Big players play big at big time

One play after LaDainian Tomlinson fumbled and recovered his own dropped ball, when it appeared a foot knocked the ball out of his hands, Antonio Gates dropped the first pass thrown his way. It appeared that bad omens would haunt the Chargers but the stars rebounded and were pivotal in overtime to push San Diego to a 23-17 victory.

Antonio Gates would drop four passes on the day and the Chargers had dropped seven by the end of the third quarter and eight in the game. Gates' 24-yard reception in overtime, however, setup LaDainian Tomlinson's touchdown run.

"He takes special interest," said Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs. "Sean Taylor played a lot of coverage on him today but he's an exceptional player. The defensive coaches did a good job of trying to scheme things to do the best we could to slow him down."

"When you don't play as well as you'd like to play, it makes it hard, but my teammates kept believing in me and I definitely believe in them," said Gates. "My foot was fine, I just had some opportunities that I didn't come up with."

In what was the first fourth quarter comeback of the year for the Chargers, Tomlinson and Gates played spoiler.

Gates had gained just 15 yards on two receptions heading into overtime and had not looked crisp on the field. Tomlinson had 66 yard rushing at the end of the third quarter with 18 of those coming with under two minutes to go in the third. Over the next quarter-plus, the Pro Bowl back gained 118, including two runs of over thirty yards.

"We came out in the second half and made some great adjustments and I give credit to the coaching staff for that," fullback Lorenzo Neal said. We came out on offense and played well and the defense played their butts off."

"It was tough," said Tomlinson. "It really was. The Redskins defense played a tough game. We kept fighting. We kept plugging. The pounding took its toll and we were able to run the ball."

Late in the game, with the team down by ten, the Chargers did not forget about Tomlinson. Part of it was the lack of success from Drew Brees, coupled with the dropped passes, and the pressure being delivered on Brees that made him tentative and forcing the play, and the other piece was holes starting to open up for Tomlinson to gain some yards.

Thus it was Tomlinson that carried the team to victory – something he has not had to do in recent weeks. While he looked fresh, the Redskins defense appeared winded.

On his 41-yard touchdown run in overtime:

"We like to say we want four yards on every run. The offensive line did a great job of blocking. That is Marty's favorite play and I guess that is why we ran it."

Tomlinson can turn any run into a long gainer and ended the day with a 7.4 yard per carry average.

In the Bolts' seven wins this season, the offense has averaged 171.4 yards rushing (1,200 yards total), a clear indication that a strong running game dictates much of their success.

And it was needed. Brees completed 22-of-44 passes, just fifty percent, and had his worst quarterback rating in years. He ended the game with a 35.7 quarterback rating, tossing three interceptions and no touchdowns. It was his lowest rating of the year and lowest since being pulled out of the Chicago game on November 2, 2003 in favor of Doug Flutie.

"To come on the road and play as inconsistently as we did, but then just to find a way at the end," Brees began, "it wasn't pretty, but we've found ourselves on the other side of these quite a few times in the past."

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