If LaDainian Tomlinson keeps this up, he just may top his 2006 season for the ages. He has set a season-high in yards from scrimmage every game this season. In Sunday's 28-14 win against the Oakland Raiders, that number ballooned to 214. However, the eye-catching number was four, as in a season-best four rushing touchdowns. The scores tied Tomlinson with his icon, Jim Brown, for fourth-place on the all-time rushing touchdown list (106).
The key to Tomlinson's resurgence was his rediscovery of the big play. He had five plays of 15 or more yards, including touchdowns from 27 and 41 yards out. Tomlinson's offensive onslaught brings the Chargers back to .500 as they enter the bye week tied for first place with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chargers will need a 7-3 record after the break to reach double-digit wins for the third time in four seasons.
Back on Track
Tomlinson is pleased with the state of the Chargers as they head into the bye week. Although he was admittedly flustered by the 1-3 start, he never lost sight of his intended finish line.
"We made reference to track guys, in particular Carl Lewis," Tomlinson said. "He always had a slow start, but at the end of the race you knew Carl Lewis was going to come running. This team started out slow. We didn't get out of the blocks fast and now we can't slip up. We have to go catch some people."
The defense entered Sunday's contest averaging just two sacks per game, but left with six more added to their season total. Shawne Merriman led the charge with two and a half; he was followed closely by Shaun Phillips, who had two. Those two combined for seven and a half sacks against the Raiders last season and are on pace to top that number in 2007.
Luis Castillo notched his first sack of the season, a 10-yard takedown in the first quarter. Igor Olshansky rounded out the box score with a half sack. Olshansky was credited with just one tackle against the Raiders but was instrumental in stopping the Oakland rushing attack. The Raiders came in averaging 5.3 yards per carry but were held to 2.3 yards per tote against the Bolts.
Two for No. 1 and Some for All
After completing passes to just three players in week five, Philip Rivers hit eight different targets against the Raiders. No. 1 pick Craig Davis caught two passes for 30 yards, including an 18-yard gain on third-and-2. The third-down conversion was the first of Davis' pro career.
The All Pros led the way with three receptions each. Antonio Gates gained 58 yards and Tomlinson chipped in 16. Malcom Floyd (two for 25) and Brandon Manumaleuna (two for 18) also got in on the act. Vincent Jackson and Lorenzo Neal had one apiece.
The eighth target was Raiders linebacker Thomas Howard, who intercepted an ill-advised pass by Rivers and returned it 66 yards for the score. It was Howard's fourth interception of the season and Rivers' only scoring strike of the day.
Three Feet and Seven Points
Quentin Jammer made the play of the game when he knocked Ronald Curry out of bounds at the San Diego 1-yard line with 27 seconds left in the first half. Curry gained 31 yards on the bootleg throw from Daunte Culpepper but came up just short of the end zone.
On first and goal at the 1, Merriman sacked Culpepper for a 6-yard loss. On second and goal, Phillips sacked Culpepper and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Jamal Williams.
Cornering the Market
The Chargers entered Sunday's game without an interception from their cornerback corps. It didn't take long to crack that goose egg.
Drayton Florence picked off Culpepper on the Raiders' third play from scrimmage, diving to the ground to scoop up a pass intended for Jerry Porter. Antonio Cromartie got in on the action in the third quarter, running stride for stride with Porter down the left sideline before soaring for his first career interception.
It Could Have Been Worse
Rookie head coach Lane Kiffin found few bright spots in his team's performance. The Raiders struggled running the ball, stopping the run and protecting the quarterback. So, was there any silver lining for the Silver and Black?
"Maybe we're lucky that it wasn't worse," Kiffin said. "They drove right down the field on us. We were going backwards with penalties and turnovers. We were a bad team today."
Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. He has followed the Chargers for more than 14 years and covered the team since 2003.