Chargers 31, Jets 26
LaDainian Tomlinson and his Chargers teammates watched the Jets get one final chance to pull out an improbable victory.
One thought must have crossed their minds: Oh no, not again.
No matter that Tomlinson was dazzling, with a career-high four touchdowns and one particularly impressive move that left Pro Bowl cornerback Ty Law frozen in his tracks. Drew Brees fumbled with 3 minutes 6 seconds to go, and a surprisingly effective Brooks Bollinger had 30 yards to go to lead the Jets to the winning score.
This was all too much for the Chargers, whose four losses have all come in the closing minutes. But Quentin Jammer rescued San Diego when he batted down a fade pass intended for Justin McCareins on fourth and goal, preserving a 31-26 victory yesterday.
"It was nice. So many times we've been on the losing end of games like this. I figured one game would have to go our way," Tomlinson said.
Tomlinson scored on three runs and one catch, becoming the first Charger since Chuck Muncie against Denver on Nov. 29, 1981, to have four touchdowns in one game.
Heading into the contest, Tomlinson had the same number of touchdown passes (three) as Jets quarterbacks. Bollinger changed all that with a furious charge. Vinny Testaverde's right calf tightened up, so Bollinger replaced him in the third quarter, then threw two touchdown passes to make it a game.
Laveranues Coles made a beautiful play on the second one, barely keeping his toes inbounds for the eight-yard score with 6:44 to play. The scoring passes were the first through the air for the Jets (2-6) since Week 2 against the Dolphins.
Then John Abraham sacked Brees and forced a fumble, which Jonathan Vilma recovered. But the Jets failed on four attempts from the 3, and their disappointing season continued.
"We needed to make a play," Jammer said. "They ran a couple fades on me. I figured they were going to try to run another one and I just made a play on the ball."
The last time the teams met, it was another nail-biter. The Jets squeaked out a 20-17 overtime win in the playoffs. The Chargers (5-4) are tired of playing it close after a laundry list of tight losses this season, including two on field goals in the closing seconds.
"That was the first thing in my mind. I'm sick of these type of games," said Antonio Gates, who had eight catches for 132 yards.
Tomlinson, who finished with 25 carries for 107 yards, staked the Chargers to a 21-10 halftime lead. On his 25-yard touchdown reception, Tomlinson took a short pass from Brees and scooted down the sideline. He juked Law so badly, Law seemed to freeze in place.
"I was like the fans," Chargers Coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "I saw the cut on the touchdown he made against Ty Law and I was anxiously awaiting the replay of it. I wasn't sure what I saw actually happened."
Or, as Tomlinson said: "I was just being me. I enjoy making people miss. You don't have time to think. You just react to what Ty is doing. Ty was kind of giving me the inside. He was forcing me inside so I kind of stuck him outside and made him hesitate. Then I burst past him."
The Jets' defense played much better in the second half. Brees, who was 20 of 27 for 270 yards, was held to 55 yards after the break, and the Chargers had 114 total yards and eight first downs. Meanwhile, Bollinger put together an inspired effort, going 11 of 20 for 106 yards.