Chargers 30, Browns 23
LaDainian Tomlinson walked back into San Diego’s locker room to
meet the special guest who wanted to offer congratulations.
Jim Brown was waiting for him.
“Yeah, a perfect day,” Tomlinson said as he headed toward the
Chargers’ team bus. “I’ve thought a long time about this day. If I
was going to pass Jim, I wanted to do it here in Cleveland, and I
wanted to talk to him in the locker room after the game.”
Tomlinson stiff-armed Cleveland’s Hall of Famer out of eighth
place on the career rushing list and scored his 150th career TD on
a 4-yard run as the Chargers won their seventh straight and 15th in
a row in December, beating the Browns 30-23 on Sunday.
In moving past Brown, Tomlinson fulfilled a childhood dream that
began with games of touch football in Texas.
“As a kid playing football in the yard, I looked up to all the
great running backs,” Tomlinson said. “But there were a lot of
days I was Jim Brown out there on the football field. To do it here
in Cleveland is extra special. I can’t even tell you what it means
because it seems like it was supposed to happen here in
After Tomlinson passed Brown on an 11-yard burst up the middle
in the fourth quarter, San Diego’s running back pointed toward the
73-year-old who was sitting in a luxury suite. He patted his heart
and offered a salute.
“He’s a class guy,” Brown said. “We love each other. I came
back here because I wanted to show my respect. My position in
history doesn’t matter to me, but the respect that I get and the
respect I give is highly important. I could never do what a Barry
Sanders or a Walter Payton or a Hugh McElhenny could do. They were
totally different than me. I would break my legs trying to move
like Barry Sanders.”
Antonio Gates set a career high with 167 receiving yards for the
Chargers (9-3), who dragged their cleats early and only led 13-7 at
halftime. But quarterback Philip Rivers led San Diego on touchdown
drives of 85 and 83 yards in just over nine minutes in the third
quarter to open a 27-7 lead.
Tomlinson’s TD with 5:58 left in the third put the Chargers up
by 20, and placed the running back in elite company among NFL
Tomlinson reached 150 TDs faster than any player in league
history, hitting the milestone in his 137th game. Emmitt Smith
needed 160 games to reach 150 and Jerry Rice didn’t score his 150th
until his 167th.
“I’ve always really enjoyed scoring touchdowns more than
anything,” Tomlinson said. “Part of the reason is that’s how you
win the game – scoring touchdowns. I’ve always said that if I’m
scoring touchdowns, then I think we’re winning. So that’s pretty
So, which was better, No. 150 or surpassing Brown?
“Passing Jim Brown. He transcended generations,” Tomlinson
said. “I can remember my father talking about Jim Brown as a kid.
He loved him. Everybody loved Jim Brown and rightfully so. Even
today when you talk about the great running backs, the majority of
people will say Jim Brown is the best ever.”
Tomlinson finished with 64 yards on 20 carries and has 12,321
yards. Tony Dorsett (12,739) is seventh all-time.
Rivers threw two TD passes – both on short routes to running
backs – as the Chargers continued their surge following a 2-3
With Dallas and Cincinnati looming on the schedule, San Diego
couldn’t afford to overlook the Browns (1-11), who have lost seven
straight amid mounting injuries.
At halftime, San Diego seemed to be in trouble.
At the end of the third quarter, the Chargers had little
“It got a little close,” Rivers said. “Close enough to where
you weren’t too comfortable.”
San Diego thoroughly dominated the Browns in the third,
outgaining Cleveland 208-10 – 164-0 in passing yards – while
holding the ball for 12:06.
Rivers was 7 for 8 in the quarter with four completions going to
Gates for 114 yards. The highlight of San Diego’s aerial assault
came when Gates, the former Kent State basketball star, boxed out
Abram Elam and Hank Poteat for a 56-yard reception.
“He never ceases to amaze me,” Tomlinson said. “He’s just so
dominant, you can’t cover him one on one. He looks like when he
played basketball. When the ball is in the air, his mindset is,
Brady Quinn threw three TD passes for the Browns, who have lost
a franchise-record 10 straight home games and must get ready to
play an angry Pittsburgh squad on Thursday. The Steelers lost at
home to Oakland 27-24 on Sunday.
“They made a lot of big plays,” Browns linebacker David Bowens
said. “That was the key to the game. They have a lot of weapons.
L.T.’s a great player and Gates made some big catches.”
The Browns, who had a costly turnover in the first half, made
the score respectable by scoring 16 in the fourth as Quinn hit
running back Jerome Harrison for two TDs.
Phil Dawson’s 49-yard field goal with 39 seconds left made it
30-23, but Tomlinson recovered an onside kick with 38 seconds
“That was the No. 1 play of the day, because that sealed the
victory,” Tomlinson said.
And his perfect day.
NOTES: Nate Kaeding kicked field goals of 32, 42 and 22 yards
for the Chargers. … Browns Stadium was less than half full at
kickoff and any late arrivals missed the Browns’ first TD, Quinn’s
11-yard pass to Mohamed Massaquoi. Quinn went 6 for 6 for 61 yards
on the scoring drive, Cleveland’s first for a TD on an opening
possession since Nov. 11, 2007 – a span of 35 games. … Browns DT
C.J. Mosley injured his right leg in the first half. He left the
stadium on crutches.