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Tomlinson provides must-needed boost for Chargers

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Whatever Marty Schottenheimer said at halftime
was all it took to snap LaDainian Tomlinson and the rest of the San
Diego Chargers out of their funk.

After all, trailing the lowly Cleveland Browns isn't the ideal
place for a team that would like to think it ranks among the NFL's
elite.

Tomlinson had another monster game, scoring three touchdowns
late in the second half and finishing with 172 yards on 18 carries
to lift the Chargers to a sloppy 32-25 win Sunday.

The Chargers also got a big effort from several defensive
backups who were filling in for players missing due to injuries
and, in outside linebacker Shawne Merriman's case, a four-game
suspension for a positive drug test.

Schottenheimer "gave us a mouthful, a tongue-lashing,"
Tomlinson said. "We deserved it, though. I'd be lying if I told
you we weren't getting frustrated because we were. But we kept our
poise when we needed to."

The star running back had a whopping 9.6 yards per carry,
gaining 47 yards on his first nine carries and 125 on his last
nine.

Tomlinson had consecutive 100-yard rushing games for the first
time this season. Last week he ran for 183 yards, had 57 yards
receiving and scored three times in a win against St. Louis. He has
three 100-yard rushing games this season, plus 14 touchdowns.

With Cleveland's offense sputtering against a defense missing
its two best pass rushers, Phil Dawson kicked a club-record six
field goals -- from 37, 20, 42, 30, 36 and 35 yards.

The Chargers (6-2) were trailing 12-10 when Tomlinson broke a
41-yard touchdown run with 1:08 left in the third quarter. The
Chargers had great field position after pinning the Browns on their
2 and forcing them to punt.

"Give me a little hole I can squeeze through into the
secondary," said Tomlinson, who scored on runs of 7 and 8 yards in
the fourth quarter. "Once I get into the secondary, things could
get very interesting."

Browns coach Romeo Crennel said the Chargers kept freezing their
inside linebackers.

"I thought they wore us down," he said.

Tomlinson's big day helped offset the Chargers' 12 penalties for
113 yards.

Until Tomlinson's first TD, the Chargers hadn't scored on
offense since Nate Kaeding kicked a 29-yard field goal on the
game's opening drive.

"I knew we were far better than that," Schottenheimer said.

They did get a defensive touchdown when Marques Harris, making
his second start in place of injured outside linebacker Shaun
Phillips, recovered Charlie Frye's fumble in the end zone in the
second quarter.

On the way back to the bench, Harris did a cartwheel and a
backflip to celebrate his first NFL score.

"It's hard, at 240 pounds, doing that, especially with a helmet
and shoulder pads on," Harris said. "But when you're excited, you
can do a lot."

At one point, the Chargers had four backup linebackers on the
field.

"That shows the strength of our defense, the guys who can step
up and come in and actually do a good job and not just be out there
taking up space," Harris said. "A great team has good depth. The
game's not going to stop for certain players."

The Browns (2-6) finally scored a TD with 1:11 left when Braylon
Edwards caught a 4-yard pass from Frye.

Cleveland tight end Kellen Winslow was booed every time his name
was announced at the same stadium where his Hall of Fame father of
the same name starred for the Chargers from 1979-87, and some fans
cheered when he got hurt late in the game. He returned a few plays
later.

During the week, Winslow hyped his matchup with Chargers All-Pro
tight end Antonio Gates as a heavyweight match, then went on to say
he was the best tight end in the NFL.

Winslow and Gates talked and shook hands while both offenses
milled around during a long review in the second quarter.

Winslow had 78 yards on a career-high 11 catches, which tied for
second-highest in franchise history. Gates had two catches for 22
yards.

The Browns were trying to win consecutive games for the first
time in more than three seasons. For a while, it looked like they
might succeed.

The Browns led 12-10 after a first half that was as wacky as it
was tedious, with five field goals and only one TD.

Dawson kicked his fourth field goal of the half, from 30 yards,
with 1 second left. It came at the end of a frantic two-minute
drill that began when San Diego's Keenan McCardell fumbled after a
catch.

San Diego had taken a 10-6 lead on Harris' fumble recovery. With
the ball on the Browns 18, Frye dropped back, was hit by Randall
Godfrey, stumbled and lost the ball. Harris went to pick it up and
kicked it toward the end zone, where he jumped on it.

"I thought we were going to come out and win," said Frye, who
injured his thumb in practice late in the week. "Mistakes --
they're going to kill you."

The Browns came right back and pulled to 10-9 on Dawson's
42-yard field goal.

Game notes
Dennis Northcutt had an 81-yard punt return to set up
Dawson's second field goal. ... Browns CB Leigh Bodden reaggravated
an ankle injury and LB Leon Williams also injured an ankle.