AFC West: LaDainian Tomlinson

LaDainian TomlinsonLisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images  
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This is the last of three plays nominated as the most memorable in San Diego Chargers history. We have also featured: Kellen Winslow’s blocked field goal against the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Divisional playoffs and linebacker Dennis Gibson batting down a pass by Pittsburgh's Neil O'Donnell intended for running back Barry Foster on fourth down in the 1994 AFC title game, sealing a trip to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history. Please vote for your choice as the Chargers’ most memorable play.

Score: Chargers 48, Broncos 20
Date: December 11, 2006 Site: Qualcomm Stadium.

Running back LaDainian Tomlinson broke Shaun Alexander’s single-season touchdown record of 28 with three touchdowns in a 48-20 win against Denver in a win that clinched an AFC West title. The performance was a coronation of perhaps the greatest player in San Diego Chargers history.

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The record breaker came on a 7-yard run with just over three minutes left in the game. Tomlinson took a handoff from Philip Rivers running to his left, bounced outside and evaded a tackle to reach the end zone. Tomlinson finished the season with 31 total touchdowns, earning league MVP honors.

What took place after Tomlinson crossed the end zone for the record-breaking touchdown showed what the future Hall of Fame running back symbolizes for the franchise. The entire offense rushed to Tomlinson to congratulate him, lifting him on their shoulders and carrying him off the field.

“Once I got over the pylon, my initial thought process was to bring every guy on the offensive unit over to share that moment,” Tomlinson said. “When we’re old and can’t play this game anymore, them are the moments we are going to remember, that we’ll be able to tell our kids, tell our grandchildren. We can talk about something special that we did. We made history today.

“There’s no better feeling than to share it with the group of guys that’s in that locker room.”

Tomlinson finished his career as the franchise’s all-time leader in rushing yards (12,490), yards from scrimmage (16,445) and touchdowns (153). Tomlinson totaled 47 100-yard rushing games while with the Chargers, made five Pro Bowls and twice led the league in rushing yards.

He is No. 5 on the league’s all-time rushing list with 13,684 yards in 11 NFL seasons.

“He is the finest running back to ever wear an NFL uniform,” Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said.
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ESPN.com’s SportsNation "Madden NFL 25" cover vote is in the second round.

The old-school AFC West players are faring way better than three new-school players from the division. Denver linebacker Von Miller was the only current player from the division to march on.

However, all four old-school AFC West representatives have marched on: Terrell Davis of Denver, Marcus Allen of Kansas City, Tim Brown of Oakland and LaDainian Tomlinson of San Diego.

You can vote here for your favorite players -- or against your least-favorite players, of course.
The "Madden NFL 25" cover vote is now on in SportsNation.

This year, there is a new-school and old-school competition.

In the new-school vote, there are some tough assignments for some AFC West players.

San Diego’s Antonio Gates is a No. 16 seed. He goes against top seed Colin Kaepernick of San Francisco. Oakland’s Carson Palmer is a No. 15 seed and he is facing No. 2 seed, NFL MVP Adrian Peterson. Denver’s Von Miller is a No. 6 seed, but he faces the popular Victor Cruz of the Giants, a No. 11 seed. Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles is a No. 6 seed and he is facing Darrelle Revis of the Jets, a No. 11 seed.

In the old-school vote, this one will upset some folks. Marcus Allen is representing the Chiefs and not the Raiders. The Hall of Fame running back played 11 years for the Raiders and five years for the Chiefs. He is a No. 6 seed and faces No. 11 Tedy Bruschi of the Patriots.

Oakland's Tim Brown is a No. 6 seed and he faces Chad Johnson of the Bengals. Denver’s Terrell Davis is a No. 10 seed and faces Buffalo’s Jim Kelly, a No. 7 seed. San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson is a No. 10 seed and he faces Randall Cunningham of the Eagles.

Reviewing Monday's game film

February, 12, 2013
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Here are some developments that occurred in the AFC West on Monday while I was away:

I found it mildly intriguing that the Chiefs signed receiver Mardy Gilyard. A good college player, Gilyard hasn’t done much in the NFL. But he was with Andy Reid in Philadelphia for part of the 2012 season. Reid sees something in Gilyard to give him another chance to make Kansas City’s roster.

Congratulations to Denver special-teams assistant coach Keith Burns for becoming the special-teams coach in Washington. Burns was a longtime favorite of Redskins coach Mike Shanahan as a player in Denver.

The Eagles re-did Michael Vick’s contract. There was some speculation he could reunite with Reid in Kansas City. Yet, I never got a real sense Reid was that interested in pursuing Vick if he had hit the open market. Now, if Nick Foles becomes available, I could see Reid showing interest. Right now, it seems Foles will go to camp with the Eagles to compete with Vick.

There has been speculation that Atlanta will cut running back Michael Turner. I’ve been asked a lot if I think Turner can come back to San Diego, where he was a backup to LaDainian Tomlinson. The Chargers could use a running back. Perhaps Turner, who turns 31 Wednesday, will fit. But he has been slipping some and he doesn’t have all that many more ties to the Chargers since the organization has turned over quite a bit since he left San Diego five years ago. A return may not be that natural.

Free-agent defensive end Chris Canty is reportedly visiting the Chiefs. Canty has experience as a 3-4 player and it could make sense if the Chiefs look at him as a rotational defensive end. Glenn Dorsey is a free agent and Tyson Jackson is a candidate to be cut. Canty is not a game-changer, but he can help in a specific role.

Buffalo released safety George Wilson and linebacker Nick Barnett. I can see both players getting interest from AFC West teams in the coming days.

AFC West notes

January, 30, 2013
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On "The Dan Patrick Show" (via Arrowheadpride.com), former Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli talked publicly for the first time about witnessing Jovan Belcher kill himself at the team’s facility Dec. 1. Belcher killed himself after killing the mother of his infant daughter. Pioli’s words are chilling and a reminder of what a horrible thing he witnessed.

Never shy of sharing opinions on his former team, LaDainian Tomlinson gave his thoughts on what the Chargers need to do this offseason.

Former San Diego offensive line coach Hal Hunter has joined the Colts’ staff.
It has been a special season in Denver. Could it also be historic?

The Broncos, which clinched the AFC West on Dec. 2, are 11-3, have won nine consecutive games and are on pace for a first-round bye in the playoffs. They are widely considered a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Denver has been dominant on both sides of the ball. Although its season has been a team effort, the work of two players stands out: quarterback Peyton Manning and linebacker Von Miller.

Manning and Miller have arguably been the best offensive and best defensive players in the NFL this season. Both are leading candidates for major hardware; Manning is in the mix for the NFL MVP award, and Miller is a top candidate for the league's Defensive Player of the Year award.

If both players win, it will, according to ESPN Stats & Information, be just the second time in league history that teammates have won the MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards in the same season. San Francisco’s Steve Young won the NFL MVP and cornerback Deion Sanders won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 1994. The 49ers went 13-3 and won the Super Bowl.

Let’s look at Manning’s and Miller’s candidacies:

Manning: This is shaping up as a close, intriguing race. There is no runaway MVP choice. Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson and New England quarterback Tom Brady are competing hard with Manning. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers could make a case.

Still, there is reason to think Manning -- in his first season with the Broncos -- has a chance to win his fifth MVP award.

Brady is having a strong season, but the Broncos are 11-3 and the Patriots are 10-4. If the Broncos finish with a better record, Manning could have the edge. Coming back at age 36 from a neck injury that kept him out last season, he has had an immense impact on his new team.

Like Manning, Peterson is coming off a major injury, so the two will fight it out for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award as well. Peterson needs 294 yards to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2,105 yards, set in 1984.

[+] EnlargeTom Brady, Peyton Manning
Stew Milne/USA TODAY SportsTom Brady, left, and Peyton Manning are in another tight competition for MVP honors.
Dickerson was not the MVP that year. Miami quarterback Dan Marino won the award. Marino had a monster year, breaking six NFL season pass records, including most touchdowns and most passing yards.

Manning is not having quite that type of season, but his team is having a much better season than Peterson's and Manning’s stats are strong.

Consider these numbers supplied by ESPN Stats & Information: This is Manning's 12th season with 4,000 yards; he leads NFL in Total QBR, which measures the all-around impact of quarterback play; and his 11 wins are the most by a player after missing an entire season. Denver hasn’t won this many games since 2005. If the season ended today, Manning would be the fifth player ever with at least 4,000 passing yards, 30 passing touchdowns and a 67 percent completion rate while throwing 10 or fewer interceptions. Three of the four previous players won the MVP award.

The vote will be close, but there is no doubt Manning will be in the MVP conversation. If history is any indication, it could come down to Manning and Brady. The last time a nonquarterback won the award was in 2006, when San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson won. A quarterback has been shut out just four times in the past 20 years.

Miller: Denver took Miller with the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2011. Last season, he was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He could easily win the Defensive Player of the Year award in his second season.

Miller was considered a top-flight pass-rusher as a rookie, but he has worked to improve his overall game. He is now strong in coverage and against the run in addition to being a complete terror as a pass-rusher.

“To me, Miller is the best defensive player in football,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.

Still, the chase for top defensive honors this season is as close as the MVP race. Miller is competing with a pair of fellow 2011 first-round picks -- Aldon Smith of San Francisco and J.J. Watt of Houston -- and Cincinnati defensive tackle Geno Atkins.

When asked about his chances of winning the award, Miller said he wants it, but his plan is this: “I’m just going to keep on playing with a fanatical effort and a relentless pursuit to the ball.”

It’s working.

Miller has 16 sacks, 3.5 off the pace set by Smith and Watt.

Watt leads the league with a combined 37 sacks and tackles for losses. Miller is second with 29; Smith is third at 21.5.

Watt has made several big plays and is the best player on a strong defense for a winning team, so he is probably the leading candidate for the award. But Miller has his supporters.

I think Manning’s chances of winning may be higher than Miller’s, but both have had major impacts on Denver’s success in 2012.

Mailbag: Trade Darren McFadden?

October, 17, 2012
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Midweek mail call:

Eric Keen from Pensacola, Fla., wants to know if I think the Raiders should trade running back Darren McFadden.

Bill Williamson: I wouldn’t rule it out, because this is a team that is rebuilding and it may value draft picks more than current players. But you can only win with good players and McFadden is a good player. I’d build around him. Even though he would be valuable on the trade market, he may be more valuable in the Oakland huddle.




Mike O. from San Diego wants to know if I think Lorenzo Nealwill ever make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

BW: Neal had a great career and he was the lead blocker for some good tailbacks, including future Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson. But, at the end of the day, it is very difficult for fullbacks to find their way into the Hall of Fame. He may get some support, but I question whether he’ll get enough support to gain a bronzed bust.




DJ from Klamath Falls, Ore., wants to knowif I think the Broncos could draft Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei next April.

BW: Denver would love to draft Lotulelei. But the problem is, so will a lot of teams. Lotulelei should be a sure top-five pick. Unless the Broncos’ season totally unravels, I doubt they’ll get the chance to draft him. The only way the Broncos could get Lotulelei is if they traded up for him. And he may be worth the cost.

Chargers finally begin Mathews' plan

September, 21, 2012
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MathewsChristopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireThe Chargers are counting on Ryan Mathews to bring another dimension to their offensive attack.
During my training camp visit to San Diego in early August, I was struck by how much the organization was looking forward to seeing Ryan Mathews play in 2012.

I heard more than one person in the organization say that Mathews was “on a mission” to become a force the team could rely on.

Mathews was among those looking forward to seeing him become a complete tailback. When talking to the third-year player, I sensed someone who was itching to get on the field and show he is the player the Chargers committed so much to two years ago. The Chargers had big plans for Mathews in all phases of the offense.

That was seven weeks ago.

Now, finally, Mathews will get his chance to become an integral part of the San Diego offense when the Chargers (2-0) play Sunday against the visiting Atlanta Falcons (2-0). Mathews has been practicing with contact since last Thursday.

The Chargers hope his first regular-season carry goes better than his first preseason tote. Mathews broke his clavicle on his first preseason carry Aug. 9 against Green Bay. The original diagnosis was that he’d miss four to six weeks. In the end, caution won. While Mathews pushed to play in the season opener against Oakland, the Chargers put the reins on him. They did not want to rush the player who has been dealing with injuries since his Fresno State days.

The Chargers want Mathews to run the ball up to 25 times a game and to catch passes out of the backfield this season. They need him to stay healthy.

Mathews will probably be eased back into action, but in the next few weeks, we will finally see the plan unfold. The Chargers traded a huge package to move up 16 spots to take Mathews with the 12th overall pick in 2010, and they think Mathews has shown enough in his two seasons to take the next step.

Mathews made the Pro Bowl last season after he ran for 1,091 yards. In his short NFL career, he is averaging an impressive 4.7 yards per carry. Still, Mathews feels he has plenty to prove. He knows some people think he gets injured too often, and he knows some people wonder whether he was worth San Diego's trading up for him.

“I know I’ve made strides but I haven’t completely broken out yet, and I know people are waiting to see that happen,” Mathews said shortly before his injury. “I look forward to show the mission I am on and show what I can do this season.”

Mathews acknowledges he feels better going into this season because he no longer worries about being the man who replaced LaDainian Tomlinson. The Chargers cut Tomlinson in February 2010 and chose Mathews to be Tomlinson's replacement.

“There was a lot of pressure in my first year and even a little last year because of what LT was to people around here,” Mathews said. “But that pressure is gone. I think I've shown I’m my own player.”

His teammates fully believe Mathews is his own player. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers said he saw Mathews make great strides last season and develop into a confident player. Although Mathews is no longer trying to replace Tomlinson, ironically, one of the biggest examples of his coming into his own is something that reminds Rivers of Tomlinson.

“Ryan is becoming a really good practice player, and that was what stood out to me about LT when I was a rookie,” Rivers said. “I was so stunned to see LT practice. He finished runs in practice so he’d be used to it in games, and that’s what Ryan is doing now. It’s all part of the process.”

Now that Mathews is healthy again, he can add a dimension to a San Diego offense that has clicked in the first two games. The Chargers used several backs with Mathews out, without much success until Jackie Battle broke through in the second half of a 38-10 win over Tennessee on Sunday. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. thinks Mathews can be the special running force the Chargers thought he would be before his injury. Williamson thinks the Chargers are right about Mathews. He can complete their offense.

“He could impact this offense significantly,” Williamson said. “[Coach] Norv Turner wants everything to really go through the run game, preferably with one bell-cow running back. Mathews certainly can be that type of running back and has also developed quite a bit in the passing game. But San Diego also wants to consistently take shots downfield, and they might have the longest and deepest route tree in the NFL. Getting defenses to honor the run with Mathews should help quite a bit.”

It may be later than they hoped, but finally the San Diego Chargers can see what they have in their top tailback.

Raiders make roster moves

August, 29, 2012
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The Raiders have announced they claimed cornerback Coye Francies on waivers from Seattle. Francies has some NFL experience, but he is no sure thing to make the 53-man roster.

Defensive back Conroy Black was cut to make room for Francies. In other Oakland moves, offensive lineman Zach Hurd (head), fullback Rashawn Jackson (hip) and offensive lineman Ed Wang (shoulder) were moved from waived/injured to injured reserve. They are out for the season, but remain property of the team.

In other AFC West news:

In an Insider piece, Mel Kiper mentions some AFC West youngsters as potential fantasy stars down the road.

Former San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson has joined NFL network as an analyst. He retired earlier this year.

Don’t ask Miami rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill for directions to Kansas City.
SAN DIEGO -- Le'Ron McClain can move like a tailback. But he has the work ethic of a fullback.

So, if he doesn’t get the chance to run the ball and is relegated to fullback duties, McClain has no problem. He goes ahead and blocks. However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to carry the rock once in a while. That’s why he is so thrilled to be a San Diego Charger.

“I’m in sweet San Diego, baby,” McClain said.

Nothing is sweeter than getting some carries to go along with those linebacker blocking assignments. McClain will not evoke memories of LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego, but he will get some carries.

“That’s all I want,” McClain said. “I will do whatever the team wants and it seems the coaches here want me to carry the ball some, and I’m all for that.”

McClain, who played in Kansas City last season, had a total of 89 carries the past three seasons while with the Ravens and Chiefs. In 2008, McClain had on 902 yards on 232 carries. He likely won’t get that many this seasons, but the Chargers are not afraid to give him the ball.

“Whatever they want, I’ll be ready,” McClain said.

AFC West links: Dexter Heyman's hopes

July, 16, 2012
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Denver Broncos

NFL.com's Dan Hanzus on Elvis Dumervil's arrest: "It's a serious situation for Dumervil, who could face up to five years in prison if charged and convicted. For the Broncos, there has to be concern what this means for a defense that relies heavily on the charge Dumervil brings from the edge."

Denver offensive players best be ready to go at Peyton Manning's speed when training camp begins. "We've said it during minicamps, during our [organized team workouts], and the same will be true in training camp: We're going to go at the quarterback's speed," Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said. "And everyone knows our quarterback has played a long time and understands a great deal of things. Everybody is going to have to keep up with him. That's how it has to be."

Kansas City Chiefs

Undrafted linebackers have been known to have success landing a roster spot in Kansas City. Dexter Heyman hopes to add his name to that list.

Speed has never been an issue for defensive back Chandler Fenner.

Oakland Raiders

The team's official site continues its "First Looks" series with a breakdown of the Raiders' Week 10 opponent: the Baltimore Ravens.

San Diego Chargers

Antonio Gates says the tight end position in San Diego is as deep as it's ever been.

Even in retirement, things remain intense for LaDainian Tomlinson.

AFC West links: Peyton Manning in TV ad

July, 10, 2012
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Denver Broncos

What if Peyton Manning takes a hit and is lost for a significant amount of time, or worse yet, the entire season? NFL.com's Dan Hanzus examines the depth chart behind Manning.

Adrian Adame, a Colorado Springs native and father of three children who lost their home in the Waldo Canyon fires, received support from Broncos defensive linemen Ben Garland and Justin Bannan and Miles the mascot early this week. "My son plays football, so meeting the Broncos, he'll remember that for the rest of his life -- seeing how big this guys were, that's pretty motivating," Adame told Sam Davis of Broncos.com.

When it comes to Super Bowl odds, the Broncos are tied with the Lions and Bears at 20-to-1, according to the Denver Post's Mike Klis.

The league's most prominent pitchman, Peyton Manning, will appear in a new Buick commercial on Wednesday night during the ESPY Awards show.

Kansas City Chiefs

Dwayne Bowe and the Chiefs have almost exactly one week for the two sides to decide on how the 2012 season will play out for the wide receiver.

Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll referred to Alex Tanney as “trick shot” during one of the rookie’s first OTA practices as a member of the Chiefs. Josh Looney of Chiefs Insider explains the history behind the nickname.

Oakland Raiders

Veteran defensive end Richard Seymour says coach Dennis Allen has the "it factor," writes Gregg Rosenthal on NFL.com.

General manager Reggie McKenzie described talks between the Raiders and strong safety Tyvon Branch’s agent about a long-term contract as ongoing, the Oakland Tribune reports.

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers admit that reaching out to rival fans may have been a bad idea, writes Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The all-time Chargers great is hosting the LaDainian Tomlinson Preparatory Academy this weekend.
Who is the greatest running back ever to play in the AFC West?

It is either Marcus Allen or LaDainian Tomlinson.

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Who is the greatest running back ever to play in the AFC West?

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Tomlinson recently retired with the San Diego Chargers after re-signing with them. He played with San Diego from 2001-2009 before playing the final two years of his career with the New York Jets.

Tomlinson had 13,684 yards in 11 NFL seasons and he averaged 4.3 yards per carry. He scored 145 rushing touchdowns. Tomlinson added 624 career catches for 4,772 yards with 17 receiving touchdowns. He should be a first ballot Hall of Famer in 2017.

Allen played 16 NFL seasons -- 11 with the Oakland Raiders and five with the Kansas City Chiefs. He is in the Hall of Fame.

Allen, who earned a Super Bowl ring with the Raiders, had 12,243 yards and averaged 4.1 yards per carry. He had 123 rushing scores. He added 587 career receptions for 5,411 yards with 21 receiving touchdowns.

Take our poll and explain your reason for your vote in the comment section below. We will review the poll results Wednesday.
The U-T San Diego has more on LaDainian Tomlinson saying he’d rather go to the Pro Football Hall of Fame than win a Super Bowl ring.

Tomlinson
It caused a bit of a stir.

My thoughts? We always urge athletes to be honest, so when they are, we shouldn’t bash them. I think Tomlinson is saying this because it is the scenario that is going to happen. He is probably just trying to convince himself.

Now that he is retired, he can’t win a Super Bowl ring, but he is a shoo-in to be enshrined in the hall of fame in 2017. Meanwhile, it's pretty cool Tomlinson has already tabbed former San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer as his presenter in the hall of fame.

In other AFC West news:

Forbes.com is reporting the Broncos may change some luxury box arrangements because of the presence of Peyton Manning. Yes, the impact of signing Manning goes beyond the roster in Denver.

Video: LaDainian Tomlinson calls it a career

June, 25, 2012
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Former San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson talks about his retirement from the NFL, and his time with the Jets.

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