Three is company; Four seals the deal

LaDainian Tomlinson. Antonio Gates. And now Keenan McCardell. What used to be a duet has turned into a trio of playmakers on the San Diego Chargers. And if Tomlinson happens to be ailing – insert Jesse Chatman on the rocks.

LaDainian Tomlinson pulled up lame again on Sunday just when the fabulous threesome was beginning to show its nifty moves. Never fear, Jesse Chatman is here.

With the game on the line, the Bolts had no qualms about putting the ball in the backups hands. He did so well last time out that he earned the raise. And Tomlinson is smart enough to know when he may be a detriment to the team he loves.

Chatman gets the ball and cuts it inside. He sees light to his right and with steps that way. Carolina safety Mike Minter has a shot at him and misses. Chatman is off to the races. Fifty-two yards later he is brought down and the Carolina house crumbled with it.

"The last drive, that long run got them in the red zone," Minter said. "I pride myself on making tackles and I missed that guy. I think if we would have stopped them there, we would have gotten the ball back for our offense."

Chatman took the wind out of the Panthers sails with his run. And they knew the run was coming.

"Jesse just bust one," quarterback Drew Brees said. "It is great to know – we know you are going to have every guy in the box but we are still going to run it against you."

"My o-line blocked their tails off," Chatman said. "My wide receivers blocked real good downfield. Being patient and allowing the blocks to happen and I read it right."

A couple ticks of the clock after that big run, Chatman was running it into the end zone. Entering the year he did not have a touchdown to his credit and had just 36 rushing yards on 14 carries. He has now rushed the ball 28 times for 217 this year alone, an average of 7.75 per rush, and has crossed the goal line three different times this year.

"My grandmother always told me, ‘patience is a virtue,'" Chatman said of his changing role with the team.

Tomlinson said he doesn't feel better or worse than he has in the past. And Coach Marty Schottenheimer said his star runner was sore.

What hasn't been sore is the play of Chatman. Many had questions about his ability over the past two years and he is proving that he is more than capable.

"Nobody can replace LT but Jesse, given the opportunity, has done a pretty good job," Schottenheimer said. "Jesse has shown an ability to make plays. Jesse has great vision and has been very reliable managing the ball. We are fortunate we have a guy who steps into – nobody steps into both of LT's shoes – but at least one of them."

And with Tomlinson still suffering from a groin injury that wont heal, Chatman could find himself with an increased role over the next two Sunday's.

"As long as I am walking and running, I am going to keep playing," warned Tomlinson.

The star back is hoping to make it to the bye week so he can get the extra rest then.

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