Chargers 43, Saints 17

They can pass. They can catch. They can play defense. And even with LaDainian Tomlinson hurting, they can win big.

In routing the New Orleans Saints, 43-17, on Sunday, they even showed a bit of a swagger.

"We go on the field and say, 'We can beat these guys,' " San Diego quarterback Drew Brees said. "That's our attitude. It's such a dramatic difference from last year. We're almost disappointed that the bye's coming because we just want to keep going."

It was San Diego's highest-scoring game since beating the Miami Dolphins, 45-20, on Dec. 27, 1993. The Chargers have scored 85 points in the past two weeks.

Brees, the quarterback the front office didn't want coming into this season, threw four more touchdown passes -- three to tight end Antonio Gates -- and the Chargers (6-3) won their third straight game and fifth in their last six.

Brees has thrown nine touchdown passes in two straight blowout wins, pushing his season total to 18, against just three interceptions. Last year he threw 15 interceptions and 11 touchdowns, was benched for five games and pulled from two others.

Brees was 22 of 36 for 257 yards on Sunday. Last week he threw a career-high five touchdown passes in a 42-10 win over Oakland. He hasn't thrown an interception in three straight games, and in six of the last seven.

"If you have a quarterback you have confidence in, you always believe that you can win the game," Coach Marty Schottenheimer said.

The Chargers are off next Sunday, so Tomlinson can rest his strained groin, which has slowed him for five games.

Tomlinson hasn't cracked 100 yards in any of those games, and on Sunday was held to just 36 yards on 17 carries, with one touchdown.

Even so, he's happy about the way Brees and the receivers, particularly Gates and Keenan McCardell, have made the Chargers a high-scoring threat.

"It's so much better, because guys can't just focus on me," Tomlinson said. "They've got many other weapons to worry about. It feels good to look up and Drew hits Antonio way down the field, or Keenan way down the field, for a big play, man. It's an awesome feeling."

Brees's inconsistent play last year, when they were an NFL-worst 4-12, led the Chargers to get Philip Rivers in a draft-day deal with the New York Giants.

Rivers made his pro debut with 4 minutes 4 seconds left and the Chargers leading 43-17. He handed off three straight times, then took a knee three times to run out the clock.

The Saints (3-5) have lost four of five.

"We couldn't cover the tight end," New Orleans Coach Jim Haslett said. "I think he's one of the best tight ends in the league, if not the best."