Chargers clinch, Tomlinson sets record

With the Kansas City Chiefs losing earlier in the day, the San Diego Chargers clinched the AFC West with a 48-20 thumping and LaDainian Tomlinson scored three touchdowns to pass Shaun Alexander to set a new NFL record for touchdowns in a single season.

Two first quarter touchdowns for the San Diego Chargers and none were attributed to LaDainian Tomlinson? Worry not; he would score in the second quarter and break Shaun Alexander's NFL record for touchdowns in a season in the fourth quarter.

After Shawne Merriman stripped Jay Cutler late in the fourth quarter, Tomlinson cut around the left side, giving his patented juke of the hips to shake a tackler, and ran it in from seven yards out for his third touchdown of the game and 29th in 13 games, setting a new NFL record for touchdown in a single season.

The day also featured a breakout performance from Antonio Gates.

Denver had held Gates scoreless through their first seven meetings. He would not be denied on Sunday. Gates caught a touchdown pass on the Chargers' second possession, showing his strength by boxing out Champ Bailey and Darrent Williams on a tight pass between the two for a 12-yard touchdown and 7-0 lead.

The Chargers extended the lead to 14 points with the "Bum-aruskie". After Gates and Tomlinson set the Chargers up at the four yard line, Rivers took the snap under center, hopped back and handed the ball between the legs of fullback Lorenzo Neal. With Tomlinson heading right on a perceived toss, Neal went left with the ball in his hand to score his sixth career rushing touchdown. The name of the play is a tribute to defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' father Bum Phillips, a long-time head coach known for using unconventional plays.

Tatum Bell's 51-yard run setup a Jason Elam field goal.

San Diego, meanwhile, was scoring touchdowns. LaDainian Tomlinson scored his 27th touchdown of the year, punching it in from one yard out. The drive was setup by a 34-yard strike from Rivers to Eric Parker to the two-yard line and a 45-yard kickoff return by Antonio Cromartie.

The Bolts scored their fourth touchdown of the game seconds before the half. On the strength of a running game that gained 51 yards, San Diego went back to Gates for a seven-yard touchdown, his second of the game to put the Bolts up 28-3.

Denver may have been down but they were not out. The Broncos outscored San Diego 17-0 in the third quarter to pull within eight.

Jay Cutler went 5-for-5 on Denver's opening possession of the third quarter after completing four passes the whole first half. He finished off a 71-yard drive by hitting Tony Sheffler for a 27-yard touchdown. It was Sheffler's first NFL touchdown and cut the San Diego lead to 28-10.

Cromartie fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Broncos the ball at the San Diego 27-yard line. Forty-eight seconds after Denver's first touchdown they had number two. Terrence Kiel had an interception in his sights but Sheffler tipped the Cutler pass to himself for an 11-yard touchdown to make the score 28-17.

Elam pulled Denver within eight after connecting on a 33-yard field goal to complete a 17-point third quarter. San Diego came back with 20 unanswered to quell any doubts about this game.

Vincent Jackson's 55-yard reception setup a 32-yard Nate Kaeding field goal to increase the lead to 11. Kaeding pumped another one through from to give San Diego a two-touchdown lead, 34-20.

Tomlinson added his 28th and 29th touchdowns of the year in the fourth quarter to put the nail in the coffin.

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