Oakland (8-4) at San Diego (8-4)

Partly Cloudy Currently: San Diego, CA
Temp: 75° F
  • Game info: 4:15 pm EST Sun Dec 8, 2002
  • TV: CBS
Preview | Box Score | Recap

SAN DIEGO (TICKER) —First place is on the line in the AFC West when the smashmouth style of the San Diego Chargers clashes with the aerial assault of the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

The Chargers are built around LaDainian Tomlinson, who is the NFL’s second-leading rusher with 1,318 yards, and a defense led by perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau, hard-hitting safety Rodney Harrison and pass-rushing end Marcellus Wiley.

Rich Gannon runs the West Coast offense to perfection for the Raiders, passing for 3,877 yards and 23 touchdowns, with the help of veteran receivers Jerry Rice and Tim Brown.

Tomlinson got the last laugh with a 19-yard touchdown run 3:38 into overtime in the Chargers’ 27-21 win at Oakland on October 20. The second-year back from Texas Christian truly played the role of workhorse, carrying the ball 39 times.

The Raiders had tied the game, 21-21, when Gannon hit fullback Jon Ritchie with a seven-yard touchdown with 1:21 left in the fourth quarter. But the Chargers won the overtime coin flip and marched 80 yards in six plays, capped by Tomlinson’s touchdown.

For Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer it was a perfect balance of 172 rushing yards and 161 passing for a total of 303. The Raiders totaled 390 yards, most of them in the air.

Gannon completed 35-of-45 for 361 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. Rice caught nine passes for 86 yards and a score, Brown had six receptions for 83 yards and running back Charlie Garner added seven catches for 80 yards.

Meanwhile, San Diego’s Drew Brees was 16-of-25 for 170 yards and two touchdowns, including one to Tomlinson, and middle linebacker Donnie Edwards led the defense with 10 tackles and an interception.

It was the first of three overtime wins for San Diego, which also defeated San Francisco on November 17 and the Denver Broncos last week.

Tomlinson steamrolled the Broncos for a franchise-best 220 yards and three touchdowns on 37 carries in a 30-27 victory. Steve Christie kicked a 27-yard field goal with 3:01 left in overtime after having a 38-yard attempt blocked earlier in the extra period and missing twice in regulation.

But the story was Tomlinson who pulverized the NFL’s top run defense and moved 32 yards shy of Natrone Means’ franchise record of 1,350 rushing yards set in San Diego’s Super Bowl season of 1994. Tomlinson also caught 11 passes for 51 yards.

On September 29, Tomlinson tied Gary Anderson’s club record when he rushed for 217 yards in a win over New England.

It seems the Raiders have lived through a tale of three seasons. They started the year with four wins, followed with four losses, and followed that with a four-game winning streak. But the schedule in the final quarter is very tough for the Raiders, who follow this with a game at Miami before returning home for games against division rivals Denver and Kansas City.

Brown became the third receiver to reach 1,000 receptions, catching eight for 90 yards in Monday’s 26-20 win over the New York Jets. Brown is also tied with James Lofton for the second most yards among receivers with 14,004.

Of course, Rice is the all-time leader in all major receiving categories. His touchdown catch in Monday’s win was the 1,440th reception of his career.

Gannon tied an NFL record with his ninth 300-yard passing game of the season, completing 31-of-42 for 342 yards, and Sebastian Janikowski kicked four field goals. Janikowski missed attempts from 27 and 48 yards in Oakland’s overtime loss to the Chargers.

Oakland leads the series, 53-31-2.

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