SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Once all the confusion was sorted out and the
ball still belonged to the San Diego Chargers, they made sure to
get it into LaDainian Tomlinson's hands.
L.T. has been a touchdown waiting to happen for nearly two
months, by running, catching or throwing. The star running back
once again saved San Diego, keying yet another second-half rally to
give the AFC West-leading Chargers a 21-14 win over the Oakland
Raiders on Sunday, their fifth straight victory.
The way they've been rallying and winning, even with boneheaded
plays such as the one receiver Vincent Jackson made, the Chargers
(9-2) might have something special going after so many seasons of
false hopes and brutal play.
"I certainly hope so, because I might have a heart attack
pretty soon," said Tomlinson, who's in the midst of an MVP-type
season. "It seems like it's magical, the way things are happening
for us. It's kind of just going right for us."
It was clear after two emotional road wins that the Chargers were looking past this Raider football team. Oakland did a real nice job of controlling the line of scrimmage for the first three and a half quarters. But when push came to shove, it was LT to the rescue again. LaDainian Tomlinson (above) accounted for three touchdowns on the day, two on the ground and one via the pass. Even though the Chargers were not firing on all cylinders, they did a nice job of sticking with their game plan. It shows a lot of character for a team to still win a game when they don't bring their "A" game.
Tomlinson rushed for two touchdowns and broke out a favorite San
Diego trick by throwing for another. He has 24 touchdowns this
season, and needs five in the last five games to break the NFL
record of 28 set by Shaun Alexander during his MVP season of 2005.
Tomlinson threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end Antonio
Gates to tie the game at 14 with 9:46 left. The running back has
thrown for two touchdowns this season and six in his career, three
against the archrival Raiders.
The latest came four plays after Jackson nearly gave away the
With the Chargers (9-2) trailing 14-7 and facing fourth-and-2
from the Raiders 40, Jackson made a diving catch of a 13-yard pass
from Philip Rivers, rolled to the ground untouched, then stood up
and spun the ball forward in celebration. Oakland's Fabian
Washington jumped on the ball.
"My emotions just got me for a second," said Jackson, a
Referee Mike Carey originally signaled Oakland's possession and
the Raiders' offense came on the field. The Raiders (2-9) rushed to
the line of scrimmage, but umpire Garth DeFelice told them to hold
up while Carey huddled with other officials.
Then it was ruled an illegal forward pass, with Carey saying
that with the penalty, the Chargers didn't have enough yardage for
the first down, and it was Raiders ball.
Then he ruled the Chargers did have enough yards for a first
down, at the 32.
"Once we got the yardage set correctly ... they had the first
down," Carey said.
"I think we have a new rule about to happen," Raiders
quarterback Aaron Brooks said. "What's the difference between a
spike and a little flippity-flip, or whatever he did?"
Brooks felt the Raiders would have won if they had gotten the
ball. Instead, they lost their seventh straight to San Diego.
"No question, the momentum turns back around in our favor,"
Four plays later, Rivers flipped the ball back to Tomlinson, who
waited for Gates to get wide open, then lobbed to him in the end
LaDainian Tomlinson scored two touchdowns in the Chargers' 21-14 win over the Raiders. Tomlinson has scored at least twice in each of his last five games, and his total of 16 TDs during that time is the highest five-game total in NFL history. Jim Brown held that mark for 48 years -- with 14 TDs over five games in 1958 -- until L.T. broke it with 15 TDs over five games from Oct. 15 to Nov. 12.
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"Shoot, if I ain't throwing it good, let him," said Rivers,
who had his worst game as a starter.
"We've done that plenty of enough times where you kick it to me
and I just run around the end," Tomlinson said. "So they're
thinking that was a run play and they come up to try to support the
run and Gates just slipped right through them. You see the
cornerbacks, they run up, and the next thing they see Gates and
they're saying, 'Oh no!' "
Said Gates: "When you give the ball to No. 21, the whole
defense better run to him."
After the Chargers forced a punt, Tomlinson broke a 44-yard run
on first down, starting up the middle before bouncing outside. He
capped the drive with a 10-yard run, easing up as he crossed the
goal line untouched.
It was his 21st touchdown in seven games.
The home comeback followed the Chargers' 42-point performance in
the second half two weeks ago in a 49-41 win at Cincinnati, and
their rally from 17 points down at Denver last week.
Tomlinson recorded his career-best fifth straight 100-yard game,
finishing with 109 yards on 19 carries.
Rivers, meanwhile, was just 14-of-31 for 133 yards, with one
interception and no touchdowns, for a rating of 44.2.
After Oakland's ReShard Lee scored on a 1-yard run early in the
second quarter, Chargers rookie Antonio Cromartie had a 91-yard
kickoff return to set up Tomlinson's 4-yard scoring run.
Brooks threw a 2-yard TD pass to wide-open tight end John Madsen
midway through the third quarter to put the Raiders up 14-7. It
came one play after Madsen stepped out of bounds after a 56-yard
Brooks was 17-of-30 for 187 yards and one TD, with two
^Notes:@ Tomlinson came out for one play after tweaking a hamstring
in the third quarter. He set Chargers single-season records with
his 20th TD rushing, and 138 points. ... Tomlinson's 14 TDs against
Oakland are his most against any opponent. ... Chargers coach Marty
Schottenheimer got his 200th career win.
- Mike Carey