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Chargers fend off frenzy, take charge in West

©Associated Press
October 21, 2002

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The Chargers didn't mind all the garbage thrown their way after this one.

Quarterback Drew Brees took a water bottle in the head, thrown by a Raiders fan. "It might have been the hardest hit I took all day," he said cheerfully.

LaDainian Tomlinson avoided the end-zone mess. He was on the bottom of a celebratory pile after scoring the winning touchdown in the Chargers' 27-21 overtime victory Sunday.

"They were trying to protect their home stadium," Brees said of the often-raunchy Raider faithful, who tossed anything they could find at the jubilant Chargers. "A little celebration was warranted."

Tomlinson ran for 153 yards, and his 19-yard score 3:38 into overtime ended the matchup between the AFC West's top teams. The Chargers have their best start since 1994, when they went to the Super Bowl.

Oakland's Jon Ritchie tied the score at 21 a 7-yard catch from Rich Gannon with 1:21 left in regulation.

Brees ran 1 yard to give San Diego a 21-14 lead with 7:18 left.

The Chargers lead by a game over Denver and 11/2 over the Raiders in the division. Oakland had won the previous four meetings and eight of nine.

Enter Marty Schottenheimer.

The first-year Chargers coach never seems to lose to the silver and black no matter what job he has. Schottenheimer has won five straight against the Raiders, though he hadn't faced them since 1998, during his final season in Kansas City.

Tomlinson won the anticipated matchup of the Raiders' third-ranked run defense against the league's No. 2 rushing offense, with the second-year back doing almost all the damage. Tomlinson carried 39 times and caught a 4-yard score from Brees.

"This is huge, a confidence booster," Tomlinson said.

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