood. So there was no doubt in my mind that, 'Hey, it's gonna be a penalty.'"

Brees' reaction enraged earlier generations of NFL players, who saw nothing but a standard football play. ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer said on ESPN Radio that the penalty was an example of how "the NFL product sucks" and suggested that "roughhousing" is now illegal in the NFL.

Dilfer called Brees a "dear friend" but added: "You're not preventing Drew Brees from getting a concussion by making that call. You're preventing him from getting a bloody lip.

"I was insulted when he came into the presser and said, 'I expected to get the flag thrown.' I can't tell you how many retired quarterbacks texted me … We played a game where we had to stay in the pocket and get hit in the face. We're not saying we're as good as Drew Brees. We're not saying he's soft. We're not saying the guys he is playing with are soft. But part of the badge of honor of playing quarterback in the NFL was standing in there and taking shots in the face and throwing a 20-yard dig route. That's what separated you from the other guys. Now that's just not part of the game."

Has the NFL gone too far? Has it substantively changed the game even as quarterbacks find new ways to get injured? ESPN's NFL Nation asked quarterbacks and defensive players to address the topic.

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"I think the most important thing is that the league is protecting all players and making sure of the players' safety. The quarterbacks are in one of the most vulnerable positions and whatnot so they definitely deserve that. And that's what it really comes down to, player safety."

-- Detroit Lions DT Ndamukong Suh, as told to ESPN.com Lions reporter Michael Rothstein


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"It makes it extremely difficult for pass-rushers and I think safeties. Especially I'd say guys going after the quarterback, because there's so many compromising positions that guys are in. You know, you're battling a guy, and all of a sudden the quarterback's there. And a lot of times, they're swiping at the ball and they catch a part of your head. I mean, there's things like that that are, 'OK, that's just a glancing thing. That was unintentional. No big deal.' I think it's the 'lead with the head' or 'explode up through your head/chin area' [that they're trying to prevent]. And again, I don't think what Ahmad Brooks did was intentional at all. I think he's a heck of a football player and a clean football player. A hard-nosed, clean football player. But you look at the result of that, and again it's in real time. You can slow it down all you want and watch it and say, 'Look where the ...' But I can tell you how I felt when I got hit. It felt like I got my head ripped off. And I get up and I've got a mouth full of blood. So there was no doubt in my mind that, 'Hey, it's gonna be a penalty.'"

-- New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees, as told to ESPN.com Saints reporter Mike Triplett


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"Quarterbacks are the bread and butter of the league. I guess you have protect your investment. It's definitely not easy, but I guess you have to play within the rules. As a pass-rusher, I saw nothing wrong with [Brooks' hit on Brees], but there was a flag and whatever else came along with that, it did. It's tough, but we to play within the confines of the rules."

-- Indianapolis Colts LB Robert Mathis, as told to ESPN.com Colts reporter Mike Wells


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"No. I mean, I'm the wrong guy to ask, but no. They're trying to protect all the players, I think. No one wants to see injuries, no matter what position you play. But no team wants to see its quarterback get hurt. That's the way it goes. I'm sure San Francisco doesn't want to see their quarterback get hit either. Most defenses won't like it, but I'm sure every coach, every GM and every owner will appreciate what they're doing to protect quarterbacks."

-- New York Giants QB Eli Manning, as told to ESPN.com Giants reporter Dan Graziano


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"I feel there's a strike zone running from the shoulders to the knees for a quarterback. If you go down to the knees of a quarterback, you're going to get called. You go up to the head, you're going to get called. It's tough. You're playing full speed and at the last second we're trying to avoid a tackle and duck and move. Sometimes, things happen."

-- Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith, as told to ESPN.com Chiefs reporter Adam Teicher


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"Yup. They are. They definitely are doing way too much, going way overboard to protect quarterbacks, and it's crazy, because we can't play the way we want to play. There's nothing you can do. You can change the way you play, but they're just going to make another rule."



-- New York Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul, as told to ESPN.com Giants reporter Dan Graziano


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"Yes. I think if you look at the play, I didn't see any helmet-to-helmet [contact]. I'm not an expert on the rulebook. But from looking at the rulebook, you're not supposed to hit the quarterback with your helmet or lunge or torpedo. But I didn't see any of that happen on that play. And of course as a defensive person, they do overdo it when it comes to quarterbacks. They're playing football just like we are. I always think about it: When am I defenseless? I don't think I'm ever defenseless on the field. But you can't hit [quarterbacks] too low, you can't hit him too high, you can't hit him too hard, don't slam him too hard, don't touch his helmet, don't hit his arm. Play football."

-- Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake as told to ESPN.com Dolphins reporter James Walker
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer had some strong opinions on Colin Kaepernick's poor performance against Carolina shortly after the 49ers' loss Sunday.

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It caught the Bay Area's attention when Dilfer, a 14-year NFL quarterback, said Kaepernick, who has been a starter for a year, becomes a "remedial" quarterback after he makes his first read. Thus, Dilfer said Kaepernick needs to work on his progressions.

It became a topic because Kaepernick threw for 91 yards in the 10-9 loss to Carolina. Kaepernick was asked about Dilfer's opinion Wednesday, and he had a sharp response.

"I think you should ask him if he knows what my progression is first before he says that," Kaepernick said with a stare.

Before that question was asked, Kaepernick said he didn't hear what Dilfer had to say.

"He's not in the building with us," Kaepernick said. "So what he's saying really doesn't affect me at all. I'm worried about what this team thinks and what I'm doing in here with my teammates."

As he did Monday and has all season, San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh defended Kaepernick. He said the youngster has made a "a good, steady progression."

"I think he's doing a great job," Harbaugh said. "He's one of those rare quarterbacks that can come in and play winning football at a very early time in his career. Those kinds of quarterbacks are rare throughout the history of the NFL. He's one of them that can do that. He's done it. There's evidence and he's proven it."

Harbaugh noted that Kaepernick is being criticized after a loss, but that he received a game ball after the 49ers' two previous games. The Carolina loss ended a five-game 49ers win streak in which they scored at least 31 points in every game.

My opinion on Kaepernick remains the same. He has been much more effective than not all season and he will be better when the 49ers get Michael Crabtree back.

Kaepernick has not lost the confidence of his teammates. They expect a bounce-back game Sunday in New Orleans.

"He's going to prepare like no other, come out Sunday and put on a show for us," linebacker Navorro Bowman said. "That's just what we need."
Thoughts and observations on the New York Jets:

1. The Re-X factor: The top storyline for the second half of the season, which begins Sunday, will be the future of head coach Rex Ryan. Owner Woody Johnson and general manager John Idzik have to make a decision: Extend his contract or fire him. Naturally, the No. 1 factor will be the team's record, but there's another factor that should (and will) loom large in the evaluation -- the development of rookie quarterback Geno Smith.

If Smith makes strides and finishes with his arrow pointing up, it would be a huge boost for Ryan and his coaching staff. It would mean he's developing under Marty Mornhinweg & Co., and what sense would it make to start over next year with a new staff? My sense is that a 7-9 record, with an ascending Smith, would be good enough to earn Ryan another year. Statistically, Smith's second quarter was slightly better than the first, but he'll need more than baby steps over the final eight games to nail down the job for 2014. If he regresses, it won't bode well for Ryan.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesWill the Jets use another early draft pick to select a QB if rookie Geno Smith continues to struggle the rest of the season?
"If I put on my GM hat, I would tie Rex, Marty and Geno together," said ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, one of the smart people around football. "The Marty-Geno mix is really good, and I think Marty is good for Rex. The Jets' ceiling, if they acquire more talent, is higher because of Marty's aggressive approach. I wouldn't want to start over with a new guy next year. They should maintain continuity. They're wildly inconsistent, but it looks better and has a better feel than last year. It's a better product."

I agree. But Smith needs to keep going in the right direction.

2. Quarterbacking 101: Dilfer said Smith is operating an offensive system more complex than what the Jets used in Mark Sanchez's rookie year in 2009. In '09, they scaled it back to help Sanchez. It was heavy play-action and they moved the pocket, halving the field and cutting down his reads. With Smith, "It's pure dropback, with complex read progressions," Dilfer said. "Marty is throwing a lot of good stuff at him. It's baptism by fire. Talking to great coaches and great quarterbacks, and knowing my own experience, that's the best way to get the best out of a young quarterback. It speeds them up to the graduate level."

I get it, but I think there should be times when Mornhinweg dials it back a little to help Smith through rough patches.

3. Where the Hill is Stephen? Second-year WR Stephen Hill has become an afterthought in the Jets' offense, raising questions about him. Consider the last five games: 23 targets and only 10 receptions, including five when the team was in an obvious catch-up/passing mode. Save for two big games against the Buffalo Bills, Hill has been a disappointment in his first two seasons. In fact, one-third of his career yardage total (and three of his four TDs) has come in the two Buffalo games.

I asked Mornhinweg about Hill's lack of production, and all he said was, "That's my responsibility. I have to do a better job there." Meaning? "Get him the ball a little bit."

Here's the part that stings the Jets: They drafted Hill in the second round (43rd overall) after trading up, passing up WR Alshon Jeffery, who has become a solid receiver with the Chicago Bears. Jeffery has 57 catches, 928 yards and five touchdowns in two seasons; Hill has 44, 592 and four. The Jets knew Hill would be a project when they drafted him, but it has to be troubling that a receiver off the street -- David Nelson -- has produced better numbers over the past month.

4. Re-visiting Revis Island: Some in the media (including me) have fallen into the trap of trying to imagine the Jets' defense if they had kept CB Darrelle Revis, perhaps conveniently forgetting that he's coming back from major knee surgery. He's still not the Revis of old, and he admitted it the other day on his weekly radio spot in Tampa. Revis, explaining why the Buccaneers haven't used him in the press-man style that made him famous, said his surgically repaired knee has been the main factor.

“Earlier in the year, I didn’t have the explosion to play press; the receiver would just run the [vertical] 9-route on me and I didn’t have the stamina to do that play in and play out, especially playing press," Revis said.

If he were with the Jets, this would be a significant issue, considering their system is predicated on man-to-man coverage.

5. Ivory's payback: Chris Ivory downplayed Sunday's matchup against the New Orleans Saints, his former team, but I suspect he will be highly motivated to prove a point. Back in training camp, Ivory admitted to me that his three-year run in New Orleans was difficult at times because of their crowded backfield.

"I never felt lost, but I didn't like the situation at times," Ivory said. "At the same time, you have to understand there are phases you have to go through, being undrafted. They had guys they drafted, guys they had confidence in. Me, just coming in, I had to build their confidence and it took a little more time."

The Jets traded a fourth-round pick for Ivory, one of only six player trades last offseason involving a fourth-round pick or higher, according to ESPN's John Clayton. The Jets had two of the six -- the Ivory and Revis trades.

6. Revolving door: Because of injuries, it has been difficult to build continuity on offense. In fact, the Jets have used 28 different players, tied with the Bucs for most in the league.

7. Go wide, young man: The Jets aren't known as a perimeter running team, but maybe they should think about it more often. When they run around left end, they average 6.78 yards per carry, the fifth-best mark in the league, according to NFL stats. When they go right end, it's 5.59 yards. Imagine if they had a real perimeter threat.

8. McElroy's intel: Dan Pompei of Bleacher Report spent a week with Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who allowed behind-the-scenes access as he prepared for last week's game against the Jets. The story reveals that former Jets QB Greg McElroy, a member of the Bengals' practice squad, was a big help. McElroy typed up a tip sheet and gave it to QB Andy Dalton. Gruden also picked his brain on the Jets in a meeting.

"His insight is very helpful," Gruden told Pompei in the middle of the week. "He has a pulse on their defense, what hurts them."

I'd say the Bengals hurt them, all right.

9. Good news/bad news: The Jets are one of only 11 teams since 2001 to have a minus-12 turnover margin or worse through eight games. That's bad. Of those 11 teams, they're the only one to have a .500 record. That's good. It indicates what they could be if Smith stops giving it away.

10. Feeling old: The first time I saw Nick Toon was Nov. 27, 1992, the day his dad, Al, retired from the NFL at the too-young age of 29. Nick was only 4, but he was at the news conference, and I remember seeing him afterward in the parking lot at the Jets' old Hofstra training facility. He hopped into a mini-van, and the family drove off. It always struck me that Al's wife, Jane, was behind the wheel. Al, still suffering from post-concussion syndrome, wasn't fit to drive. Now, Nick is a grown-up wide receiver, and he'll be playing Sunday for the Saints at MetLife Stadium. I'll be in the press box, wondering how 21 years flew by in a minute.

Can Freeman follow past Bucs' QBs?

September, 26, 2013
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TAMPA, Fla. – Maybe losing his job as the starting quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is the best thing that could happen to Josh Freeman.

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With Wednesday’s news that rookie Mike Glennon will take over as the starter, it’s fair to say Freeman’s tenure in Tampa Bay is just about over. He’ll either be traded this season or be allowed to walk away as a free agent afterward.

While those might not sound like great options, the history of the Buccaneers suggests otherwise.

Doug Williams, Steve Young and Trent Dilfer all went on to win Super Bowls after departing the Bucs. Vinny Testaverde went on to have a long and productive career. Can Freeman be as successful as those former Tampa Bay quarterbacks?

I think the talent is there. But Freeman is going to have to land in the right place. After what he has been through with Greg Schiano, Freeman needs a different style of coach. Freeman’s laid-back ways and Schiano’s militaristic style didn’t work well together.

There are plenty of people around the league who believe Freeman has what it takes to be a successful quarterback. Someone will give him a shot at a starting job.

Maybe Schiano ruined Freeman forever. Or maybe Freeman can do what Williams, Young and Dilfer did once they got a change of scenery.
Chris Berman is becoming the voice of the San Diego Chargers.

Or, at least, it appears that way.

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Berman will be the play-by-play announcer and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer will be the analyst when the Chargers host Houston in the bottom half of a Week 1 “Monday Night Football” doubleheader Sept. 10 on ESPN. The pair called the San Diego-Oakland Week 1 “Monday Night Football game” last year.

It was Berman’s first NFL play-by-play call in his 30-plus years at ESPN. The pair will get a sneak preview look at the Chargers on Thursday when they call San Diego's game at Chicago. It will be broadcast on ESPN at 8 pm. ET.

Berman is excited about his extended San Diego work.

“As it turns out, at least in the early goings, I am the national voice of the San Diego Chargers. And that’s fine with me,” Berman said. “I’ve long had warm feelings for the team, the powder blues and the city. I’m anxious to see the new-look Chargers under head coach Mike McCoy, who will very much be flying under the radar this year, which is probably perfect in the eyes of Philip Rivers and the rest of the team. The AFC could be a little more open this year than it normally is, and the Chargers, of course, hope they are somehow in the mix and become one of those teams that no one looks at until Halloween."
ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer was teammates with fellow quarterback Alex Smith in San Francisco; last month, Dilfer said he thought Andy Reid and Kansas City would go after Smith because Reid has long liked Smith.

So it was no surprise Dilfer said Wednesday that he thinks the trade that will send Smith from San Francisco to Kansas City will be a good one for the Chiefs. Dilfer was on ESPN’s “NFL Live” to discuss the matter.

Here is what Dilfer had to say about the deal:

On his first reaction to the trade:

“I think it’s a very good fit, if that’s the first question. Andy Reid wants to run an offense that’s complex, that’s based on quick decision-making, that takes a high level of functional football intelligence from the quarterback. I think Alex has all those things. I think one thing Andy’s really wanted to do in his offense over the past few years that he hasn’t been able to do is add a real line-of-scrimmage dynamic with a lot of checks, with protection, adjustments -- something that I would put Alex kind of in the master category in the NFL, in that category. He’s a guy that can control the line of scrimmage as well as anybody in the league. So it gives Andy and (offensive coordinator) Doug Pederson a lot of versatility in what they can do offensively. And he’s not going to be asked to throw the ball consistently down the football field, challenged with his arm; it will be more with his brain and the completion-passing game and managing the run game. Alex can do all those things very well.”

[+] EnlargeAlex Smith
Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY SportsAlex Smith's locker-room presence might be the best quality for Kansas City, Trent Dilfer said.
On the similarities of Reid’s offense to Jim Harbaugh’s system:

“Yeah, I think the difference ... will be that Andy’s going to always run a pass-first offense. It’s going to be pass-driven. There’s going to be multiple formations. There’s going to be a lot of what I call ‘gimme completions’ in Andy’s offense. Every quarterback that’s ever played for him loves it because you’re guaranteed 10 completions before the game starts whether they’re on screens or bubbles or slips or easy routes to the tight end or isolation routes in the back. So, Alex has never been able to play in that type of offense -- it’s always something he’s craved to do, even when we played together in San Francisco. We were always fighting for more first-down passing -- it’s really the easiest. It’s almost stealing in today’s football to throw the ball on first down. Alex has never been able to do that consistently, and I think you’ll see more of his skill set come out the more he’s asked to do on early downs.”

On whether people have forgotten how good Smith was playing before he lost his starting job in San Francisco:

“The last time I saw him play was on "Monday Night Football" (Oct. 29 at Arizona). I saw it with my own two eyes, and he was what, 18-for-19? That was pretty darn good. And that was one of the games the Niners came out and did throw the ball on some early downs in the first half and got some of those cheap completions, those ‘gimme completions’ I was talking earlier about. So Alex can do this. I understand why people are skeptical. I know Alex very well -- played with him, he’s a very dear friend. Not only is he a talented football player and can play really good football for a team, he also adds kind of that bridge factor for any new head coach coming into a new organization. He’ll be a coach on the field. He’ll be a great leader in the locker room. He has a great deal of mental and physical toughness, which unless you’re on a football team, you don’t value nearly as much as we do. Alex will be a tone-setter for this new Kansas City Chiefs team. And I think that may be the most valuable thing he brings to this team, is a new mentality, a work ethic, a toughness from the quarterback position that they haven’t had in a while.”

Dilfer, Schlereth break down the 49ers

February, 1, 2013
2/01/13
11:50
AM ET

NEW ORLEANS -- ESPN's Trent Dilfer and Mark Schlereth break down the San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick, Justin Smith and more in the video analysis above.

They also touch on Joe Flacco and Anquan Boldin.

Enjoy.
NEW ORLEANS -- Twelve years ago, Trent Dilfer quarterbacked the Ravens to their first NFL title. The Ravens are back in the Super Bowl for the first time since, but Dilfer doesn't see his former team picking up its second Lombardi Trophy on Sunday.

Dilfer predicted the Ravens will lose to the 49ers, 31-23: "As conflicted as I am having to pick between two of my former teams ... both move the ball. The pistol allows the Niners to punch it in, while the Ravens are stuck kicking field goals."

It's surprising that Dilfer thinks the Ravens will have trouble punching the ball into the end zone. Baltimore has scored on its last eight trips in the red zone, and the 49ers ranked 28th in red-zone defense during the regular season.

You can click right here for the rest of the predictions from the ESPN experts.

The "NFL Live" panel, including Ravens Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer, discusses the impact that Ray Lewis has had on the team's playoff run and how Colin Kaepernick must prepare to face him.

Lewis leads the NFL with 44 tackles this postseason after recording 14 in the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots. According to ESPN Stats & Information, that’s the most by any player since Dan Morgan had 45 for the Panthers in the 2003 playoffs.
ATLANTA -- ESPN recently made available analyst Trent Dilfer for a media session focusing on the AFC and NFC championship games.

I've made available below some of Dilfer's comments relating to the San Francisco 49ers-Atlanta Falcons matchup Sunday.

I was not on the call, which took place Thursday.

Colin Kaepernick's fame has taken off since the Packers game, and I was wondering with the magazine covers and Kaepernick on Twitter, why has he captured football's attention this way, and do you think he's an example of evolution at the quarterback position?

Trent Dilfer: Why do I think he's so popular so early? I think he's everything you kind of want wrapped up in one. He's big. He's good-looking. He's athletic. He can throw. Very articulate. And at the same time he's a little different. He doesn't necessarily look the part. And I think that's kind of cool and cutting-edge. And he's performing. I think at the end of the day you get famous in the NFL when you light it up. And he lit it up on a huge stage. He's had a couple of big stages where he's played excellent football this year. So the math kind of adds up. But between the performance, his persona, his giftedness, and the edge that he carries, too, that makes  I guess there's intrigue about him that people are curious about and excited about.

Is he revolutionizing it? I was thinking about the statements, it's funny in today's football if you try to be wise and discerning and think about things before you say them and not knee-jerk react, you're abnormal  why aren't you reacting that he's the greatest thing ever? I think I'm fortunate that I get to work with these quarterbacks at a very young age. So, for a few years I've been kind of seeing this coming: that the biggest baddest dude is now playing quarterback. And that was not the case for a long time.

Now they take the 6-foot-6, 250-pound great athlete -– the biggest, baddest dude on the block -– and they make him a quarterback and he gets this great training growing up and because of that, they're bigger, they're faster, they're stronger. They still have the passing skills. They're going to be more durable. It's a natural progression that the quarterback run-driven game is going to enter the NFL. And the NFL purists are going to continue to say, 'Well, they'll write a book on it, figure it out," and that's not true. They've never had to deal with the Colin Kaepernick, the RG III, the next generation of quarterback coming up that are pass-first guys but also have this physicality and this expertise in the quarterback run-driven game. They've never had to deal with it before. So Colin is one of many coming up that are the biggest, baddest dude that are pass-first guys that are highly athletic and gifted in the run-driven, quarterback run-driven game.

[+] EnlargeMichael Crabtree, Colin Kaepernick
Harry How/Getty ImagesBoth Colin Kaepernick, left, and Michael Crabtree can dominate any given game, Trent Dilfer said.
Obviously you think that the quarterback running game is here to stay, but to what extent? You still have to keep the guy healthy. Colin has only played eight games this year. Almost like a convergence of events that he was able to be so healthy as to be able to run like that. If he played 16, maybe not so much. Is there still a concern about keeping the quarterback healthy? Or Chip Kelly is going to be in the NFL now. Do you see a quarterback, you know, 12 to 15 running plays a game or will it be less than that?

TD: No. I think you'll see games where it's that many carries. But, no. Once again, big question -- I'll tell you the simplest -- Steve Young and I just spent 45 minutes talking about the same thing before I got on this call. The answer, believe it or not, for defenses, because there's a numbers advantage -- so the run-driven game, you have to first look at it conceptually. The quarterback run-driven game, you're always going to have a numbers advantage on offense when the quarterback's the runner, if you formation it right. Unless the defense plays what we call Cover 0 where there's no safety.

Nobody does that in the NFL because they're NFL receivers, beat the corner, quick touchdown. Setting that aside, everybody thinks the most dangerous part of the zone read or all the wrinkles off the quarterback running, when in reality what you want to do is the defense gets the quarterback to run. For the same reasons that all the purists are saying because eventually the quarterback running too much, getting hit too often is not going to survive. All that is true.

The issue, though, is it's going to be situational. You may not see him run for three and a half quarters. Still show run, and read and defense is taking it away, yada yada, looks like a normal offensive day and then on the third-and-6, in the fourth quarter, out to the fourth quarter, they're going to get you in a pass-first defense where they're defending the pass and they can run these quarterback runs, zone read or whatever it is, and they have not just a one-man advantage. Many times there's a two-man advantage, depending on formation and how the defense is set up.

I know this is a long-winded answer, but this is what people need to understand. It's not going  it's never going away if the quarterback is athletic enough and skilled enough to read it, because there always will be a situation in the game where it's an advantage for the offense to run it. And it really comes down to discretion of the playcaller not to abuse it. Because what happens in football is when something's working, we live in a snap-by-snap world. There's so much pressure on these coaches. There's so much urgency to -- we're not just winning a game but to win the snap, but now because of fantasy football, it's not just winning the game it's how you win. So, it puts a lot of pressure on the playcaller to not go to the well too many times, so to speak. You have to be very judicious in when you call these runs, because you know you can save them for late in the game and certain packages and they're going to knife the defense.

So, I know it's a long-winded answer, but I wanted everybody to understand. I’ve been talking for three years now to high school coaches, college coaches that have run this and gone to the zone read and studied it ad nauseum and it's not going away; you're just not going to see where the quarterback's running 10 to 12 times a game because he'll never last.

But, if you save it and you're judicious about it, now Colin Kaepernick, [against the] Miami Dolphins didn't have much success running the ball, but 4-minute drill, third-and-8, he goes 50 to seal the game, goes 30 the other night against the Packers. Russell Wilson with Seattle, they would save it for the red zone against Buffalo, long touchdown runs on it. I can go on and on. When the playcaller is judicious about it, there's some huge plays to be made.

I wanted to ask about wide receiver Michael Crabtree. What are your impressions of his development and how important that has been to this San Francisco offense kind of going to the next level?

TD: It's not surprising for those of us that have been around him. It's been, what, four years now in the league? It's surprising that he's starting to emerge [only] now. I have a chance to work out with Crab a lot, just after I retired, I was in town. He needed a guy to throw to him. I threw to him. And I remember saying this is  of all the players I picked, I never played with a stable of great receivers. But in my 14-year career he was the most electric guy I've ever worked out with, outside of the four walls. And I knew it was just a matter of time before he got in the system that kind of enhanced the skill set.

He was also banged up for a while. When you have a foot injury like he had for a couple of years, it's really limiting. There's also rumors about him not being a team guy and all that. I understand why he's just starting to surface. But he's always been this guy. I think the best thing that staff has done, especially the offensive coordinator, they've really  because they're a run-driven offense and they can create so many defined looks, like they know where the ball's going to go in the passing game a lot of times because they kind of dictate the looks, they put him in a position, they moved him around to where he's most of the time the primary read. So he's going to get involved in the game early. And every good player I've ever played with and guys I've talked to, you can talk to Key(shawn Johnson) about this or Cris (Carter) about that. If they get involved early and they know they're a focal point of the offense, they're naturally going to play with greater energy, more momentum. They're going to be more dominant.

And I think the Niners have done an incredible job, every game you study, those first few passes that they're designing for specific purposes, you know, emphasize Crab. And they get him going early. And then as the game wears on, he just naturally becomes the dominating force throughout it. He obviously is a very good run after the catch. He was that way at Texas Tech. I think the best thing he does which doesn't get talked about a lot is his conflict catches, when he's getting hit and catching the ball. That's the hardest thing for receivers, tight ends, when they're in conflict, tight cover -- still catching the ball. He's got some huge conflict catches this year that have moved the chains and led to points for the Niners.

The question I have is with Colin Kaepernick and the Falcons' defense. They struggled with all their running quarterbacks, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson last week. Watching film of how he picked apart Green Bay, what do you see Mike Nolan is doing to kind of improve their chances this week?

Now they take the 6-foot-6, 250-pound great athlete - the biggest, baddest dude on the block - and they make him a quarterback and he gets this great training growing up and because of that, they're bigger, they're faster, they're stronger.

-- Trent Dilfer, on Colin Kaepernick and the new generation of quarterbacks
TD: I think all the defensive coordinators are starting to learn from other coordinators' failures defending the quarterback run-driven game. And I spent all day yesterday trying to put on my defensive-coordinator hat and studying Kaepernick and Russell Wilson and RG III and the similarities of these zone-read games and all the wrinkles off of it. And what all coordinators do is what I did yesterday is they go through hours and hours of film and they kind of see what fronts and coverages and spacing is working most often. You don't want to get knifed as a defense.

You don't mind if you get the little incisions every once in a while. You're not overly concerned if  make them march the ball we don't want to give away the big play. Mike Nolan, he's doing the same thing, trying to develop a plan that increases his odds of not giving up the big play, the big knifing play.

The similarities have been defensive fronts have moved around at the line of scrimmage before the snap, kind of confusing the blocking schemes. Linebackers with their eyes very much on their gap, not necessarily the mesh between the running back and the quarterback. And then in the passing game, you know, really eyeballs on the quarterback. And that's all the big plays that these running quarterbacks are making, whether they're scrambles or quarterback-driven runs, the eyes of the secondary players and the linebackers are getting caught up either focusing on receivers or focusing at the line of scrimmage. The teams that have slowed it down have really good eye discipline.

So, he's going to build a bunch of fronts. So front-seven spacing, easiest way to say it. That's going to confuse the blocking schemes of the 49ers, and where all the eyeballs of those defenders are very keyed in to the quarterback, especially in the pass drops. When that's happening, you're forcing these quarterbacks to be passers like everybody else. They're really getting in trouble when they're diving in the line of scrimmage or chasing receivers around the field, that's when a lot of these big plays are happening.

Do you think that will help them from having the experience from those other guys, just everything they did wrong to help them get it right this week?

TD: I think so. I'm not saying he's going to come up with the genie-in-the-bottle plan, but I think every coordinator learns from other coordinators' mistakes. One of the best ways I've seen coaches coach, they get in the film room with the team and say here's 15 plays, this is where the teams playing this guy have gotten in trouble so let's avoid these situations. So we built a plan to keep you guys away from these situations.

So, I think you're going to see a lot of people on the line of scrimmage and zone-based schemes. That's the easiest way to say it. It's seven, eight guys around the line of scrimmage, kind of moving around, and then as they  if it's a pass, as they pass-drop, really standard zone pass-drops where all their eyeballs are on Colin Kaepernick. And in the run game you try to create as many people around the line of scrimmage as possible. You don't always have the numbers advantage. But if you've confused the blocking schemes you can get off blocks easier and get in the gaps quicker.

Continuing with the Falcons. They got the monkey off their back, so to speak, with the playoff win last week but seems like they're not getting a lot of respect at least for a No. 1 seed. Underdogs at home. Experts are picking the 49ers to win. Does it surprise you? Is it warranted that Atlanta still has some doubters now?

TD: I kind of see both sides of it. We're so -- as analysts, as writers, as a football-consuming audience, we love the quantifiable. We love being able to say, hey, they're this because here's a number to support it. And we don't dive into the psychology of it and the intangible qualities teams have. So from the quantifiable, it's very understandable why people don't believe in the Falcons. They don't do anything outside their passing game that just jumps out at you and says wow they're really good at A, they're really good at B. They also play a lot of tight games against opponents that are, quote/unquote, not top-tier teams. For all those reasons, I understand it. And at times I find myself getting caught up in that, too.

[+] EnlargeJayron Hosley
AP Photo/John AmisJulio Jones "is really the fear-factor guy" for the Atlanta Falcons, Dilfer said.
I just know that sometimes the most powerful thing in football is confidence, which you can't quantify. It's momentum that you can't quantify. It's will, competitive will, to make big plays in big moments. There's no number to support. When I look at the Falcons in that light, I see a lot of that stuff. I see a lot of the unquantifiable stuff that goes, that I go, wow, this team's really good. Seven fourth-quarter comebacks. Some of their comebacks are 30 seconds on the clock and getting the ball where they get it. Stops in games where they've been gashed on defense. But a big third-and-3, they come up with a big stop. They force a turnover. They don't flinch. So for all those reasons I really like the Falcons. But from a personnel, quantifiable matchup, they don't match up against the 49ers. So to me the game comes down to kind of the hidden intangible qualities of each team and which one is going to surface the most. I hope I answered your question. Trying to give you both sides of it.

Could you give a quick scouting report of what makes the Falcons wide receivers so tough and how you think the 49ers' secondary matches up against (Julio) Jones and (Roddy) White?

TD: And a great question. I've studied them a lot especially last week, I studied both of them a ton. I'll start with Julio, because I really believe -- I'm not taking anything away from Roddy. But I think Julio is really the fear-factor guy. When you're a dynamic passing game, you have a skill-position guy that creates fear in the defense. Like how they line up changes because that guy's on the field and that's Julio. He creates a lot of attention. And I don't like to just use the word double-covered, because we've ruined that whole term. A lot of eyeballs, a lot of attention on where Julio lines up. They know on the defensive side if they make the slightest mistake with how they line up, what their personnel shift is, what the personnel grouping is, their spacing, that they're one play away from just getting gashed. So why he's very good at the line of scrimmage, for a big man, he has very sudden feet.

It's not just quick. It's quick and explosive. That's why I use the term "sudden." He's very hard to jam. He's very competitive at the moment of truth catching the ball in contested coverage. He runs very good routes. And he's diverse. This year he's very diverse as a route-runner. Last year there were four or five things he did well. Everything else is kind of not quite sure if he would be in the right spot at the right time. Now they move him around. He's very precise in his route-running. He's explosive after the catch. He catches the ball in all three levels of the defense. The first level, second level, third level. Creates a lot of fear for the defense.

Roddy, the best auxiliary receiver in the league because he really could be a 1. But in this offense, he serves as a 2. And he gets the benefit of a lot of that attention that Julio gets from the defense. They run a lot of stuff where Julio will take the top off the coverage, for lack of a better term, or generate a lot of interest by the defense and Roddy's explosive enough and crafty enough to find those spots. And then you add (Tony) Gonzalez on there, obviously there's middle-of-the-field attention. So Roddy is more of a space guy, he works well in the space for the defense. Julio is more of a guy that creates space in the defense.

Most of us have a tendency to lump Kaepernick in the group with RG III and Russell Wilson and some of the quarterbacks of that style. And that's probably true to some extent. I'm wondering is he unique in his own way compared to some of those guys?

TD: It's a great question. I'm a big believer in what separates the better players in the league is a unique trait. You just go any position in the NFL. You say, OK, what separates person A from person B. It's usually one dominant unique trait that he has, another guy doesn't have. You know, Colin, RG3, Russell Wilson, one thing they're all very similar in -- this is what I'm trying to keep hammering home to people -- is between the ears. They're very smart kids. They're very poised individuals. They're highly, highly competitive. Their competitive temperament is built for the position.

And that is more important than the physical skill sets. But I think what maybe makes Colin unique to the other two is he's got the thickness, kind of the strength of Russell Wilson in a 6-foot-6 frame with the foot speed of RG III. You don't see many athletes like that. Like people keep talking about Colin is going to get hurt like RG III got hurt. I've been next to Colin. I'm 6-4, 238, and he makes me look tiny. I mean, he is 6-5. He's huge. I mean, he has big, thick joints in his upper body. Big wrist. Big neck, big shoulders. Wide hips. I know he's got skinny legs, but he's a thick dude. Works very hard in the weight room. He's going to be durable.

That's what makes him unique physically is that he's not only a great foot athlete, but he's got the stature of a tight end that can take, that can absorb some punishment. So I'm blown away -- even when I studied him coming out of the draft, I was like he's different. I didn't want to say better. He was just different than anybody else you studied because of his physical makeup. And he had the mind to fit it as well.
The only Super Bowl-winning quarterback in Ravens history is an admirer of the quarterback who could become the second.

Flacco
Trent Dilfer, who quarterbacked the Ravens to the 2000 Super Bowl, believes Joe Flacco is a little underrated and considers him one of the better quarterbacks in the league. Flacco and the Ravens play at the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday.

"There's definitely four or five guys in the league that have a kind of a seat at the table of greatness. I'd say Joe and Matt Ryan and some of these other guys are at the next table," Dilfer said. "They're excellent. They're very, very good players. Many times Joe is underrated. I think he drives a lot of what they do and, when they're successful, a lot of it is because he's successful and he's making plays that are kind of outside the scheme. For that reason, I'm a big fan of Joe Flacco."

When Dilfer won the Super Bowl with the Ravens, Baltimore had one of the best defenses in NFL history. The Ravens are now on the verge of reaching the Super Bowl 12 years later because of their offense.

"I think that they've done a nice job in Baltimore weathering the storm of transitioning from a defense-driven team to an offense-driven team," Dilfer said. "And they're still not as consistent as some of the great offensive teams, but they're still offensive-driven. When they played good defense, it's because their offense is playing well."

Trent Dilfer backs Fox's decision

January, 18, 2013
1/18/13
8:00
AM ET
Trent Dilfer understands what John Fox was thinking last Saturday night.

There has been a lot of made of the way the Denver Broncos staggered into overtime of an eventual 38-35 double overtime loss to visiting Baltimore in the AFC Divisional playoffs. With a Denver victory all but assured, Baltimore tied the game on a 70-yard bomb from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones during the final minute as Denver safety Rahim Moore made a terrible mistake by allowing Jones to get behind him.

Fox
Fox
Instead of trying to get a game-winning field goal, Fox had quarterback Peyton Manning take a knee at the Broncos’ 20-yard line with 31 seconds left and Denver having two timeouts. Fox said his team needed to regroup and go to overtime, because it was shocked by the Ravens’ touchdown.

In an ESPN conference call to talk about the NFL championship weekend, Dilfer, an ESPN analyst and a former NFL quarterback, was asked about the situation. He understood Fox’s decision.

“It's like getting kicked in the groin,” Dilfer said. "(The Baltimore touchdown) happens and it just sucked the life out of everybody on the Denver sideline. And no matter how poised these coaches are, and they are, I know John (Fox) and Jack (Del Rio) and Mike (McCoy) very well ... Their brain still had to be scrambled.

“Such an egregious error by your secondary, especially the safety, that you're sitting there and you just know the life's been sucked out of you. You're out of breath. And I think that's where discernment kind of comes in. Let's regroup before we do anything crazy here. And that's how I felt. I was so shocked by the whole thing that I kind of felt the same way, like 'wow they just need to regroup here; they just got kicked in the groin and wiser heads will prevail. Calmer heads will prevail.' Now, they didn't. But I think that's the logical thought process behind that."

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