Lawrence Taylor is gone, but LaDainian Tomlinson has arrived."> Lawrence Taylor is gone, but LaDainian Tomlinson has arrived.">

The next great one

They said there would never been another "LT." They were wrong. <P> Lawrence Taylor is gone, but <!--Default NodeId For LaDainian Tomlinson is 611803,2003--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:611803]>LaDainian Tomlinson</A> has arrived.

The San Diego Chargers star running back didn't take long to make a name for himself in the NFL. And that name will be on the Bears' minds Sunday afternoon as Tomlinson and the Chargers invade Soldier Field.

Stopping the new "LT" is priority No. 1 for the Bears defense.

"He's the guy that makes it go for them," Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. "He's a great back, reminds me a lot of Barry Sanders. You have to approach him and try to defend him the same way you did Barry Sanders.

"You have to gang tackle, take your shot, and if you miss him get back and go after him again because he's going to come back at you."

In just his third season in the league, Tomlinson saw his productivity go from 1,603 yards from scrimmage his rookie season to 2,172 last year. Going into today's game, Tomlinson is third in the AFC with 719 yards rushing and is averaging 5.1 yards a pop.

"He's clearly a dangerous man and runs the ball exceptionally well," Bears coach Dick Jauron said. "He is definitely exceptional. We'll have our hands full."

Even more impressive is the fact "LT" has 43 catches -- more than anybody on the team. In other words, it's a priority to get the ball in his hands.

"He's getting 35 to 40 touches a game, and that adds up to a lot of yardage," Blache said. "I think it's a huge challenge for us to be able to see if we can contain him for 60 minutes because he's one of these guys that you can stop him, stop him -- and then all of a sudden he goes for 70 yards on you."

Tomlinson rushed for 200 yards on 26 carries earlier this season against Cleveland and was named AFC Player of the Week.

"I think he's got three 200-yard games (in his career) already and only one other guy, O.J. (Simpson) did that, I guess, and he had six (in his career), and this guy is just in his third year.

"I think (his production) speaks volumes for the talent he has and he's doing it on grass. It's not like he's playing on turf. I'm very impressed with his toughness, his vision and his quickness."

The Chargers are only 1-6 on the season, winning on the road against Cleveland, and are coming off a Monday night loss to the Dolphins. The short week benefits the Bears big-time, but also the fact San Diego's heads haven't been focused solely on football. The massive wildfires in San Diego are so bad the team had to move Monday night's "home" game to Arizona. The fires have destroyed more than 2,400 homes and burned over 634,000 acres. By the time the Chargers go home for a Nov. 9 game against the Vikings, they'll have been on the road for seven weeks.

Blache called it a "trap game" for the Bears, who can't just go into the game thinking it's a gimme.

San Diego, which is seeking its first win in Chicago since Oct. 18, 1970, has struggled offensively with former Drew Brees running the show. Brees threw three picks against Miami and has 11 on the season to just seven touchdown passes.

The Bears defense, though, is much more concerned with stopping the run first. It's been something Blache's crew hasn't done consistently this season.

"Talk to me Sunday (after the game) and I'll have a very good answer for you," Blache said of the state of the team's run defense.

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