L.T. takes over rushing lead | VailDaily.com

L.T. takes over rushing lead

Bernie Wilson
Vail, CO Colorado
San Diego Chargers LaDainian Tomlinson pumps his fist after the the Chargers beat the Denver Broncos 23-3 in their NFL football game Monday, Dec. 24, 2007 in San Diego. Tomlinson rushed for 107 yards and one touchdown. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

SAN DIEGO ” LaDainian Tomlinson took over the NFL rushing lead, got his fourth straight 100-yard game and called it a night.

Tomlinson had a 17-yard scoring run among his 107 yards as he led the AFC West champion San Diego Chargers to a 23-3 win over the Denver Broncos on Monday night. L.T. sat out the bulk of the second half.

The Chargers (10-5) won their fifth straight game and for the ninth time in 11 games. They need simply to win at Oakland on Sunday to secure the AFC’s No. 3 playoff seed.

Tomlinson scampered into the lead with 1,418 yards in his pursuit of his second straight rushing title. His route was made easier when Pittsburgh’s Willie Parker (1,316) broke his right lower leg on Thursday night, finishing his season.

L.T.’s closest pursuer is Minnesota rookie Adrian Peterson, who has 1,305 yards after being held to just 27 yards on nine carries in a loss to Washington on Sunday night. Peterson set the NFL single-game record of 296 yards against San Diego on Nov. 4.

The Chargers held the Broncos (6-9) without a touchdown in the season series. The Bolts beat the Broncos 41-3 at Denver on Oct. 7 to end a three-game losing streak.

Tomlinson, the 2006 NFL MVP, had only four of his 19 carries in the second half.

He was on the sideline for San Diego’s final drive of the half, then carried four times during an 11-play, 84-yard drive capped by a 14-yard TD pass from Philip Rivers to Chris Chambers.

Tomlinson came out and was checked by trainer James Collins, and didn’t return. Tomlinson played only the first half of San Diego’s 51-14 win over Detroit eight days earlier. He said he felt a hamstring grab on a long run late in the second quarter of that game.

Tomlinson scored late in the first quarter for a 10-0 lead. This is his fourth straight season with 15 rushing touchdowns. He set NFL records last year with 31 touchdowns, 28 of them rushing, and led the league with 1,815 yards.

Broncos safety John Lynch drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty ” and the wrath of the crowd ” after tackling Tomlinson following a 2-yard run in the first quarter. Tomlinson’s helmet came off and Lynch took it with both hands and threw it about 10 yards.

A few plays later, Lynch went out of his way to go over to Tomlinson and shake his hand. Lynch went to high school in San Diego and won the Super Bowl on this field in January 2003 while with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It was a rough night for Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, who was born in Santa Claus, Ind.

Cutler was sacked four times, lost a fumble and threw two interceptions.

Cutler fumbled after getting hit by Luis Castillo deep in Chargers territory on the opening drive. Pro Bowl outside linebacker Shawne Merriman recovered. Castillo returned after a six-game layoff following ankle surgery.

Chargers safety Clinton Hart had an interception and a sack.

San Diego’s Nate Kaeding kicked field goals of 40, 23 and 29 yards. Denver’s Jason Elam kicked a 23-yarder.

If the Chargers get the No. 3 playoff seed, that would mean a trip to Indianapolis rather than New England for the divisional round ” providing, of course, they win their wild-card game. San Diego is on a four-game postseason losing streak.

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