SAN DIEGO (AP) -Ah, the Black Hole. With the exception of his home field, of course, could there be a better place for LaDainian Tomlinson to try to wrap up his second straight NFL rushing title?
L.T. and his AFC West champion San Diego Chargers close the regular season on the road Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, who've become less of an archrival and more of a punching bag.
``It's just perfect for us coming into town because they hate us so much,'' Tomlinson said. ``It's going to be fun though. It's always fun to play there. I'm pretty sure the Raiders are going to want to end on a good note.''
Tomlinson heads into the finale with 1,418 yards, 113 ahead of Minnesota rookie Adrian Peterson and 127 ahead of Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook.
During his career, Tomlinson has rushed for 1,653 yards and 16 touchdowns in 13 games against the Silver and Black, as well as throwing three touchdown passes and catching two. He's had eight 100-yard games, including three straight.
On Oct. 14, Tomlinson ran for 198 yards, his sixth-highest single-game total, and tied his career-high with four touchdowns in a 28-14 win, San Diego's eighth straight victory against the Raiders. His single-game high of 243, naturally, came against Oakland on Dec. 28, 2003.
Tomlinson is trying to keep the pursuit of the rushing title in perspective, since the Chargers (10-5) also are trying to wrap up the AFC's No. 3 playoff seed.
That said, he's on a tremendous late-season roll, with 546 yards and six touchdowns in four games. His string of four straight 100-yard games has come even though he sat out the second half of a 51-14 rout of Detroit and most of the second half of Monday night's 23-3 victory against Denver. Both times, he said he felt a hamstring grab.
By comparison, Tomlinson had only 262 yards and two touchdowns during the Chargers' dismal 1-3 start, when they were trying to figure out new coach Norv Turner, and vice versa.
``Early on, I kept on saying it's a long season and we have a lot more games to play,'' Tomlinson said. ``My thinking has always been, it doesn't matter what happens in the beginning. You watch horses race and it's always dramatic when that horse comes from the back and he's running and it's just exciting.
``So I always look at myself like that a lot of times from whatever position I might be in. If I'm way in the back, I always just feel like as the season goes on, I'm going to come running somewhere. I'm not surprised but it has been an up-and-down season.''
Turner took plenty of heat early on because the offense wasn't living up to its star power.
``It's easy to say now but I would expect L.T. to be in the middle of the race for the rushing title every year,'' Turner said. ``I've learned over the years not to get caught up over something that happens over a two or three-week period. If it continues to happen over a 10-week period, then that probably becomes what you are. But certainly, that wasn't what we were.''
Turner said he didn't think anything was wrong early in the season.
``We had to keep doing the things we were doing and it worked out,'' he said.
According to Turner, the line has been blocking more consistently and the midseason acquisition of wide receiver Chris Chambers helped free up Tomlinson.
``Chris Chambers coming in here I think has had a major effect on the way people defend us,'' Turner said. ``It took a little while to have that effect. We're getting a lot better looks at the run and we're getting a lot better opportunities and more people concerned about our wide receivers and it helps us run the football.''
Tomlinson agrees.
``Teams have to choose a little bit more how to play us. When they do back off, it really feels good and I notice it. I notice it a little bit more than I ever have before. That's good because when you have weapons around you, any one of us can make the big play down the field.
``So it really adds, I think, more explosion to the offense and people really have to pick and choose.''
In addition, Tomlinson said he feels as good now as he did at the end of last year. That's when he was finishing off a league MVP season that included NFL records with 31 touchdowns and 186 points, as well as his first rushing title, with 1,815 yards.
``I really felt like I was playing my best football at the end. I really felt good and explosive,'' Tomlinson said. ``I feel the same way I did last year, particularly because of the slow start early on. Not as many carries, kind of slowly got started and then toward the end of the season, getting more carries, 22 or 23, and I think it was just perfect for me the way the season played out.''

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