"I said, 'listen LT, I'm going to need you on check-down passes so be ready because we've got to try and push it up the field a little,'" Rivers said.
Rivers was talking of Sunday's amazing game, when the Chargers scored 42-second-half points for an unlikely comeback win in Cincinnati. But instead of Tomlinson being a bit player, he tied a franchise record with four rushing touchdowns.
Tomlinson is on a run that is incomparable. He has scored 15 touchdowns in five games, which betters the previous mark held by Jim Brown.
Every week he seems to put on his Superman cap and save the Chargers. Sunday was no different, as he dominated the game and almost willed them to a win.
Tomlinson will likely record his sixth straight 1,000-yard rushing season on Sunday in Denver, in a showdown for AFC West supremacy. But he produces with such regularity, that the Chargers are hard-pressed to describe him.
"He's the ultimate competitor," Rivers said. "He is the greatest at what he does, but he competes, he battles, he hates to lose."
Coach Marty Schottenheimer is quick to tell anyone he is an English major. But even he searches for the right words.
"The superlatives about him are sometimes hard to come up with," Schottenheimer said. "I have to tell you that I stand in amazement on the sideline sometimes. Some of the things that he does are remarkable."
Which goes back to Rivers' chat before the second half. When telling Tomlinson about the plan, the superstar didn't mope or complain. He nodded accordingly and went to work.
"If there was ever a consummate team player," Schottenheimer said, "it is LaDainian Tomlinson."
--It was a wild offensive game, but if not for a sack and fumble recovery by OLB Shaun Phillips', the Chargers rally would have been that much more daunting. The Chargers converted the game's only turnover into a quick Tomlinson touchdown. "I like to pride myself in going for the big play," Phillips said. "When I played basketball I wanted the ball in my hands and it's the same in football. They'll either say, 'Phillips made a great play or it was Phillips that messed up.'" Phillips' seven sacks trail only Shawne Merriman's 8 1/5 for the team high.
--While everyone wants to talk to Tomlinson, the team's touchdown machine points toward his blockers up front. "Our offensive line is playing incredible," Tomlinson said. "This is the best I've seen a group play since I've been here. They really allow us to move the ball up and down the field with passing and running the football and I think the key is our offensive line."
--S Marlon McCree can expect a fine for his early hit on the Bengals T.J. Houshmandzadeh. But McCree is claiming it wasn't intentional. "I was just trying to go for the interception," McCree said. "I just hope that he is OK. I'd never want to hurt anybody. "
--DT Derreck Robinson was fined $7,500 by the NFL last week for a late hit on Browns QB Charlie Frye.
--WR Eric Parker has a neck strain and could miss practice time this week.
--WR Malcom Floyd took advantage of his shot when Eric Parker went out with a second-quarter neck injury. Floyd had his first career 100-yard game and scored on a 46-yard pass. He finished with five catches for 109 yards. Floyd though sprained his ankle and could miss some practice time this week.
--NT Jamal Williams (toe) will be eased into practice this week.
--C Nick Hardwick (ankle) could be slow this week but he should go Sunday.
--DE Luis Castillo (ankle) remains in a walking boot and could miss his second straight game.
--CB Antonio Cromartie got a full dose of facing a quality NFL quarterback. Cromartie, the team's top pick, got twisted around on some plays and gave way too much cushion on others -- but there were few secondary stars on this day.
--WR Keenan McCardell replaced Eric Parker returning punts. The veteran McCardell is back there for his sure hands and the team is just fine with him taking a fair catch -- he did that twice on Sunday.
--TE Brandon Manumaleuna has some soft hands, as he proved in catching two touchdown passes. But he was brought in to block, although with All-Pro Antonio Gates drawing so much attention Manumaleuna has become a target.
--ILB Donnie Edwards is on quite a run, recording double-digit tackles in four straight games. The 11-year pro had a game-high 16 tackles on Sunday.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
REPORT CARD VS. BENGALS
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- Philip Rivers fueled the comeback with his second-half passing, and that can't be ignored, especially from a first-year starter. No drops and Antonio Gates made a great catch on a critical third down when the Chargers were driving. Pass protection was solid as he was sacked but twice and had ample time. Rookie LT Marcus McNeill manhandled Bengals RE Justin Smith.
RUSHING OFFENSE: A -- The Chargers had to get away from the running game for a bit when mounting the comeback, but it opened timely holes -- especially down by the goal line -- to spring Tomlinson for four touchdowns and 104 yards. RT Shane Olivea draws a 15-yard flag on the opening play, but that's long forgotten as the men up front contribute greatly to the comeback.
PASS DEFENSE: F -- Blown coverages, miscommunication, playing with too big of a cushion -- you name it and the secondary will plead guilty. Unit gets torched for 440 yards and three scores -- including a 74-yarder -- as it has no answer for Carson Palmer and his various targets. Marlon McCree's cheap shot is icing on this dreadful cake. What was missing on the pass rush -- Shawne Merrriman and Luis Castillo -- was revealed in the shoddy play here.
RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Bengals rushed for 124 yards and Rudi Johnson averaged 4.7 yards on just 18 attempts. If the Chargers weren't so bad covering the pass, the Bengals probably would have pounded the ball more. The Chargers missed Castillo here as well at the point of attack. The Chargers provided too big of holes for Bengals running back Rudi Johnson and the rest of the Bengals backs.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- The Chargers' coverages get burned for a 36-yard kickoff return but does well on punts. Mike Scifres is busy early on and has but one he would ask for back. Michael Turner delivered a spark with his 49-yard kickoff return. The punt return game was tame, with Eric Parker leaving with a neck injury and Keenan McCardell delivering two fair catches.
COACHING: A -- Ever dream that Marty Schottenheimer would be part of a game with a combined 90 points? Probably not. But Schottenheimer laid down the challenge at halftime, telling his players just to play hard in the second half and don't worry about the final score. The Chargers took him up on it and won the game. Cam Cameron's offensive play-calling in the second half -- especially on third downs -- was on the spot.
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