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Breaking Away
Austin Murphy
November 11, 1996
The Eagles ran roughshod over the Cowboys to open a two-game lead on Dallas and put the fire back in an old rivalry
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November 11, 1996

Breaking Away

The Eagles ran roughshod over the Cowboys to open a two-game lead on Dallas and put the fire back in an old rivalry

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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 one-yard loss.

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 sideline.

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 not beaten.

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 around."

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."

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