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San Diego sits atop wild West

©Associated Press
December 2, 2002

SAN DIEGO -- LaDainian Tomlinson broke a 76-yard run. He spun this way and that. He carried a linebacker into the end zone on his back.

No wonder Tomlinson was too wiped out to celebrate his biggest day as a pro.

His franchise-record 220 yards and three touchdowns on 37 carries Sunday boosted San Diego to a thrilling 30-27 overtime win over Denver.

Steve Christie won it with a 27-yard field goal with 3:01 left in overtime for the Chargers, who took control in the wild AFC West. It was his ninth OT field goal, tying Jim Breech for most all-time.

As Christie lined up, Tomlinson stood on the sideline with fellow running back Terrell Fletcher. Fletcher grabbed Tomlinson's helmet for safekeeping, anticipating a celebration.

"I was just kind of like, 'Hold on, let's make sure he makes it first,' " Tomlinson said. "When it went through, it was like, 'It's over.' I don't know if I had anything left in me."

Sure enough, "I was too tired to celebrate," Tomlinson said.

After winning in overtime for the second time in three weeks, the Chargers lead the West by half a game over the Raiders and a game over the Broncos. Denver lost for the third time in four games, the past two on overtime field goals.

Denver's Jason Elam was short and wide left on a 53-yard field goal try with 7:26 left in overtime.

Tomlinson carried six times for 17 yards on the winning drive, keeping the ball in the middle of the field. Drew Brees also hit tight end Stephen Alexander on a 20-yard pass.

Christie then redeemed himself for having a 38-yard attempt blocked with 10:35 left in overtime and for missing twice in regulation.

Tomlinson broke the club record of 217 yards he shared with Gary Anderson. He carried 37 times and scored on runs of 3, 1 and 5 yards on consecutive drives in the second quarter to rally the Chargers from a 10-0 deficit.

Christie kicked a 40-yard field goal for a 27-24 lead early in the fourth quarter. Denver then drove to the San Diego 7, where Elam kicked a 24-yard field goal with 1:39 left in regulation to force overtime.

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