Football: LT scores twice as Chargers beat Raiders for 13th straight time
SAN DIEGO – LaDainian Tomlinson did what he always does against the Oakland Raiders.
Shawne Merriman got to break out his spasmodic “Lights Out” sack dance for the first time since 2007.
It was simply business as usual for the San Diego Chargers, who got two touchdowns from Tomlinson – one out of the wildcat – in beating Oakland 24-16 on Sunday, their 13th straight against the hapless Raiders. It’s the longest active NFL winning streak by one team over another.
The Chargers (4-3) have swept the series for the sixth straight season. Many Chargers, including quarterback Philip Rivers, have never lost to the Raiders (2-6). It was San Diego’s seventh straight home win against the Raiders.
“When I first got here, the intensity and atmosphere of the game, it rubbed me the wrong way,” said Tomlinson, who was drafted by the Chargers in 2001. “By beating them 13 times, it means 13 times their fans went home with their heads hanging.”
Oakland coach Tom Cable called it “a big hump to get over. We’ve had two good opportunities this year. Are we closer? Yes. But you don’t take anything from it until you get over the hump.”
With the Denver Broncos losing 30-7 at Baltimore, the Chargers pulled within two games of the AFC West lead. San Diego is trying to win its fourth straight division title.
Merriman got his first two sacks since 2007, dropping JaMarcus Russell late in the second quarter and again late in the fourth. The outside linebacker has been working his way back from knee surgery that cost him the final 15 regular-season games and both playoff games last year.
“It’s one of those things that was long coming,” Merriman said. “I don’t put as big an emphasis on sacks as everybody else does. But they are important. I realize I’ve got to go out and make plays and get those sacks in order for us to be a better defense. As long as I’m doing that and putting pressure on the quarterback and forcing him to do things that he doesn’t want to do, we’re going to be better.”
San Diego had a season-high five sacks and allowed a season-low 180 yards. The other outside linebacker, Shaun Phillips, also had two.
Rivers, who was sacked only once, was impressed watching his defense.
“Not that they haven’t been applying pressure, but it’s good to see. There’s something to getting the quarterback on the ground,” Rivers said. “I think it’s huge. The thing about sacks, just what I’ve seen from the sideline, these guys have had a force in some of these games. But when you don’t see it in sacks, it doesn’t get the attention.
“The thing with sacks that’s funny is you can have a spurt in a few games and all of a sudden have six, seven. I think it just shows what a huge pro he is, all these guys, that they just kept hammering away.”
The Chargers didn’t have to rally to win as they did in the season opener at Oakland, when they were physically beaten up by the Raiders despite taking a 24-20 victory.
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie intercepted Russell when tight end Zach Miller fell down. It was the first pickoff in 20 games for Cromartie, who had 10 in 2007 but dropped off to two last season.
The Chargers’ first play from scrimmage was a 53-yard pass from Rivers to Malcom Floyd, who replaced struggling Chris Chambers in the starting lineup. It gave San Diego first-and-goal on the 6. Tomlinson took the direct snap and ran around the right end for a 7-0 lead.
Oakland tied it early in the second quarter after Rivers’ pass to Vincent Jackson glanced off the receiver’s hands and was intercepted by Chris Johnson, who returned it 20 yards to the San Diego 27. Justin Fargas scored on a 3-yard run to cap the short drive.
San Diego scored on its next two drives to go up 21-7. Rivers hit a wide-open Jackson on an 8-yard scoring pass and Tomlinson scored on a 10-yard run.
Rivers was 16 of 25 for 249 yards. Tomlinson had 56 yards on 18 carries. Fargas also carried 18 times for 59 yards.
Tomlinson has accounted for 28 touchdowns against Oakland in his nine-year career: 22 rushing, three receiving and three passing.
All the Raiders got the rest of the way were three field goals by Sebastian Janikowski, of 48, 41 and 28 yards.
Russell, benched in a 38-0 home loss to the New York Jets a week earlier, was 14 of 22 for 109 yards.
“He seemed very much to be in control today,” Cable said. “A couple throws he’d probably like to have over again, but for the most part he gave us a chance to win today.”
NOTES: Chargers ILB Tim Dobbins left on a cart with a knee injury but returned. … The Raiders reported these injuries: CB Chris Johnson (groin), DT Tommy Kelly (elbow), DT Gerard Warren (toe), LB Jon Alston (shoulder).