Philadelphia Eagles coach Ray Rhodes, visibly piqued by a dismal exhibition loss to the New York Jets, took the unusual step of installing a game plan in the preseason.
Third-team quarterback Koy Detmer revived Philadelphia's offense after the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive starters dominated it, throwing three second-half touchdown passes as the Eagles rallied for a 21-17 exhibition victory Friday night.
Rhodes said beforehand it was almost mandatory to win after last week's desultory 26-14 loss to the Jets in which the Eagles fell behind 20-3.
It wasn't much better for the Eagles' starters as the Steelers led 17-0 in the third quarter, but Detmer made it a winning night - at least for the back-up players - by hitting Karl Hankton for two touchdown passes and Antwuan Wyatt for another.
"It's good to get a win for our team, but we have to be realistic," said Rhodes, aware that Pittsburgh's top defenders had long since left the field before the winning drive. "We know what we have to do. Offensively, we're concerned. We've got a lot of work to do."
Detmer, who followed starter Bobby Hoying as Rhodes bypassed second-teamer Rodney Peete, won it by finding Hankton for a 20-yard completion into the end zone on a second-and-15 play with 10 seconds remaining.
"We usually work together in practice, so the chemistry is pretty good," Hankton said of Detmer.
Detmer, who finished 18-o-28 for 217 yards, had earlier hit Wyatt and Hankton on a pair of 7-yard scoring passes. Hankton's first scoring catch came with only 5:11 to play and the Steelers' reserves holding onto a seemingly safe 17-7 lead.
"There was total excitement after the last touchdown," said Detmer, who, like the Steelers' Kordell Stewart, once played at Colorado. "I knew there wasn't much time left and if we scored, we would win the game."
Detmer celebrated by running around the field, hugging teammates and acting as if it were a late-season comeback in November, not August.
"I was losing myself, doing some things out there I should be embarrassed about," he said.
Steelers coach Bill Cowher suggested some of the players on the field for the finish might have played their way off the team.
"The last five minutes was a debacle," Cowher said. "There were missed assignments and blown coverages everywhere. I hope this was a good lesson for everybody."
Before Detmer took over, Pittsburgh's defensive starters not only shut down the Eagles' offense but outscored it as Chris Oldham scored on a 64-yard interception return on Philadelphia's third play from scrimmage.
It was a workmanlike effort for the Steelers' regulars, who outgained the Eagles 169-43 and outrushed them 76-14 while taking a 10-0 halftime lead, but another woeful one for the Eagles -- at least until Detmer took the field.
Hoying didn't resemble the quarterback who directed a 23-20 Eagles regular-season victory over Pittsburgh in November, finishing 7-of-13 for 38 yards - mostly on dump-offs to his running backs. His longest gain was 11 yards.
Hoying made a key mistake on only his second pass of the game by throwing into coverage on a third-and-5 play from the Steelers 39. Oldham, who plays only in the dime defense, cut in front of a receiver to make the interception and return it virtually uncontested down the Steelers' sideline.
"It was a great play by him (Hoying) he threw the ball right to me," Oldham said. "It was a play we watched them run all week and he threw the ball exactly where we thought he would."
The Eagles' running game was invisible in the first half, with Charlie Garner, who so far in the preseason has not made Eagles fans forget Ricky Watters, carrying five times for only 14 yards. The Steelers outrushed the Eagles 45-1 in the first quarter.
Duce Staley replaced Garner in the second half and had 52 yards on 11 carries.
Stewart played a quarter and a half for the Steelers, hitting on 9 of 13 passes for 73 yards, and Jerome Bettis played less than that before leaving with seven carries for 27 yards.
Mike Tomczak, a 13-year quarterback trying to hold off two young players to retain his backup job to Stewart, also threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mitch Lyons after sitting out two preseason games with a hamstring injury.
Tomczak didn't appear bothered by a layoff that allowed third-teamer ike Quinn and rookie Pete Gonzalez to play long stretches in the Steelers' first two exhibitions, going 6-for-7 for 84 yards.
The usually reliable Norm Johnson kicked a 22-yard field goal for the Steelers, but also missed from 34 and 46 yards.
Both teams lost players to seemingly minor injuries: Steelers defensive end Nolan Harrison (ankle), Eagles safety Mike Mamula (knee sprain) and Eagles guard Keith Sims (sprained ankle).
The Steelers are 1-2 in the preseason, and the Eagles are 1-1.
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