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Tomlinson carries re-charged Chargers past Raiders - again

LaDainian Tomlinson will never hate the Oakland Raiders like Marty Schottenheimer did. He's too laid-back for something like that.

SAN DIEGO -- LaDainian Tomlinson will never hate the Oakland Raiders like Marty Schottenheimer did. He's too laid-back for something like that.

At the rate he's going, though, Tomlinson might never lose again to the Silver and Black.

Tomlinson matched his career high with four touchdowns, rushing for 198 yards on 24 carries and leading the Chargers to their eighth straight win over the Raiders, 28-14, on Sunday.

Tomlinson scored on runs of 3, 27, 13 and 41 yards to move into a tie with Jim Brown for fourth on the all-time rushing touchdowns list with 106. In the process, Tomlinson passed John Riggins, who had 104.

The reigning league MVP scored for the final time with 2:43 left, thrilling the Raider-hating crowd, and silencing the thousands of Oakland fans in the stadium. It was a simple off-tackle play that Tomlinson broke to the outside. After racing into the end zone, he dropped the ball and raised both arms in the air.

It was the third time L.T. rushed for four touchdowns in a game, and the fifth time overall that he's scored four times. Surprisingly, it was the first time he scored four TDs at home.

"The last time we were here, they booed us," Tomlinson said. "It was good to hear them cheering us."

The defending AFC West champion Chargers (3-3) rebounded to .500 after their early season, three-game losing streak left everyone frustrated, especially Tomlinson. The Chargers pulled into a tie atop the division with Kansas City. Two weeks earlier, fans mercilessly booed the Chargers and chanted Schottenheimer's first name during a 30-16 loss to the Chiefs.

To think, the Chargers can beat the Raiders without Schottenheimer as their coach. Schottenheimer, fired in February, despised the Raiders and was 27-7 against them in his career, including the first seven wins in the Chargers' streak.

Norv Turner, who replaced Schottenheimer, was fired by the Raiders after coaching them to a 9-23 record in 2004-05.

Turner said there was personal satisfaction in beating his old employer, but that it was more important that the Chargers pulled to .500.

"We are getting better," Turner said.

It was Tomlinson's eighth career 100-yard game against the Raiders. During the winning streak, Tomlinson has rushed for 1,142 yards and 12 touchdowns, while also catching one TD pass and throwing two.

Tomlinson can't explain his success against the Raiders.

"It's weird," he said.

"If I would have known that, I would have done something about it a couple of years ago," cracked Turner, who was 0-4 against Tomlinson and the Chargers when he coached the Raiders.

"I don't know, but I like it," quarterback Philip Rivers said about Tomlinson's dominance of Oakland. "He was outstanding. He's really starting to get going. Our offense is really starting to get going. When we can throw it in that 18-25 window and run the ball and be efficient, we can be pretty tough."

The Raiders (2-3) looked more like the team that went an NFL-worst 2-14 last year than the one that was coming off consecutive wins.

Quarterback Daunte Culpepper, making his second start, was harassed all day, which helped make the offense look horrible most of the afternoon. Culpepper was intercepted twice, lost a fumble and was sacked six times.

"We played the way bad teams play," coach Lane Kiffin said. "It's easy to see how the game got out of hand. We were lucky it wasn't worse."

San Diego's Shawne Merriman had 2½ sacks, and fellow outside linebacker Shaun Phillips had two sacks and forced a fumble.

Leading 21-14, the Chargers needed only six plays to move 85 yards for the final score. Of course, almost half of that came on Tomlinson's final run.

"We said to each other, 'Let's finish the game right here,' " Tomlinson said. "The offensive line was jacked up. That last offensive drive was beautiful. I don't think you can script it better."

San Diego took a 14-0 lead with 6:51 still to play in the first quarter. Tomlinson capped the opening drive with a 3-yard leap over the pile, then scored on a 27-yard misdirection play after cornerback Drayton Florence intercepted Culpepper.

The Raiders closed to 14-7 when linebacker Thomas Howard intercepted a horribly thrown pass by Rivers and returned it 66 yards, highstepping the last 25 yards into the end zone

The pickoff came just three plays after Shane Lechler got mixed up and ran a fake punt even though the Raiders had audibled away from it. He was stuffed for a four-yard loss.

"Ten of 11 guys got it; Shane didn't," Kiffin said.

The Raiders had the ball first-and-goal from the Chargers' 1 and could have tied it 14-all at halftime, but Culpepper was sacked twice, fumbling on the second one.

Culpepper threw a 1-yard, fourth-down TD pass to Zach Miller with 5:18 left.

Notes: Chargers Pro Bowl C Nick Hardwick sprained his right foot on the seventh play from scrimmage and was replaced by Cory Withrow. Hardwick plans to have an MRI on Monday.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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