CLEVELAND (AP)—As he danced, darted and dashed his way around the field, LaDainian Tomlinson had just one thought: Don’t let the Chargers lose again.
Tomlinson couldn’t take the losing any longer.
“He was bound and determined not to let us lose,” quarterback Drew Brees said. “He wanted the ball.”
Earlier this week, the sensational third-year back said half-jokingly that he was willing to do anything—even break the rules—just to get the Chargers a victory.
“No, I don’t think I did,” he said with a smile when asked if he had done anything illegal. “But I was willing to, I’ll tell you that. For some reason, I felt strongly that we were going to get a win. I just had a feeling we were going to put it together.”
Tomlinson broke off a 70-yard TD run on his first carry after halftime and picked up 143 yards in the second half as the Chargers snapped a nine-game losing streak dating to last season.
But they had to survive Holcomb’s heroics to do it.
Holcomb replaced an ineffective Tim Couch late in the third quarter and threw two TD passes—the second to tight end Darnell Sanders with 11:40 left— as the Browns (3-4) trimmed a 17-point deficit to 23-20.
“I was scared,” Tomlinson said. “I really was.”
But he felt a little better after helping San Diego run nearly eight minutes off the clock by running for 48 tough yards to set up Christie’s field goal with 3:44 remaining.
The Chargers should have put the game away on that drive, but with first-and-goal at the 8, San Diego inexplicably called two running plays for fullback Lorenzo Neal and Brees was sacked for a 13-yard loss on third down.
“I made a bad call,” Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said. “If I had to do it all over again, I would have run the ball.”
Down by six, Holcomb got the Browns to midfield but threw three straight incompletions and gave the ball back to the Chargers, who didn’t have to punt until there were just 25 seconds left.
Holcomb, who missed his fourth straight start with a broken right fibula, finished 11-of-19 for 90 yards and two TDs in relief of Couch, who went 13-of-24 for 102 yards and two interceptions.
“This was disturbing,” Browns coach Butch Davis said. “We played about as inconsistently and poorly as you can possibly play in several different areas. It’s frustrating.”
Couch declined to speak with reporters following the game and had X-rays taken on his left ankle, which were negative.
He wasn’t the only Browns player hurting. Left tackle Barry Stokes left the stadium on crutches after reinjuring his right ankle. Running back William Green suffered an unspecified shoulder injury and was used sparingly in the second half.
Green, who was coming off consecutive 100-yard games, had 14 carries for 65 yards.
Tomlinson’s TD burst was a thing of beauty.
Running left, he froze cornerback Anthony Henry with a stutter step, broke attempted tackles by Andra Davis and Robert Griffith and outraced the Browns to put the Chargers ahead 20-6 just 2:33 into the third quarter.
“I saw the cornerback coming in, and when I cut up the field, it was just about breaking tackles,” he said. “Then, it was off to the races. I looked up at the scoreboard and saw there was nobody close to me.”
As far as the Chargers are concerned, there is never anyone close to him.
“He is a very special player and a very special person,” Schottenheimer said. “He has as big a heart as anyone around. With guys like that, you really don’t need much coaching.”
The Chargers hadn’t won since beating Denver in overtime on Dec. 1 last season. … The Browns were a season-low 2-of-14 on third-down conversions. … During pregame ceremonies, the Browns inducted former players Joe DeLamielleure, Hanford Dixon, Bob Gain and Dick Schafrath into their Legends Club. … Referee Jeff Triplette worked his first game in Cleveland since 1999 when he threw a penalty flag and accidentally hit former Browns offensive tackle Orlando Brown in the eye. … Tomlinson has three career 200-yard games. … Browns WR Kevin Johnson caught a pass in his 71st straight game. … At halftime, the Browns honored their 1980 “Kardiac Kids” team which wasrenowned for its late-game comeback wins.