Not too early to say "LT for MVP!"

LaDainian Tomlinson is anything and everything the Chargers need, exactly when they need it most. He is a steadying force when his team is rattled. He is runner, a passer, a thrower and a kick returner, when necessary. He is a big play waiting to happen, and he may just be the league MVP.

What LaDainian Tomlinson did against Cleveland in leading his team to a 32-25 victory was simply extraordinary. He ran for 172 yards, averaging more than 9.5 yards per carry. He also caught three passes and recovered an onside kick which sealed the victory for the Chargers.

"Anything I would say about him would be redundant," said head coach Marty Schottenheimer. "He is the best I have ever seen."

It looked early on as if this would be a sub-par outing for Tomlinson. He had only seven carries in the first half and the offense was sputtering as a result.

"We couldn't get in rhythm," Tomlinson said. "We were trying to get into tempo. We didn't have that. We forgot who their head coach is. Romeo Crennel has won some Super Bowls and they had a good game plan."

But it was only a matter of time before Tomlinson made the Browns rue once again their decision to pass on him in the 2001 draft. It started with a 41-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.

"It was a misdirection play," said Tomlinson of his long score. "Their linebackers want to get to the play in a hurry. If the lineman can seal them off there is a crease. Once I see a hole I try and hit it as fast as possible."

He followed up that score with two more on runs of seven and eight yards on the Chargers first two fourth-quarter possessions.

The Browns defense was completely worn down late in the game - chasing the elusive Tomlinson will do that to a team. The Browns defensive linemen could not get off their blocks and Tomlinson is as good as gone once he hits the second level.

"Once I get into the secondary things can get very interesting," he said.

"The thing about LaDainian is, you watch him make it look easy," Browns head coach Romeo Crennel said. "When he runs through a hole, guys that are unblocked and should be able to make a tackle don't get a hand on him. If they do get a hand on them, he is running away from them before they can even think about wrapping him up. He can go 50 or 80 percent in a snap. He can bounce it out or run inside. These runners that can go the distance are not inside runners. LaDainian can run inside as well as outside. You have to defend the whole field on him."

What could be even more interesting is this season's MVP race. There are several candidates that will give him a run for the award – Peyton Manning and Tom Brady come to mind – but Tomlinson is at least as deserving as anyone else at the season's midway point. He has already scored 14 touchdowns and thrown for another this season.

Tomlinson's burden will only increase over the new few weeks. That begins next weekend in Cincinnati where the Chargers will likely need to score 30 to beat a desperate and offensively-potent Bengals team. The Bengals rank in the league's bottom-third in terms of run defense, so expect Tomlinson's MVP bid to keep gaining steam as he wills his team closer and closer to the playoffs.

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