Each week the man known as LT gets a little more upset about the losing in San Diego. Each week he says he wants more put on his shoulders and he will direct the team to victory. Each week the team gets behind early and has no chance to make his dreams come true. This week – things changed. Tomlinson did it all.
LaDainian Tomlinson gained 236 yards from scrimmage or 63% of the Chargers total offense of the day. A good portion of that came through the air, short passes that he took to the house and another where he stumbled on the same route or the number could be a lot higher.
"We got him on the little H-post there," Marty Schottenheimer said. "We came back to it a second time later in the ballgame, and had he not stumbled we might have had the chance to score again."
"If you look at some of the plays that he hurt us on, they seemed to be some of the same plays all the time," said Lions safety Terrence Holt. "If they got into that formation, we tried to stop the play."
The "H-post" as Schottenheimer called it was a simple five to seven yard pass from Doug Flutie to Tomlinson that was not such an easy play to stop. The first time they ran it Tomlinson took the ball in stride, broke a tackle as the ball was delivered, and ran unhindered the rest of the way, 73 yards for a touchdown. That play was a career long reception for Tomlinson.
What was so different about this play from all the swings and screens Tomlinson normally sees?
"I am supposed to just kind of leak out," Tomlinson said. "There is no difference than a long run – it puts points on the board. We don't throw the ball down the field much to me, most of the stuff I get is check-downs and swings, but now I think teams will have to pay attention to me. That was an h-post. I have some options. I didn't have to go inside there. I saw the safety leave and then the seam was open. They weren't close enough to me to turn back and stiff-arm or anything."
"That's the potential of that play," said Doug Flutie. "We've ran it with every receiver. Every receiver on the team has ran that and it's a short little throw that has the potential to really split."
Every receiver is not LaDainian Tomlinson. In fact, no Chargers receiver is, not even David Boston as good as he is.
"At the running back position you need to be able to catch the football and run, I showed today that I can catch the ball and make the run after. We knew they had a tough run defense, yards were going to be hard to come by, we would have to find another way to score points, I'm just happy that we found a way to score a couple of touchdowns."
Everyone knew Tomlinson could catch the ball. He has been doing it all season and entered the game as the teams' reception leader with 66. He added nine more to that total. What was different happened to be the routes he ran. LT finished with a career-high 148 receiving yards. Throwing the ball to Tomlinson was the plan to loosen up a tough Detroit front four.
"We knew inside they were going to be tough," said Schottenheimer. "We didn't move them very far, so the opportunities for him as a receiver are more. We talked about getting him more plays as a receiver."
More plays at receiver for the Chargers leading receiver. Brilliant!
Each week Tomlinson is breaking or setting records. This week was no different as he not only set his own personal record but tied a few more.
It was the fourth time this season and sixth time in his career that Tomlinson has had 200 combined yards in a game. Tomlinson's four 200-yard games are tied with Lionel James, who had four in 1985, for the Chargers single-season team record. Tomlinson's six career 200 combined yards games are tied for the team record with Lance Alworth and James Brooks.
It will come as no surprise that the Chargers now have a 6-0 record when Tomlinson has 200 combined yards from scrimmage.
"Tomlinson has every skill you look for in a running back," Schottenheimer added.
The guys who he loved growing up, Emmitt Smith, #22, and Barry Sanders, #20, should be proud of the man who chose the number 21 just so he could be between his two idols.
"One thing I did do to honor Barry today was I tossed the ball to (the) referee every time that I scored,'' said Tomlinson. "I just kind of honored him because that was what he used to always do, and this was his house that he pretty much built.''
Denis Savage can be reached at email@example.com
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