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Tomlinson: 243 yards, 2 TDs

12/29/2003

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- What more can the San Diego Chargers say about
LaDainian Tomlinson that they haven't already said in his brief,
sensational NFL career?

At this point, not much. They'll just sit back and continue to
be thrilled every time he touches the ball and cuts this way and
that up the field.

Tomlinson at least took some of the sting off an otherwise awful
season for the Chargers by rushing 31 times for a career-high 243
yards and two touchdowns in a 21-14 win over the rival Oakland
Raiders on Sunday.

The third-year pro has four career 200-yard games, tying him for
second place on the career list with Jim Brown, Earl Campbell and
Barry Sanders. The record is six, by O.J. Simpson.

"I'm an English major and I run out of superlatives," coach
Marty Schottenheimer said. "What are you going to say about the
guy? He's a remarkable, remarkable player, and a remarkable human
being."

It was Tomlinson's second 200-yard game this year; he also ran
for 200 yards in a win at Cleveland on Oct. 19. He finished the
season with 1,645 yards rushing. He also became the first halfback
in NFL history to catch 100 passes. Fullback Larry Centers had 101
in 1995 for Arizona.

"The guy's incredible. He's Superman without a cape," fullback
Lorenzo Neal said.

It was the second-best rushing performance in the NFL this year,
behind the NFL single-game record 295 yards by Baltimore's Jamal
Lewis on Sept. 14 against Cleveland. It tied for 10th best in NFL
history.

"The main focus was just trying to win this last game,
obviously, against the Raiders," Tomlinson said. "It just felt
good to just play well."

The Chargers and Raiders both finished 4-12, tying with the New
York Giants and Arizona for the NFL's worst record. The Chargers,
though, clinched the No. 1 pick in the draft for the second time in
four years, based on strength of schedule.

It was a rare chance for the Chargers to celebrate.

"It's one thing to have a good game and you lose," Tomlinson
said. "It's kind of a sour taste. But when you win a game, it
makes it more fun to talk about it and the team can celebrate."

With the score tied at 14, Tomlinson scored the go-ahead
touchdown on a 2-yard run up the middle with 11:42 left in the
game. That put him at 202 yards. Tomlinson began the drive with a
35-yard run.

Tomlinson also became the first full-time running back in NFL
history to catch 100 passes. And he broke his own club record for
combined yards with 2,370. His old record was 2,172 yards last
year.

Yet he didn't make the Pro Bowl.

Schottenheimer said Tomlinson is the most complete back he's
every seen.

"I've been doing this for a long time. I've never seen anybody
like him. nobody," Schottenheimer said.

This season was quite a comedown for the Raiders, who played in
the Super Bowl in San Diego just 11 months ago, losing 48-21 to
Tampa Bay.

Not much went right on Sunday. They had 0 net passing yards
after Rick Mirer and Tee Martin were sacked five times for minus-35
yards.

Mirer made way for Martin in the third quarter, although he
returned in the final minutes. Mirer was just 4-of-11 for 21 yards,
and Martin was 2-of-11 for 14 yards, with one interception. The
Raiders gained just 141 total yards.

Cornerback Charles Woodson and running back Charlie Garner were
among Oakland's inactives due to violation of team rules. A Raiders
spokesman wouldn't be more specific.

"It's ridiculous," defensive tackle Rod Coleman said. "It's
so bad that I can't be mad. We didn't know what was going on out
there today. Some guys came to play, other guys didn't."

Tomlinson's first score was on a 2-yard run for a 7-0 lead
midway through the first quarter.

The Raiders gained just 66 yards and four first downs in the
first half, but were tied 14-14 at halftime thanks to a punt return
and a kickoff return for touchdowns.

After David Boston put the Chargers ahead 14-7 with an 18-yard
TD catch, the Chargers had to rekick because rookie Terrence Kiel
was offside. Doug Gabriel caught the ball near the left sideline at
the 15, worked his way through traffic to the right sideline and
outran the coverage to tie it at 14 with 24 seconds left before
halftime.

The Raiders got their first touchdown on an 81-yard punt return
by Phillip Buchanon late in the second quarter to tie the game at
7.
^Notes: Tomlinson finished 38 yards shy of his team single-season
rushing record of 1,683 yards, set last year. ... Oakland clinched
the second overall pick in the draft.