At this point, not much. They’ll just sit back and continue to be thrilled every time he touches the ball and cuts this way and that up the field.
Tomlinson at least took some of the sting off an otherwise awful season for the Chargers by rushing 31 times for a career-high 243 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-14 win over the rival Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
The third-year pro has four career 200-yard games, tying him for second place on the career list with Jim Brown, Earl Campbell and Barry Sanders. The record is six, by O.J. Simpson.
“I’m an English major and I run out of superlatives,” coach Marty Schottenheimer said. “What are you going to say about the guy? He’s a remarkable, remarkable player, and a remarkable human being.”
It was Tomlinson’s second 200-yard game this year; he also ran for 200 yards in a win at Cleveland on Oct. 19. He finished the season with 1,645 yards rushing. He also became the first halfback in NFL history to catch 100 passes. Fullback Larry Centers had 101 in 1995 for Arizona.
“The guy’s incredible. He’s Superman without a cape,” fullback Lorenzo Neal said.
It was the second-best rushing performance in the NFL this year, behind the NFL single-game record 295 yards by Baltimore’s Jamal Lewis on Sept. 14 against Cleveland. It tied for 10th best in NFL history.
“The main focus was just trying to win this last game, obviously, against the Raiders,” Tomlinson said. “It just felt good to just play well.”
The Chargers and Raiders both finished 4-12, tying with the New York Giants and Arizona for the NFL’s worst record. The Chargers, though, clinched the No. 1 pick in the draft for the second time in four years, based on strength of schedule.
It was a rare chance for the Chargers to celebrate.
“It’s one thing to have a good game and you lose,” Tomlinson said. “It’s kind of a sour taste. But when you win a game, it makes it more fun to talk about it and the team can celebrate.”
With the score tied at 14, Tomlinson scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 2-yard run up the middle with 11:42 left in the game. That put him at 202 yards. Tomlinson began the drive with a 35-yard run.
Tomlinson also became the first full-time running back in NFL history to catch 100 passes. And he broke his own club record for combined yards with 2,370. His old record was 2,172 yards last year.
Yet he didn’t make the Pro Bowl.
Schottenheimer said Tomlinson is the most complete back he’s every seen.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve never seen anybody like him. nobody,” Schottenheimer said.
This season was quite a comedown for the Raiders, who played in the Super Bowl in San Diego just 11 months ago, losing 48-21 to Tampa Bay.
Mirer made way for Martin in the third quarter, although he returned in the final minutes. Mirer was just 4-of-11 for 21 yards, and Martin was 2-of-11 for 14 yards, with one interception. The Raiders gained just 141 total yards.
“It’s ridiculous,” defensive tackle Rod Coleman said. “It’s so bad that I can’t be mad. We didn’t know what was going on out there today. Some guys came to play, other guys didn’t.”
Tomlinson’s first score was on a 2-yard run for a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
The Raiders gained just 66 yards and four first downs in the first half, but were tied 14-14 at halftime thanks to a punt return and a kickoff return for touchdowns.
After David Boston put the Chargers ahead 14-7 with an 18-yard TD catch, the Chargers had to rekick because rookie Terrence Kiel was offside. Doug Gabriel caught the ball near the left sideline at the 15, worked his way through traffic to the right sideline and outran the coverage to tie it at 14 with 24 seconds left before halftime.
The Raiders got their first touchdown on an 81-yard punt return by Phillip Buchanon late in the second quarter to tie the game at 7. ^Notes: Tomlinson finished 38 yards shy of his team single-season rushing record of 1,683 yards, set last year. … Oakland clinched the second overall pick inthe draft.