SAN DIEGO (AP)—For one game, at least, it was fun to be a San Diego Charger.
A week after struggling badly at high altitude, the Chargers got big games at home from their star running back and beleaguered quarterback in a 38-17 win over the Tennessee Titans.
“Obviously there is a sense of urgency. We needed to play well and we needed to win,” Brees said after throwing for three touchdowns and completing 80 percent of his passes (16-of-20 for 206 yards), tying Hall of Famer Dan Fouts for second-highest in franchise history.
It sure was a different result than a week earlier, when Tomlinson was held to 60 yards rushing and Brees was inefficient in a 23-13 loss at Denver.
Tomlinson ran for 147 yards and one touchdown, and became the Chargers’ all-time leading rusher. He has 4,979 yards in four seasons, eclipsing the old record of 4,972 yards by Paul Lowe, who played with San Diego from 1960-68.
“It’s easier to run the football when you have holes, when you don’t have to worry about the safeties,” said Tomlinson, who carried just 17 times. “It just seems like everything is in slow motion.
“It was wonderful today. I would love to have many more days like that.”
The Chargers (2-2) snapped a two-game losing streak.
The Titans (1-3) played without quarterback Steve McNair, who was reduced to being the emergency third quarterback after bruising his sternum in a loss to Jacksonville last week. Billy Volek threw for 278 yards and two TDs, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Titans from losing their third straight.
“People have said we’re one of the elite teams, but we aren’t an elite team right now,” Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said.
Brees has had a tenuous grip on his job since last season. His big game came six days after rookie Philip Rivers was promoted from third-stringer to backup quarterback.
The Chargers didn’t need to call on Rivers, especially after Brees and Reche Caldwell hooked up on a 58-yard TD pass that put away the Titans in the fourth quarter.
After the Titans cut a 17 point deficit to 24-17, the Chargers started on their 42. On second-and-10, Brees threw a short pass to Caldwell. Cornerback Samari Rolle went for the interception but missed, Caldwell caught the ball one-handed and outraced everybody to the left corner of the end zone for a 14-point lead with 6:42 to play.
Brees said he let the ball go high after seeing Rolle jump the route.
“You expect it to go flying over their heads,” he said. “Somehow, some way he just stuck his hand up there and stabbed it. I couldn’t believe it. It was a great, great play.”
Tomlinson’s backup, Jesse Chatman, scored on a 21-yard run with 3:18 left.
Tennessee’s Chris Brown, who came in leading the NFL in rushing with 353 yards, was held to just 55 yards on 15 carries.
Brees had to go to the locker room early in the second quarter to get his left shoulder checked after being sacked by Rien Long, and Rivers started warming up on the sideline.
Brees returned a few minutes later and led the Chargers on a drive he finished with an 11-yard pass to tight end Antonio Gates that gave the Chargers a 14-7 lead.
A 34-yard punt by Tennessee’s Craig Hentrich gave the Chargers the ball on their 49, leading to a 10-yard scoring pass from Brees to Justin Peelle for a 21-7 lead with 38 seconds left before halftime. Rookie Nate Kaeding kicked a 31-yard field goal in the third quarter.
Volek looked good early, going 7-for-7 for 75 yards on Tennessee’s third drive, including a 4-yard TD pass to Derrick Mason to tie the game at 7 early in the second quarter. The score came two plays after Volek gained 2 yards on a sneak on fourth-and-1.
Tomlinson had given the Chargers a 7-0 lead on a 15-yard run in the first quarter, when he took a pitch and cut inside.
Volek completed 39 of 58 passes. He was making his second start and playing in just his 10th game in five seasons.
“You want to stretch the field,” Volek said. “We took some shots down the field but we couldn’t come up with them.”
Tennessee ran 79 plays to 45 for San Diego, but was outgained 393 yards to 329. … Chargers rookie center Nick Hardwick injured his left knee in the second quarter and didn’t return. WR Eric Parker strained his neck. … Titans WR Tyrone Calico injured a knee and will have an MRI on Monday. … Calwell had three catches for a career-best 110 yards, and Titans WR Drew Bennett had a career-high 109 yards on nine catches.