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With playoff berth secure, 2nd rushing title in reach for L.T.

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Dec 23, 2007.

  1. robdog
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    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

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    Source: <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=ap-broncos-chargers&amp;prov=ap&amp;type=lgns" target="_blank">Associated Press</a>

    By Bernie Wilson

    <img src="http://i2.chargers.com/assets/189/34321_600w600h.jpg" alt="LaDainian Tomlinson" align="right" height="174" width="154" />SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The No. 3 seed in the AFC playoffs isn't the only thing the San Diego Chargers are playing for in their final two games.

    For one, LaDainian Tomlinson is within reach of his second straight NFL rushing title.

    While wanting to help the AFC West champion Chargers (9-5) win and preserve the highest seed they can get, Tomlinson will want to know where he stands in the race for the rushing title as the season winds down, beginning with Monday night's home game against division rival Denver (6-8).

    Tomlinson goes into the game with 1,311 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground.

    Tomlinson's path got a lot easier when NFL rushing leader Willie Parker broke his right leg in Pittsburgh's win at St. Louis on Thursday night.

    Parker entered the game with 1,317 yards, six ahead of Tomlinson. Parker had one carry for a 1-yard loss before leaving the game.

    "It's unfortunate," said Tomlinson, who watched Chargers fullback Lorenzo Neal suffer the same injury two weeks ago in a win at Tennessee. "Anytime somebody gets hurt, it's just tough to go through. He's going through the same thing Lorenzo's going through. I don't wish it on anybody."

    Tomlinson doesn't think Parker's injury lessens his own pursuit of another title.

    "I don't know. Guys get hurt. It's tough to stay healthy in this league," Tomlinson said. "I don't know if it takes anything away from it. What if they were the first seed and he didn't play in the last game? That would take something away."

    If the Chargers need him in a game in order to win, Tomlinson wants to go for it. If the Chargers are blowing out their opponent, such as last Sunday's 51-14 wipeout of Detroit, it wouldn't be that important. In that game, Tomlinson ran for 116 yards and two scores, then sat out the second half after feeling a hamstring grab. He said he could have gone back in, if needed.

    "Yeah, I would want to know, because that's something a lot of guys take pride in, not only myself but the offensive line group, tight ends, fullbacks," he said. "Yeah, you do want to know, especially with the way this season has unfolded."

    Minnesota rookie Adrian Peterson is within range of Tomlinson. Peterson had 1,278 yards going into Sunday night's game against Washington. Peterson set the NFL single-game record with 296 yards in a 35-17 win against the Chargers on Nov. 4.

    When he was named league MVP last year, Tomlinson set NFL records with 31 touchdowns, including 28 rushing, and 186 points. He won his first rushing title with 1,815 yards.

    Tomlinson is on a nice late-season run, having rushed for 439 yards and five touchdowns in the last three games. He also caught a TD pass.

    The offensive linemen are pulling for Tomlinson to win another rushing title.

    "Hell yes it means a lot," said left guard Kris Dielman. "That's our trophy, man, when he wins that rushing title."

    With Tomlinson sitting out the second half and backup Michael Turner sustaining a shoulder injury, third-stringer Darren Sproles ran for 122 yards and two scores against the Lions. It was the first time in team history that two backs ran for more than 100 yards in the same game.

    Coach Norv Turner was asked what he'd do if Tomlinson needed just a handful of yards late in the final game to win the rushing title.

    'I can't answer that. That's a what-if," Turner said. "We could put L.T.'s jersey on Sproles and put him in there."

    Denver safety John Lynch, who grew up in San Diego, said he's run out of superlatives for Tomlinson.

    "He can do it all," Lynch said. "Early in my career I played against Barry Sanders and I thought he was the best I'd ever played against, but when you face L.T., it's very, very similar in the run game, but probably more power. Then in the pass game, he adds a dimension that Barry really never had. I can pretty much say he's the best I've played against. That's high praise, because I've played against a lot."

    The Chargers have won four straight and eight of 10 since their shocking 1-3 start.

    Pro Bowl outside linebacker Shawne Merriman expects to play after sitting out against the Lions to rest his sprained left knee.

    "It drove me nuts," said Merriman, who leads the team with 11 1/2 sacks. "I didn't know what to do. But hopefully I won't be sitting this week because I've been practicing all week."

    Clinching the No. 3 seed would mean playing at Indianapolis in the divisional round, instead of at New England, providing the Chargers win their opening-round game. San Diego is on a four-game postseason losing streak dating to the Super Bowl following the 1994 season.

    The Chargers have a few things to work on in the last two games.

    "We know we're going to the playoffs, but I think in these games we need correct things we've had problems with and get better in certain areas and get prepared for the playoffs," Merriman said.

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