As I continue to run through a recap of the 1999 season, I forgot to do some midseason check-ins. I really like totals, even partial totals if that makes sense, and the midway point is a good time to start to evaluate where everything stands.
Funny enough, in 1999 the St. Louis Rams didn’t stand in first place after eight games.
The Rams 6-2 record was surprising and more than respectable, but the Jaguars and Dolphins were 7-1, plus five others teams were 6-2. Today we think back to 1999 and believe that “the Greatest Show on Turf” was remarkably better than their competition — and that did prove to be true — but any number of things could have veered them off course and made the ‘99 Rams as forgettable as the ‘99 Jaguars.
A team that finished 14-2 and won a playoff game by a score of 62-7 (over that Miami team that started 7-1) but lacked stars and gaudy offensive statistics. Jacksonville had three players with double-digit sacks, led the NFL in points allowed, and had the fewest turnovers, but a blowout loss in the AFC Championship game was enough for most of us to forget about things like that.
After eight games, the Jags allowed 76 points, less than 10 per game. The Rams were tied for third in scoring defense with the Bucs and the Steelers were in second. But St. Louis also ranked first in points scored, six more than second-place Washington, and their +147 point differential was 13 points better than second-place Jacksonville.
The Rams weren’t yet in first, but they absolutely had the league MVP after eight games and a few other standouts.
172-of-250, 68.8%, 2,164 yards, 24 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 119.1 passer rating, 8.66 yards per attempt, 9.68 adjusted yards per attempt
The second-best first half that season belonged to Washington’s Brad Johnson, who was completing 61% of his throws for 2,093 yards, 15 TD, 3 INT, 101. rating, 8.08 Y/A and 8.72 adjusted Y/A.
Warner had thrown nine more touchdowns that Johnson and Peyton Manning, the third-most yards after Manning and Drew Bledsoe, and was leaps and bounds ahead of the league average for passer rating. That same year, Arizona’s Jake Plummer had three touchdowns and 14 interceptions through his first six starts.
115 carries, 607 yards, 5.28 YPC, 2 TD, 47 catches on 51 targets, 465 yards, 2 TD, 1,072 yards from scrimmage.
Halfway through the season, Faulk ranked ninth in rushing yards. As a matter of odd fact, him and Charlie Garner of San Francisco each had exactly 115 carries for 607 yards through eight games. As runners, they were identical in production, but Garner had one fewer touchdowns. He was a pretty good receiver too — 26 of 36, 276 yards — but a step behind Faulk overall in that department. Maybe if he had gotten more targets, but Faulk caught a ridiculous 92.2% of throws his way.
Faulk ranked first in yards from scrimmage, 31 ahead of second-place Edgerrin James. Perhaps the most successful season by a runner at that point was Washington’s Stephen Davis, who had 729 yards, 5.03 yards per carry, and 12 touchdowns. Emmitt Smith had 748 yards and 10 touchdowns, but on 4.04 YPC.
Why not mention Tim Biakabutuka while I’m at it? He was a notable disappointment after being the Panthers eighth overall pick in 1996, but he had a few monster games in 1999: eight carries for 132 yards and two touchdowns against Cincinnati and 12 carries for 142 yards and three touchdowns against Washington. That put him at 7.29 YPC at the halfway point of 1999.
40 of 62 targets, 625 yards, 9 TD, 10.08 YPT, 64.5% catch rate
Bruce is surprisingly only 22nd in targets at this point in the season. First place Marvin Harrison has been targeted 102 times by Peyton Manning already, 19 more than any other player in the league. Harrison ranks first with 887 yards, but Bruce has tied him for the lead in touchdowns with nine.
Terry Glenn, Muhsin Muhammad, Tim Brown, Albert Connell, Michael Westbrook, Jimmy Smith, and Keyshawn Johnson are the players between Harrison and Bruce.
Norv Turner did an unbelievable job with Washington’s offense in 1999 (where Connell and Westbrook also play) but they didn’t have the same level of defense as the Rams. Still, they were 5-3, only a game behind St. Louis.
Bruce’s 10.08 yards per target ranked seventh, behind Michael Westbrook, Glenn, Derrick Alexander, Shawn Jefferson (father of current LA receiver Van Jefferson), Tony Martin, and tight end Byron Chamberlain.
Torry Holt ranked fifth among rookies in targets behind Kevin Johnson, Troy Edwards, James, and David Boston. Hold was at 41 targets, 22 catches, 318 yards and two touchdowns. Colts rookie Terrence Wilkins had caught 19 of 23 targets for 298 yards. Holt was third in rookie receiving yards behind Johnson (29 catches, 466 yards, five touchdowns) and Edwards (31 catches, 361 yards, two touchdowns).
As a matter of fact, Az-Zahir Hakim had more yards (336) and touchdowns (4) than Holt even though he missed a game. Hakim ranked second in punt return yards (303) behind Tiki Barber (321).
15 tackles, 7 TFL, 7 sacks
Carter ranked third in sacks, tied with Tony Brackens of the Jaguars, Chad Bratzke of the Colts, and Warren Sapp of the Bucs. In first was Tampa’s Simeon Rice with nine, followed by Jacksonville’s Kevin Hardy with 7.5. Now, who has a bell ring when they hear this name: Andy Katzenmoyer.
The Patriots drafted Katzenmoyer out of Ohio State with the 28th overall pick in 1999. He started 11 games and made 3.5 sacks, but at the midway point his 13 tackles for a loss ranked tied for first with Ray Lewis. Think about that for a second. A neck injury ended in his career after playing in only 24 games.
Another name I wouldn’t have thought of since: Jessie Armstead. The former Giants outside linebacker had 12 TFL at the break and finished with an NFL-high 21 that season.
D’Marco Farr had 8 TFL and 3.5 sacks at the midway point; Grant Wistrom had 5 TFL and 3.5 sacks; Todd Lyght had 2 sacks and 3 INT; London Fletcher had 49 tackles and 8 TFL
Rams - Kurt Warner
NFL - Kurt Warner
Defensive Player of the Year:
Rams - Kevin Carter
NFL - Ray Lewis
Rookie of the Year:
Rams - Torry Holt
NFL - Edgerrin James