Chargers Dismantle Titans, Clinch No. 2 Seed

Philip Rivers authored a near-perfect game; LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles combined for five touchdowns; and the San Diego Chargers clinched the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye with a 42-17 stomping of the Titans Friday in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Titans began Friday night's game favored by 2.5 points and finished it getting run over by San Diego's reserves in a 25-point blowout. It was that kind of night for the Chargers, who delivered their most impressive performance of the year in front of a national audience and made a statement about their playoff legitimacy.

Philip Rivers set the tone early. After San Diego was forced to punt on its opening drive, Rivers directed six consecutive touchdown drives to give San Diego a 42-10 lead with more than 14 minutes remaining. Rivers -- who completed better than 77 percent of his passes and finished with a 132.1 passer rating -- threw TD passes to Antonio Gates (36 yards) and Darren Sproles (3 yards) during the scoring spree.

RB Darren Sproles
John Russell/AP
Sproles also ran in a pair of scores, the latter of which came on the first play of the fourth quarter and capped the Bolts' scoring. LaDainian Tomlinson matched Sproles' pair of touchdowns, boosting his career total to 153. Tomlinson also attempted to throw his first touchdown pass of the season, but overshot Gates in the back of the end zone.

On defense, the Chargers were gashed on the ground by Chris Johnson, who carried 21 times for 142 yards (6.8 ypc). It didn't matter, though, as Ron Rivera's crew came up with timely takeaways to neuter Tennessee's offense.

Vince Young, who had turned the ball over just five times in 10 games, turned it over three times Friday. Brandon Siler corralled his first career interception; Eric Weddle picked off his second pass of the season; and Shaun Phillips stripped a sliding Young and poked the ball into the arms of Stephen Cooper.

The Chargers turned the three turnovers into 21 points to spark a rout.

Penalties also played a significant role as the Titans were flagged nine times -- all in the first half -- for a total of 74 yards. Tennessee finished with just 14 more passing yards (88) than it had penalty yards.

The win extended San Diego's dominance over the Titans. The Chargers have won seven straight in this series, including a pair of wins in the 2007 season when Norv Turner's team won in Tennessee during the season and at home in the playoffs.

The Chargers and Titans developed a rivalry that season that bled over into the Christmas game. However, the skirmishes were kept to a minimum and Turner was able to protect his starters by pulling them in the fourth quarter.

The victory improves the Chargers to 7-1 away from home, the best road record in franchise history. The Bolts will now return to the friendly confines of Qualcomm Stadium to host the Washington Redskins in a meaningless season finale. Turner will have a long week to prepare for the 4-10 Redskins and will have the luxury of sitting any players he wants to rest or protect.

Lightning Quicks

--Nick Hardwick started for the first time since injuring his ankle in the season-opener. The result? The Chargers rumbled for 166 yards on the ground (4.2 ypc) and gave up just one sack.

--Antonio Garay was active for the first time as a Charger and had one tackle, holding Johnson to a 1-yard gain.

--Mike Tolbert took over as halfback in garbage time and wound up leading the team in rushing. He carried 11 times for 60 yards (5.4 ypc).

--The Chargers have now won 10 straight games and 18 in a row in December.

What do Chargers fans think of their present? Find out inside the message boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.

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