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Tomlinson rushes for four TDs, Chargers outlast Bengals

Nov 12, 2006 - 10:10 PM CINCINNATI (Ticker) -- LaDainian Tomlinson, Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson must have thought they were performing in a high-scoring Pro Bowl. Philip Rivers proved he belonged in their company.

Tomlinson matched his career high and franchise record with four rushing touchdowns and Rivers threw for 337 yards and three scores as the San Diego Chargers rallied for a 49-41 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Chargers (7-2) erupted for 42 points in the second half, including two touchdown runs by Tomlinson in a 15-second span of the fourth quarter.

Tomlinson set an NFL record with 15 touchdowns in his last five games.

"It was a like a cartoon out there, real animated but it was real," said Tomlinson, who rushed for 104 yards on 22 carries and caught six passes for 54 yards. "It was exhausting. We need time to think and wonder about what happened today."

The teams combined for 975 yards. The Bengals (4-5) were responsible for 545 of those, but that didn't prevent them from squandering a 21-point lead.

"Do you remember the AFL (American Football League)? What a shootout," Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "You just try to find a way to have one more point than they do."

"We didn't panic," Rivers said. "Even when we were down 21, we didn't point fingers like some other teams around the league do. We were in the mindset that we had to keep scoring but we weren't in the mindset that we had to score that fast."

Palmer, a Pro Bowl quarterback last season, completed 31-of-42 passes for a career-high 440 yards and three touchdowns for the Bengals.

Johnson, a Pro Bowl receiver who had complained about his role in the offense, started the second half with a bang, catching 11 passes for a career-high and franchise-best 260 yards and two scores.

"They played a lot of one-on-one coverage and we took advantage of some matchups," Palmer said of his first 400-yard game.

Rivers did the same, surpassing his previous career-high of 334 yards against San Francisco on October 15. Malcolm Floyd had five receptions for 109 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown, and tight end Brandon Manumaleuna caught a pair of scoring passes.

The Chargers (7-2) remain tied with Denver for first place in the AFC West. The teams meet next week in Denver.

Tomlinson leads the NFL with 18 touchdowns, including 16 rushing. The single-season record for touchdowns is 28 by Shaun Alexander of Seattle in 2005.

"I don't have the adjectives, as an old English major to describe that young man (Tomlinson) except to say that he's the ultimate team player," Schottenheimer said.

Two of Tomlinson's touchdowns came in a 15-second span of the fourth quarter. A two-yard scoring run by Tomlinson five seconds into the quarter pulled the Chargers within 38-35.

On Cincinnati's ensuing possession, linebacker Shaun Phillips sacked Palmer, forced a fumble and recovered it at the Cincinnati 9.

On the next play, Tomlinson raced to the left, before darting to the middle for a touchdown to give the Chargers their first lead, 42-38, with 14:40 remaining.

After Shayne Graham kicked a 44-yard field goal with 7:48 left for Cincinnati, Rivers directed a 12-play, 72-yard drive which he capped with a five-yard scoring toss to Manumaleuna with 2:29 remaining.

"Every week, he continues to amaze us," Tomlinson said of Rivers.

"He's doing a tremendous job leading this team," Chargers tight end Antonio Gates said of Rivers. "He was on the sideline pushing us constantly even when we were behind by 21 points. What more could you ask of a leader."

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis was especially disgusted with his defense, which entered ranked 24th in the league.

"We've got to make some tackles and plays," Lewis said. "We got to execute the things that we're calling on defense and defend what they're doing on offense and keep attacking."

The loss was the third in a row for the Bengals and dropped them three games behind first-place Baltimore in the AFC North.

"It's a tough situation to be in," Palmer said. "There's some adversity that we haven't faced yet. A lot of guys need to come together and keep playing and keep fighting to try to scrape away to the playoffs."

The three Johnsons - Jeremi, Rudi and Chad - scored in the first quarter when the Bengals jumped to a 21-0 lead. Jeremi ran for a three-yard touchdown, Rudi scored from seven yards out and Chad caught a 51-yard bomb.

"Even when it was 21-0 we told ourselves that 21 points wasn't going to win the game," Rivers said. "When we scored, we told the defense to get the ball back for us."

Tomlinson scored on a nine-yard run with 5:27 left in the second quarter.

But the Bengals reclaimed their 21-point advantage when Palmer fired a seven-yard touchdown to Chris Henry with 16 seconds remaining in the half.

Rivers connected with Floyd on a 46-yard scoring play with 9:08 left in the third quarter.

Shayne Graham kicked a 21-yard field goal for the Bengals with 6:27 remaining in the third quarter.

The Chargers pulled within 31-28 when Rivers hit Manumaleuna with a nine-yard touchdown with 3:08 left in the third quarter.

Palmer connected with Chad Johnson on a 74-yard touchdown just 18 seconds later.

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