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Raiders brace for Tomlinson

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Oct 14, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://www1.pressdemocrat.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051014/NEWS/510140354/1010/SPORTS" target="_blank">The Press Democrat</a>

    <img src="http://bolttalk.com/images/tomlinson11.jpg" alt="LaDanian Tomlinson" />

    By Phil Barber

    ALAMEDA - Many have marveled at the improvement of the Raiders' rushing defense this season. The unit that surrendered 125.8 yards a game on the ground on 2004 has, with only a few changes in the front seven, reduced that number to 99.3 a game.

    Opponents have averaged only 3.4 yards a carry, the sixth-lowest mark in the league.

    This Sunday, the metamorphosis will be sorely tested.

    Coming to town is San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson, arguably the best running back in the league, and inarguably the deepest thorn in the Raiders' underbelly. In six games over the last three seasons, Tomlinson has averaged 145.8 rushing yards against his NorCal rivals. He has averaged a staggering 168 yards in his last three games in Oakland.

    It isn't just the Raiders who have been victimized by LT, of course. He has scored a rushing touchdown in an NFL-record 17 consecutive games. Now he's creeping up on Lenny Moore's 30-year-old league record for most games with a touchdown of any kind, 19.

    Who says Tomlinson is the league's ultimate back? His coach, Marty Schottenheimer, for one.

    "I've gone on record before, and I believe this, that he's the finest running back that I've seen in football," Schottenheimer said. "And that goes back to include players who were great, such as (Gale) Sayers and Jim Brown and those guys. We had Marcus Allen, of course, in Kansas City. But he's the finest that I've ever seen."

    True, Schottenheimer may be a little biased. But several Raiders agreed he's the best, including defensive end Bobby Hamilton, linebacker Kirk Morrison and defensive tackle Ed Jasper.

    "By far," said Jasper, a nine-year veteran who faced Tomlinson with the Falcons last year. "Most backs have a weakness, man. Most backs you worry about one of two things - they're really good at catching the ball out of the backfield or they're really good at running it. Most of the ones who are really good at running it fall off when they're catching the ball. Not him, though."

    Tomlinson does have some help in San Diego. His offensive line is a good one, and the Chargers have developed an efficient passing attack to take some of the pressure off their featured back. But few runners can make more out of less than Tomlinson.

    "He's gonna force his way into certain places," Morrison said. "(It's) not even a hole, but he's gonna find a way to get there. So you've got to really be on your Ps and Qs and stay in your assignment."

    That, most agree, is the only way to contain Tomlinson: play less aggressively, hold your space, tackle with proper technique and hope for help. The Steelers did that Monday night, and held him to 62 yards on 18 carries.

    "You have to be disciplined, but you also have to be very physical," coach Norv Turner said Thursday. "And if you really look hard at what Pittsburgh was able to do, they got to LaDainian before he got going, and that's the physical part of it."

    "It's kind of like the old Barry Sanders Rule," Jasper said. "The first person to him wouldn't take a shot at him. First person to him would break down in front of him and try to mirror him to give everybody else a chance. You weren't gonna tackle him by yourself. And this kid is almost that kind of runner."

    While there is consensus on Tomlinson's status as the NFL's best running back, everyone seems to have a different explanation. Schottenheimer says it's his pride. Morrison points to his elusiveness, Jasper to his uncanny vision. And of course there is the versatility of a player who once ran for 1,645 yards and caught 100 passes in the same season (2003). Tomlinson even threw a touchdown pass against the Giants in Week 3.

    He really can do it all. And yet, at 26, it's conceivable Tomlinson could still improve his game.

    "I think he can," Schottenheimer said with a chuckle, "because I wouldn't put anything past him."

    The Raiders requested, and were granted, a 24-hour extension in selling tickets for the Chargers game. They have until 1:15 today to unload the remaining tickets, which number close to 10,000.

    C Jake Grove (knee) did not practice Thursday, but G Langston Walker (back) did.

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