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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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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.

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 receiver drills."

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 Big Cat."

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