May 22, 2013

1999: Dameyune Craig Passes for 611 Yards in NFL Europe Game

As a quarterback in the NFL, Dameyune Craig appeared in just six games over a period of four seasons after signing with the Carolina Panthers as a free agent out of Auburn. But on May 22, 1999 as a member of the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe, Craig compiled a passing yardage total that no NFL quarterback to date has approached.

Craig had been allocated to the developmental league by the Panthers for the 1999 spring season. The Claymores came into the game at 3-2 following a bad loss against the Rhein Fire in Dusseldorf the previous week. They were facing the Frankfurt Galaxy, who had beaten the Claymores in Edinburgh in overtime a few weeks earlier and were also 3-2.

There were 33,915 fans in attendance for the Saturday game at the Waldstadion in Frankfurt. The Galaxy opened the scoring four minutes into the contest when QB Pat Barnes connected with WR Mike McCullough for a 23-yard touchdown

The Scots came right back on a drive highlighted by Craig’s pass to FB Jamie Reader that picked up 52 yards. Craig threw to WR Donald Sellers for 14 yards and capped the series with a five-yard scoring pass to Sellers. The successful extra point made it 7-7.

Two plays later, safety Lee Wiggins got the ball back for the Claymores when he intercepted a pass by Barnes at midfield. Completions to RB Jesse Haynes and TE Shon Bell got the Scots deep into Frankfurt territory, but with fourth-and-goal at the one, Craig was unable to score on a quarterback sneak and the Claymores came up empty.

The Galaxy made the most of the reprieve in a possession highlighted by missed tackles and ending early in the second quarter with Barnes throwing to McCullough for a 43-yard TD. The Claymores didn’t take long to tie the game up again. Craig threw to WR Yo Murphy who charged down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown.

The Scots put together a seven-play scoring drive that featured long gains by Sellers and WR Kevin Drake and concluded with Craig tossing a 24-yard TD pass to Bell. The tally was 21-14 in favor of the Scottish club at the half.

The Claymores extended their lead early in the third quarter, once more in spectacular fashion as Craig threw to Sellers for a 44-yard touchdown. The Galaxy came alive on offense and drove into scoring territory, but DE Jermaine Benoit sacked new Frankfurt QB Jake Delhomme for an 11-yard loss and, on the next play, DB Denorse Mosley intercepted a pass in the corner of the end zone to extinguish the threat.

Craig, going for the big strike, immediately hit Sellers for a 71-yard gain, but the Claymores fumbled the ball away on the next play. However, Frankfurt wasn’t able to move offensively and, regaining possession, the Scots started the fourth quarter with a Craig pass to Sellers for 36 yards. Three plays later, Haynes ran for a one-yard TD and, with another successful PAT, the Claymores held a seemingly-comfortable 35-14 lead.

Frankfurt wasn’t finished, however, and with 13 minutes left on the clock commenced a comeback. The Galaxy scored on a five-yard touchdown pass from Delhomme to McCullough. Shortly thereafter, Craig fumbled and safety Jamaal Alexander recovered for the home team. Two plays later, Delhomme hit WR Todd Floyd for a seven-yard TD and, with another successful extra point by Ralph Kleimann, the Claymores led by just 35-28.

Again the Scots came through with a big play as Craig connected with Sellers for a 39-yard touchdown. It was 42-28 with three minutes remaining, but the Galaxy proved to be resilient. Frankfurt put together a 77-yard drive in eight plays that concluded with Delhomme throwing to Bailey for a six-yard TD. It was once again a one-touchdown game.

The Galaxy kept it interesting with a successful onside kick that was recovered by LB Jimmy Clements. With 1:24 still on the clock, Frankfurt had the ball at its own 42 yard line. However, four plays later CB Joey Eloms intercepted a Delhomme pass in the end zone to finally nail down the 42-35 win for the Claymores.

Many league records fell in the 77-point contest, including most combined yards (1073). Dameyune Craig completed 27 of 37 passes for 611 yards and five touchdowns – the yardage total was not only a NFL Europe record but surpassed the existing NFL record by 57 yards. Donald Sellers, allocated by the Rams, set a league receiving yardage record with 264 yards on 9 catches that included three touchdowns.  Yo Murphy added 8 pass receptions for 149 yards and a TD and Shon Bell had 5 catches for 96 yards.

“We had no idea that we had chalked up so many yards,” said Claymores Head Coach Jim Criner. “During the course of a ball game all you are really worried about is the score. It was nice to have that kind of productivity and it’s nice to know our players are capable of it.”

“I may have had some big numbers but I also had two turnovers that could have cost us the game,” said Craig, who was self-critical despite his big performance. “You have to look for perfection with regards to the overall game plan and I could have done better. As far as the passing, I think I played pretty close to perfection although I did turn the ball over twice which could have hurt the team.”

Craig’s jersey was sent off to Canton for display in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He went on to complete 198 of 339 passes (58.4 %) for 2932 yards and 21 touchdowns with 12 interceptions for a 92.7 passer rating. It proved to be the high water mark of his pro football career – he retired to coaching after a year playing arena football in 2002. Ironically, it was Frankfurt’s Delhomme, allocated to NFL Europe by the Saints in ’99, who went on to a career as the starting quarterback for the Carolina Panthers from 2003 to ‘09.

Donald Sellers and Yo Murphy were the top two receivers over the course of the season, just as they had been against Frankfurt. Sellers caught 58 passes for 931 yards (16.1 avg.) and seven touchdowns and Murphy had 45 receptions for 752 yards (16.7 avg.) and four TDs.

The big win over the Galaxy ended up being the high point of the season for the Claymores. They lost their remaining games and finished in fifth place at 4-6. Frankfurt recovered to place second in the league at 6-4 and went on to defeat Barcelona for the league title.