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

Cleveland.”

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

greats.

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

special.”

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

start.

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

concern.

“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,

‘It’s mine.”’

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

remaining.

“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.