San Diego charges past Raiders
AP Sports Writer
SAN DIEGO – This is getting too easy for LaDainian Tomlinson and the San Diego Chargers. Bring on the archrival Oakland Raiders, and it’s practically a guaranteed victory.
Tomlinson matched his career high with four touchdowns, rushing for 198 yards on 24 carries and leading the Chargers to their eighth straight win over the Raiders, 28-14, on Sunday.
Tomlinson scored on runs of 3, 27, 13 and 41 yards to vault past John Riggins for fifth on the all-time rushing touchdowns list with 106.
L.T. scored for the final time with 2:43 left, much to the delight of the Raider-hating crowd. It was a simple off-tackle play that Tomlinson broke to the outside. After racing into the end zone, he dropped the ball and raised both arms in the air.
It was the third time the reigning NFL MVP rushed for four touchdowns in a game, and the fifth time overall that he’s scored four times. It was the first time he scored four TDs at home.
The defending AFC West champion Chargers (3-3) rebounded to .500 after their early season, three-game losing streak left everyone frustrated, especially Tomlinson. The Chargers pulled into a tie atop the division with Kansas City.
To think, the Chargers can beat the Raiders without Marty Schottenheimer as their coach.
Schottenheimer, fired in February, hated the Raiders and was 27-7 against them in his career, including the first seven wins in the Chargers’ streak.
Norv Turner, who replaced Schottenheimer, was fired by the Raiders after coaching them to a 9-23 record in 2004-05.
It was Tomlinson’s eighth career 100-yard game against the Silver and Black.
During the winning streak, Tomlinson has rushed for 1,142 yards and 12 touchdowns, while also catching one TD pass and throwing two.
The Raiders (2-3) looked more like the team that went an NFL-worst 2-14 last year than the one that was coming off consecutive wins.
Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, making his second start, was harassed all day, which helped make the offense look horrible most of the afternoon. Culpepper was intercepted twice, lost a fumble and was sacked six times.
San Diego’s Shawne Merriman had 21Ú2 sacks and fellow outside linebacker Shaun Phillips had two sacks and forced a fumble.
Tomlinson took a pitch from Philip Rivers and ran through traffic for a 13-yard scoring run with 9:42 left in the third quarter for a 21-7 lead.
Culpepper threw a 1-yard, fourth-down TD pass to tight end Zach Miller with 5:18 left, capping a 17-play, 60-yard drive that took 8 minutes, 4 seconds.
Everything went the Chargers’ way early, except for losing Pro Bowl center Nick Hardwick with a foot injury on the first drive.
Tomlinson capped the opening drive with a 3-yard dive. San Diego got the ball back when cornerback Drayton Florence intercepted Culpepper at the Raiders’ 39. Three plays later, Tomlinson scored on a 27-yard misdirection play for a 14-0 lead with 6:51 still to play in the first quarter.
The Raiders closed to 14-7 when linebacker Thomas Howard intercepted Philip Rivers and returned it 66 yards, highstepping the last 25 yards into the end zone. Rivers made a horrible decision and a worse pass – throwing across his body and more than five yards short of wide receiver Vincent Jackson, who hadn’t even made his break.
It was Rivers’ seventh interception this season, and the second time a pickoff was returned for a touchdown. It came just three plays after Shane Lechler botched a punt. Lechler appeared to have time to get the kick off, but might have been rattled by Antonio Cromartie, who was blocked. Lechler was stuffed for a four-yard loss.
The Raiders had the ball first-and-goal from the Chargers’ 1-yard line and could have tied it 14-all at halftime, but Culpepper couldn’t find a receiver and was sacked at the 7. Then he was sacked again and fumbled, with San Diego’s Jamal Williams recovering with one second left in the half.