CLEVELAND (AP) -- As he danced, darted and dashed his way around
the field, LaDainian Tomlinson had just one thought: Don't let the
Chargers lose again.
Question on the Chargers: Is this what Marty should have been doing all year -- run, run, run?
This is "Marty ball." The Chargers were able to control the clock with their running game and LaDainian Tomlinson punished the Browns defense. Tomlinson is the superstar of this team and the Chargers need this type of dominating performance from him to win games.
Question on the Browns: In the long run, is Couch or Holcomb really the answer at QB?
I'm not sure and it seems as though neither do the Browns' coaches. They must come to a decision quickly and definitively though. The Browns can't afford to let this linger and to let it possibly infect their locker room. They'll have to trade one of them during the offseason to make the transition between quarterbacks truly complete.
Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.
Tomlinson couldn't take the losing any longer.
"He was bound and determined not to let us lose," quarterback
Drew Brees said. "He wanted the ball."
Earlier this week, the sensational third-year back said
half-jokingly that he was willing to do anything -- even break the
rules -- just to get the Chargers a victory.
"No, I don't think I did," he said with a smile when asked if
he had done anything illegal. "But I was willing to, I'll tell you
that. For some reason, I felt strongly that we were going to get a
win. I just had a feeling we were going to put it together."
Tomlinson broke off a 70-yard TD run on his first carry after
halftime and picked up 143 yards in the second half as the Chargers
snapped a nine-game losing streak dating to last season.
But they had to survive Holcomb's heroics to do it.
Holcomb replaced an ineffective Tim Couch late in the third
quarter and threw two TD passes -- the second to tight end Darnell
Sanders with 11:40 left -- as the Browns (3-4) trimmed a 17-point
deficit to 23-20.
"I was scared," Tomlinson said. "I really was."
But he felt a little better after helping San Diego run nearly
eight minutes off the clock by running for 48 tough yards to set up
Christie's field goal with 3:44 remaining.
The Chargers should have put the game away on that drive, but
with first-and-goal at the 8, San Diego inexplicably called two
running plays for fullback Lorenzo Neal and Brees was sacked for a
13-yard loss on third down.
"I made a bad call," Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said.
"If I had to do it all over again, I would have run the ball."
Down by six, Holcomb got the Browns to midfield but threw three
straight incompletions and gave the ball back to the Chargers, who
didn't have to punt until there were just 25 seconds left.
Holcomb, who missed his fourth straight start with a broken
right fibula, finished 11-of-19 for 90 yards and two TDs in relief
of Couch, who went 13-of-24 for 102 yards and two interceptions.
"This was disturbing," Browns coach Butch Davis said. "We
played about as inconsistently and poorly as you can possibly play
in several different areas. It's frustrating."
Couch declined to speak with reporters following the game and
had X-rays taken on his left ankle, which were negative.
He wasn't the only Browns player hurting. Left tackle Barry
Stokes left the stadium on crutches after reinjuring his right
ankle. Running back William Green suffered an unspecified shoulder
injury and was used sparingly in the second half.
Green, who was coming off consecutive 100-yard games, had 14
carries for 65 yards.
Tomlinson's TD burst was a thing of beauty.
Running left, he froze cornerback Anthony Henry with a stutter
step, broke attempted tackles by Andra Davis and Robert Griffith
and outraced the Browns to put the Chargers ahead 20-6 just 2:33
into the third quarter.
"I saw the cornerback coming in, and when I cut up the field,
it was just about breaking tackles," he said. "Then, it was off
to the races. I looked up at the scoreboard and saw there was
nobody close to me."
As far as the Chargers are concerned, there is never anyone
close to him.
"He is a very special player and a very special person,"
Schottenheimer said. "He has as big a heart as anyone around. With
guys like that, you really don't need much coaching."
^Notes:@ The Chargers hadn't won since beating Denver in overtime on
Dec. 1 last season. ... The Browns were a season-low 2-of-14 on
third-down conversions. ... During pregame ceremonies, the Browns
inducted former players Joe DeLamielleure, Hanford Dixon, Bob Gain
and Dick Schafrath into their Legends Club. ... Referee Jeff
Triplette worked his first game in Cleveland since 1999 when he
threw a penalty flag and accidentally hit former Browns offensive
tackle Orlando Brown in the eye. ... Tomlinson has three career
200-yard games. ... Browns WR Kevin Johnson caught a pass in his
71st straight game. ... At halftime, the Browns honored their 1980
"Kardiac Kids" team which was renowned for its late-game comeback
Drew Brees smacks a couple of softball home runs during his teammate Tim Lelito's charity softball game.
The NFL says it is close but still has yet to interview the four players named along with Peyton Manning in a report five months ago that linked them to PEDs.
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