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Tomlinson continues MVP run as Chargers rally past Raiders

Nov 27, 2006 - 12:34 AM SAN DIEGO (Ticker) -- LaDainian Tomlinson believes the San Diego Chargers are in the midst of a magical season. All he does is make second-half deficits disappear.

Tomlinson ran for a pair of touchdowns, including the go-ahead score with 3:39 left, and also threw a fourth-quarter TD as the Chargers rallied for a 21-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders in a battle of AFC West rivals.

One of the leading MVP candidates, Tomlinson finished with 109 yards on 19 carries as San Diego (9-2) won its fifth straight game despite a very sluggish first half.

The Chargers, who rallied from 17-point deficits in each of their previous two games, lead both Denver (7-4) and Kansas City (7-4) by two games in the competitive AFC West Division.

"I hope it is a magical (season), and I hope it ends that way," Tomlinson said. "It seems like it is magical, the way things are happening for us. Even with the injuries we've had, things are still going right. Let's just hope it ends in a magical season."

Tomlinson tied the game at 14-14 with 9:46 remaining with his sixth career TD pass - a 19-yard strike to a wide-open Antonio Gates. The Pro Bowl running back is now 7-for-10 for 126 yards in his six-year career.

"We were right around the 20-yard line, so I knew I had to make a 20-yard throw and let Gates run and get it," Tomlinson said. "So, I made sure I put it out there for him."

However, San Diego's tying drive did not come without controversy. Five plays before the touchdown - on 4th-and-2 - Philip Rivers completed a 13-yard pass to Vincent Jackson, who made a diving catch but was not touched down by a defender.

The second-year receiver hopped to his feet, flipped the ball to the ground in celebration, and the Raiders recovered. But after an assortment of discussions, replays and rulings, it was determined to be an illegal forward pass, resulting in a five-yard penalty that allowed the Chargers to retain possession at the Raiders 32.

"I knew I had enough for a first down, so I guess my emotions got the best of me and I threw the ball down," Jackson said. "Afterwards, I saw everybody jumping on the ball, and I thought, 'You've got to be kidding me.'"

Oakland went three-and-out on its next possession and Tomlinson took over from there. He unleashed a 44-yard run down the right sideline on the first play and, after Rivers found fullback Lorenzo Neal on 3rd-and-3, Tomlinson scampered in from 10 yards out for his 24th touchdown.

Shaun Alexander set the NFL single-season record with 28 TDs for the Seattle Seahawks in 2005.

"(Tomlinson) is the best back in the league, and he showed why today," Raiders rookie safety Michael Huff said.

Tomlinson picked up the slack for Rivers, who was just 14-of-31 for 133 yards with an interception. The first-year starter missed several open receivers and was especially poor in the first half, when he completed only 3-of-9 passes for 27 yards.

"It wasn't our best effort offensively, and it obviously wasn't my best effort," Rivers said. "I think that's the sign of a great team, when you can have a guy who touches the ball every play not play very good and still win. Obviously, LT has a lot to do with that."

As a team, the Chargers managed only three first downs and 55 total yards in the opening 30 minutes. They controlled the ball for only 8:39 in the first half and entered the intermission in a 7-7 tie.

Tomlinson accounted for all of San Diego's offense in the first half with a four-yard TD run early in the second quarter. The scamper was set up by rookie Antonio Cromartie's 91-yard kickoff return after ReShard Lee opened the scoring with a one-yard TD run.

"(Tomlinson) is remarkable," Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "When he has the ball in his hands, there are 11 guys on the other team going after him. I think it's appropriate to say that everybody understands where we start and where we finish on offense, and it's with him."

Oakland's Aaron Brooks was just 17-of-30 for 187 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions - including one by cornerback Drayton Florence with 2:00 left. He also was picked off by cornerback Quentin Jammer at the San Diego 17 with 13:37 remaining, setting up Tomlinson's touchdown pass.

Brooks put the Raiders ahead, 14-7, with 7:40 to go in the third quarter when he hit rookie John Madsen for a two-yard touchdown. The two also hooked up on a 57-yard pass one play earlier.

Justin Fargas carried 14 times for just 32 yards as Oakland (2-9) lost its fourth straight game.

"Our record does not indicate it, but we're a much better football team than we were at the beginning of the year when we played (San Diego in Week One)," Raiders coach Art Shell said. "Our guys refuse not to play hard and continue to work. We want the wins, but it's just not turning our way right now."

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