<
>

LT's four rushing TDs fuel Chargers' rout of 49ers

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Nothing LaDainian Tomlinson does on the
ground really impresses the San Diego Chargers at this point. For
that, the star running back must take to the air.

Tomlinson seemed to be trying to jump out of Candlestick Park
while hurdling the goal line on one of his four touchdown runs
Sunday -- and his elevation was the Chargers' inspiration.

Tomlinson set a franchise record while seemingly spending most
of the afternoon in the end zone, and Philip Rivers passed for a
career-high 334 yards and two more scores in San Diego's 48-19
victory over San Francisco.

Tomlinson got his third score 33 seconds before halftime,
capping San Diego's 35-point first half and essentially finishing
off the 49ers (2-4) with an astonishingly high leap over the
goal-line pile.

"It was pretty awesome," said Rivers, who went 29-of-39 as the
Chargers rolled to their first 4-1 start since 2002. "Little
things like that ... it wasn't the touchdown necessarily, but
seeing him do that sparks those guys on the sidelines."

"It was the highest vertical leap I have ever seen a guy
take," coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "It was like he almost
cleared everybody who was in front of him, blocking and defending.
That was pretty impressive stuff, but those things with L.T. become
a bit commonplace."

Tomlinson rushed for just 71 yards, but surpassed Lance
Alworth's Chargers record with his 84th career touchdown in the
first quarter. He added three more on similarly short runs, each
punctuated with a ball flip and a wave.

Tomlinson thought nothing of his safety before the jump.

"I think my lineman was standing up, so I knew I had to get
over him," Tomlinson said. "I recall seeing Walter Payton do
that, and even Emmitt Smith -- guys I look up to. Each time I do it,
my wife is killing me. She's ... 'Stop doing that.' I'll just wait
and see what she says when I come home."

In his sixth pro season, Tomlinson is heading toward the feats
of such greats. The three-time Pro Bowl running back scored four
TDs on three runs and a reception against the Jets last season, but
had never rushed for four scores in a game.

Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson caught scoring passes, and
Rivers was practically perfect. With a poise beyond his five career
starts, he easily picked apart a defense that already has allowed
194 points this season.

San Diego scored 35 first-half points against the 49ers before
finishing the club's highest-scoring performance since 1986,
matching a 48-point game against Buffalo last season.

Schottenheimer didn't play it safe for a change, either: Rivers
and Tomlinson stayed in the game with a 22-point lead in the final
minutes, finally adding L.T.'s last TD with 4:20 to play.

And San Diego seemed to need plenty of points for a change: In
the 49ers' fourth home game in five weeks, Alex Smith kept one of
the NFL's top defenses on its heels with a strong first half before
fading late.

"The bright spot on defense is that we can stop the run, but
other things seem to give us trouble," said 49ers coach Mike
Nolan, who hinted defensive changes could be coming. "We should be
able to get more rush than we did."

Bryan Gilmore and fullback Moran Norris caught scoring passes as
the Chargers gave up more points in the first half alone than they
allowed in any of their first four games. But San Diego shut out
San Francisco in the second half, with Smith finishing 20-of-31 for
214 yards.

San Francisco's offense has been better than expected heading to
the club's bye week, but the defense has been just as bad as
feared. Two weeks after giving up 41 points to the Chiefs, the
49ers seemed lost from the moment top cornerback Walt Harris was
ruled out with a hamstring injury.

"We take pride in being the strength, and we're not showing it
now," linebacker Jeff Ulbrich said. "I know it's killing us, all
the guys on this side of the ball."

Gates turned a short catch into a 57-yard score on the Chargers'
opening possession when three Niners missed tackles, but San
Francisco responded with a 74-yard drive capped by Smith's
needle-threading TD throw to Gilmore.

San Diego had a 91-yard scoring drive later in the first quarter
capped by Tomlinson's first TD, and Jackson blew past rookie
third-string cornerback Marcus Hudson for a 33-yard TD catch early
in the second.

Rivers was 14-of-15 with a perfect passer rating shortly before
Ronald Fields sacked him in the end zone for a safety 3:12 before
halftime. But Smith's next pass was tipped and intercepted by Luis
Castillo.

Game notes
San Diego's 35 points were the second most ever allowed by
a San Francisco defense in a first half. ... Rivers passed for 235
yards in the first half -- 7 fewer than his total last week against
Pittsburgh. ... The Chargers punted once and kicked off 10 times.