Whether he is suckering the Dallas Cowboys on the goal line or
scaring the stuffing out of the neighborhood kids, Ty Detmer
cannot overemphasize the importance of selling the fake. With 59
seconds to play in the first half of Philadelphia's delightfully
nasty engagement with the Cowboys on Sunday, the Eagles had the
ball on the Dallas six-yard line. After dropping back as if to
pass, Detmer, he of the lion's heart and the Gumby build,
lumbered for the end zone, the plane of which he barely broke,
giving Philadelphia a 13-10 lead. "What can I say?" Detmer said
after the Eagles' 31-21 upset. "Speed kills."
Will this loss mortally wound the Cowboys' Super Bowl chances?
That will be determined over the next few weeks (page 36). But
two things were established beyond doubt in Philadelphia's
victory, which was sealed by a surreal, 104-yard hook-and-ladder
interception return for a touchdown in the game's final minute.
First, the bad blood that once characterized this 36-year-old
rivalry, but was often absent as the Eagles dropped nine of 10
games to Dallas over the last five years, is back. Cowboys
offensive tackle Erik Williams and Eagles defensive end William
Fuller spent Sunday afternoon trying to manually remove each
other's vital organs. And while theirs was the most violent, it
was but one of many battles waged on the field.
Second, Rodney Peete, the Philadelphia quarterback whose season
ended on Sept. 30 when he tore the patella tendon in his right
knee during a Monday-night game against Dallas, is going to have
a tough time getting his job back.
November 11, 1996
Detmer, who relieved Peete that night, is 4-0 as a starter for
Philadelphia. That's one win for each of the years he spent
running the Green Bay Packers' scout team. Actually, his life in
America's Dairyland was not quite that glamorous. "That first
year I hardly ever got to run the scout team--it was Don
Majkowski's job," Detmer says. "I shagged field goals and threw
Detmer signed with the Eagles as a free agent last March. He and
his wife, Kim, and their two daughters, Kaili and Aubri, moved
into a house in Cherry Hill, N.J. Two weeks before Halloween,
Kim put a stuffed dummy on the front steps. Once
trick-or-treating traffic had slowed to a trickle last Thursday
night, Detmer donned the dummy's mask and clothing, pulled the
sleeves over his hands and sat very still on the steps.
"Here come these two kids--one of 'em has a Joe Montana jersey
on," he recalled. "They're just about to knock on the door when
all of a sudden I shuffle my feet, and they go, 'Ahhhh! Oh, man,
you scared us.'" He recounted the prank with a fiendish pleasure
that was at odds with his customary Mister Rogers demeanor.
As a scout-team veteran, Detmer is accustomed to donning
costumes and pretending to be someone he is not. Unwilling to
make a career of rehearsing the Packers' defense, however, he
leaped at the chance to compete for Philadelphia's starting job,
which he ended up winning only by default. He earned his stripes
quickly: Shortly after entering that Monday-night game in
September, Detmer absorbed a vicious lick from Dallas strong
safety Darren Woodson, who brought his helmet under the chin of
the six-foot, 190-pound quarterback. Detmer finished the game, a
23-19 loss, in a concussion-induced haze. "It would've been nice
to have been coherent that night," he says. "You know, just to
see what might have happened." Hastily he adds, "I'm not saying
we would've won or anything."
That's vintage Detmer. After all, he wouldn't want to offend
anyone. A millisecond after releasing a 14-yard touchdown pass
to wide receiver Irving Fryar late in the third quarter on
Sunday, Detmer was driven like a tent peg into the Texas Stadium
turf by Cowboys defensive tackle Leon (the Big Cat) Lett. After
extricating himself from beneath Lett, then ascertaining that
his pass had put the Eagles up 20-13, Detmer patted his
adversary thrice on the butt. Alas, what was intended as a
gesture of sportsmanship and consolation had the unfortunate
appearance of a spanking.
"Oh, no," said Detmer later. "That's not what I was doing. You
don't want to get Leon fired up. You don't want to wake up the
"He said 'Good hit' or something," Lett glumly confirmed.
During the week, Philadelphia coach Ray Rhodes had spoken
appreciatively of the defensive wrinkles the Cowboys have added
this season. "They're crossing inside linebackers, blitzing
different guys--they've gotten more exotic," he said, choosing
an adjective that is applied less frequently to the Dallas
players than it is to the dancers whose company some of them
Detmer and Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman each threw 33 passes;
Detmer completed 19, two fewer than Aikman, who threw two costly
interceptions. Detmer was neither picked off nor sacked. He
audibled frequently and intelligently, and he threw the ball
away when he had to. After one such dump, Detmer found himself
on the ground with Woodson, of whom he asked a simple favor:
"Don't hit me in the chin today, O.K.?"
Woodson smiled; it may have been the only civil exchange between
these NFC East rivals. When Williams and Fuller weren't trying
to maim each other, Eagles second-year cornerback Bobby Taylor
was fighting his self-described "quiet war" with Cowboys wide
receiver Michael Irvin. Taylor, at 6'3" and 216 pounds, is a
giant by cornerback standards. Philadelphia drafted him
expressly to shut down Irvin, who is almost as tall (6'2") and
equally as physical. In the first half the grand plan worked to
perfection: The Playmaker, as Irvin is known, made no plays. As
Dallas's straits became increasingly dire, Aikman grew more
determined to involve Irvin in the offense. It worked. Irvin's
seven catches (for 89 yards) all came in the second half.
On the other side of the field, Eagles corner Troy Vincent
dueled furiously with Deion Sanders, whom he all but erased.
Sanders caught just two balls all day, and early in the second
half his frustration boiled over: Seeing no flags after being
flung to the ground by Vincent, Prime Time came up swinging. The
resulting exchange of blows was brief, spirited and, on the
whole, less embarrassing than Sanders's laughable slap fight
with Andre Rison two years ago.
While the other Philadelphia players boarded team buses after
the game, Vincent leaned against a wall outside the stadium,
fingering a cut on his lower lip. "Bloody lip, bloody knuckles,
turf burns," he said. "That's what I came here for."
Vincent, who signed with the Eagles last March after spending
the first four years of his career with the Miami Dolphins, had
craved the showdown with Sanders. At 26, Vincent is talented and
impatient to play in his first Pro Bowl. He is the rare corner
who can provide smothering coverage and punishing run support,
and he was widely coveted when he became a free agent after last
season. The reasons he chose Philadelphia are the same reasons
the Eagles, unlike the Cowboys, are a team on the rise.
After practice last Friday, Vincent smiled at the recollection
of his first sit-down meeting with Rhodes. "Ray kicked his feet
up on his desk and started talking like I'd known him for
years," Vincent said. "I enjoyed that. He wasn't trying to paint
a pretty picture, sell me any dreams. He said, 'Look, I'm trying
to build a championship team here, and players like you can help
Last season, his first as an NFL head coach, Rhodes coaxed 11
wins out of a banged-up team of average talent. He is shrewd,
tough, fair and, when he cares to be, very funny. His players
like him, as they do owner Jeff Lurie, who isn't afraid to open
his wallet and who's forever inviting them to his place for
barbecues. The word is out: Philly's a good place to work. Ricky
Watters, who became an Eagle last season, rushed for 116 yards
against Dallas. Fryar, like Vincent a former Dolphin, caught
nine passes for 120 yards and a touchdown.
With 1:16 left in the game, it appeared that those statistics
had been amassed in vain. Irvin had just made a beautiful catch
of a 19-yard pass from Aikman; Taylor had pushed him
out-of-bounds at the three. The worst Dallas could do was a
chip-shot field goal to force overtime, right?
First-and-goal at the three: Emmitt Smith sweeps left and is met
at the two by Vincent, who wrestles him out-of-bounds.
Second-and-goal at the two: Mr. Smith, meet Mr. Wright. Backup
linebacker Sylvester Wright comes off his block and plants his
face mask between the 2's on Smith's jersey, dropping him for a
Third-and-goal at the three: Will this be remembered as the Play
That Broke the Back of the Dallas Dynasty? Aikman drops back to
pass, feels pressure from blitzing strong safety Mike Zordich,
steps up and lets go a misbegotten throw toward tight end Tyji
Armstrong. Middle linebacker James Willis intercepts the ball
four yards deep in the end zone, takes it to his 10-yard-line
and laterals to Vincent. An astounding number of fans are
parking lot bound before Vincent arrives in the far end zone.
If that lateral ends up on the ground and the Cowboys go on to
win, Willis spends the rest of his career with a moron sign on
his back. But Vincent, on the right side of the field, caught
the ball cleanly, broke across the field and glided up the left
How did it feel to carve out a place in the lore of his new
franchise? "I'm tired," said Vincent. "Out there covering 21 all
day, then running all over the field like that, I'm beat." But
Afterward, a middle-aged man in a Colorado Buffaloes baseball
cap stands near the door of the visitors' dressing room. He is
Sonny Detmer, whose son Koy--Ty's brother--plays quarterback for
the seventh-ranked Buffs. A day earlier Koy had thrown for a
school-record 457 yards in a 41-13 win over Missouri. Sonny, to
his chagrin, could not find the game in any Dallas sports bar.
What the heck, it was a blowout, he is told."That's why it
would have been a good one to see," he says.
It is surprising to discover that Sonny, a high school football
coach in Mission, Texas, has been crying. He had shaken hands
with Rhodes after the game, and that set him off. As Sonny sees
it, Rhodes took a chance on Ty when no one else would. "If it
wasn't for Ray Rhodes," he says, "who knows if Ty would have
ever gotten a chance?"
He is interrupted by Jon Gruden, Philadelphia's youthful-looking
offensive coordinator. They embrace. "The kid's a great player,"
says Gruden. "Works the pocket better than anyone I've ever been
Holed up in his cavelike office on Halloween night, studying
film of the Cowboys defense, Gruden had said the same thing. He
had marveled at Detmer's "unbelievable poise" and tried his best
to explain how 15 quarterbacks could have been selected before
him in the 1992 draft.
"Everybody's looking for the power pitcher, the human Jugs
machine," said Gruden. "Sometimes you forget that this game is
not a Punt, Pass & Kick competition. It's about managing a game
plan and making the throws."
Back in the dressing room, Sonny asks Gruden, "Did you call that
quarterback draw on the goal line?"
Gruden had. "They've got seven guys in coverage in the end
zone," he explains. "The last thing they expect is Detmer to run
"Last thing I expected, too," says Sonny.
"I'm happy for you," says Gruden. "Enjoy this one."
Sonny's eldest son is across the hall, standing on a stool
before a grove of microphones and TV cameras, courteously
answering the same questions, over and over. "I'm enjoying 'em
all," says Sonny.