No stopping Chargers Tomlinson

LaDainian Tomlinson entered Sunday's game with a bum shoulder, suffered last week. He was held out of practice most of the week, but everyone knew he would return to face the Raiders. Tomlinson consistently plays his best against the Raiders, and he wanted a win to cap off the season for the San Diego Chargers.

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

The win for Tomlinson is the ultimate goal. The rest of us get to watch in amazement as he climbs the ladder of success. His teammates and coaches are awed by his talents.

"Remarkable to do what he has done," Marty Schottenheimer said. "Four 200 yard games, and those things don't come easily. Five guys have done it in a career."

Just for the record, Tomlinson has done the feat in two seasons; making him the fastest player in NFL history to reach the 200-yard four separate times (48 games). Tomlinson's four 200-yard games also are tied for second place in league history, along with Jim Brown, Earl Campbell and Barry Sanders. The record for 200-yard games is six, held by O.J. Simpson.

So what about the shoulder?

"I don't think it was significant," said Schottenheimer. "He battled through it. He got hit on it one time in the first half. But that isn't going to stop him."

It sure wasn't. Tomlinson ended the day with 260 yards from scrimmage, 243 coming via the rush and 17 coming through the air.

Tomlinson averaged 7.8 yards per carry and more amazingly, ten of his 31 carries went for ten yards or more!

"He is a remarkable, remarkable player," Schottenheimer said. "He may be the best athlete in any sport. That young man goes out and performs everyday, in practice as well as in games.

"I have been doing this a long time. Goes back to '65 as a player – I have never seen anybody like him. Nobody."

"LT showed today what he's meant to this team and the kind of year that he's had," said quarterback Drew Brees. "I think all of are bitter that he got passed up for the Pro Bowl. We know that he deserves that. The first time a guy has rushed for more than 1,000 yards and caught 100 balls, I mean it's impressive. You look at that and you see what the guy means to this game."

Almost an afterthought, Tomlinson became the first player to ever catch 100 receptions while gaining 1,000 yards on the ground in the same season. Going into the game, it was a goal of the team to get him that distinction.

"We knew exactly what the number was," said Schottenheimer. "We knew exactly what we needed to do."

Did Tomlinson think about it in the week leading up to the game this week?

"It was something I thought about during the week, to be the only player (ever to catch 100 passes and rush for 1,000 yards) would be pretty awesome."

His thoughts became reality. Just like a good superhero with powers of the mind. When he wills it, it comes true. Ironically, the win was the most important thing to Tomlinson. He remains humble about his achievements and once he reflects on it, or rather if he reflects on it while undergoing his offseason program to "get better", he will still say wins are the goals he wants to see.

Tomlinson did offer one note on his record:

"100 catches is 100 catches. It is awesome to have the record."

"He deserves it," Brees added.

How much did he deserve it?

Tomlinson touched the ball 413 times and was credited with one fumble. One fumble, and that was a questionable call in Denver. He takes care of the rock. And when he has the rock, he is simply spectacular to watch.

The team will look to finally build a team around him next year. After all, they do have the number one pick in the 2004 NFL Draft and wouldn't it be wise to keep "the franchise" happy for a long, long time?

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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