SAN DIEGO – LaDainian Tomlinson can still run the ball and his San Diego Chargers finally looked like world-beaters.
San Diego Chargers' LaDainian Tomlinson is pushed out of bounds by Oakland Raiders' Nnamdi Asomugha on a 6-yard gain during the first quarter of an NFL football game Thursday, Dec. 4, 2008, in San Diego.
(AP Photo/Denis Poroy)
It might not matter, though, because the Chargers still need a miracle to get to the playoffs.
Tomlinson scored on a 3-yard run against his favorite punching bag and Philip Rivers threw three touchdown passes, including a 59-yarder to Vincent Jackson, to give the Chargers a 34-7 victory against the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night.
The Chargers beat their archrivals for the 11th straight time in a series dating to the birth of the AFL in 1960.
The Chargers (5-8) snapped a three-game losing streak and won for just the second time in seven games. Once considered favorites to reach the Super Bowl, they're still in deep trouble, trailing Denver by 2 1/2 games in the AFC West. The Broncos have four to play.
"It was desperately needed but it was one win for us," Tomlinson said. "We don't want to make it more than what it is."
On Sunday, Tomlinson was held to 24 yards, the second-lowest total of his brilliant eight-year career, in a listless 22-16 home loss to Atlanta.
"After the showing last week, I think we wanted to prove to everyone that that wasn't us," said Tomlinson, who's having the worst season of his career. "It's good that it was a short week. We got to show people who we are as a group."
San Diego's Darren Sproles caught two TD passes. His 87-yard touchdown on a punt return in the fourth quarter was called back after rookie Antoine Cason was called for an illegal block in the back.
Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell was intercepted twice by linebacker Stephen Cooper and also lost a fumble, leading to 17 points for the Chargers. Russell sprained his right ankle after his second pickoff and didn't return. X-rays were negative, and Russell left the locker room on crutches.
Andrew Walter replaced Russell at the start of the third quarter. Walter was intercepted by Matt Wilhelm late in the fourth quarter.
The Raiders (3-10) reached double digit losses for the sixth straight year. They are 22-71 since being routed by Tampa Bay and former Raiders coach Jon Gruden in the Super Bowl in San Diego on Jan. 26, 2003.
"It's clear that we're not close," cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. "We don't play good football, we don't play sound football. We've been undisciplined. You just wonder how many people care and how many people are upset."
Tomlinson's TD midway through the first quarter was his 137th, moving him into sole possession of fifth place on the career list. He had been tied with Marshall Faulk, who was at the game working for the NFL Network.
L.T. had 91 yards on 25 carries. He has 1,906 career rushing yards and 22 total touchdowns, 19 on the ground, in 16 games against the Raiders. They are his most yards and touchdowns against any opponent.
"I think there are always certain teams that you enjoy playing and you seem to match up well against and seem to have a great game against," Tomlinson said. "I can't explain it."
Three plays into Oakland's first possession, Russell fumbled as he was being sacked by outside linebacker Shaun Phillips, and inside linebacker Jyles Tucker recovered at the 12-yard line. Tomlinson carried three straight times, scoring untouched off left tackle for a 10-0 lead.
Rivers threw an 8-yard TD pass to Sproles early in the second quarter, capping a 15-play, 96-yard drive that took 8 minutes, 29 seconds. Tomlinson and Sproles carried five times each and Rivers had three carries on the drive.
San Diego got the ball back on Cooper's first pickoff. Jackson got behind two defenders and hauled in Rivers' scoring pass down the right sideline to make it 24-0.
Russell was hit by Phillips while passing late in the second quarter and the ball went straight to Cooper, who lateralled to Antonio Cromartie for a 14-yard gain. Russell was hurt on that play.
San Diego's Nate Kaeding kicked field goals of 20 ad 39 yards.
After Kaeding's second field goal, Oakland's Justin Miller returned the kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown.
Rivers was 10-of-22 for 214 yards. Jackson had five catches for a career-high 148 yards.
"I'm sick of losing, especially like that," Raiders tight end Zach Miller said. "We never really got going on offense and when we did, penalties and interceptions and fumbles killed us. As an offense we were inept again."
Notes:@ The Raiders gained 163 yards, 59 of them in the second half. ... Raiders T Cornell Green left with a knee injury. ... Head linesman John McGrath hurt his right leg midway through the second quarter and missed a few plays while his leg was taped by the Oakland training staff.