SAN DIEGO (AP) -LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers and the rest of the San Diego Chargers closed in on an improbable AFC West title by taking a 38-13 lead over the Denver Broncos after three quarters on Sunday night.
Tomlinson had his first three-touchdown game of the season and was far more animated than he has been at any point of the worst year of his otherwise brilliant career. After he scored on a 14-yard run midway through the third quarter, L.T. celebrated with his teammates and then high-stepped across the field to the bench.
th touchdown passes to break Hall of Famer Dan Fouts' 1981 team single-season record.
For one night, Mission Valley became Mediocre Valley as the Broncos (8-7) and Chargers (7-8) fought it out in the Ed Hochuli Bowl. The winner gets the division title and a home playoff game against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night.
The Chargers looked more like the team that was a Super Bowl favorite than the one that was written off when it tumbled four games below .500 with a month to play. Looking for their third straight division crown, the Chargers were trying to become the first team to go from 4-8 to the playoffs.
San Diego scored twice in 18 seconds midway through the third quarter. Rivers threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to speedy little Darren Sproles to make it 31-13. Defensive end Luis Castillo intercepted Jay Cutler's deflected pass on the first play of the ensuing Denver drive, and Tomlinson then scored on his 14-yard run.
The Broncos looked abysmal. A loss would make them the first team since division play began in 1967 to miss the playoffs after having a three-game lead with three weeks to go.
umble. Hochuli later acknowledged his decision was wrong. However, by rule, the call could not be changed and Denver kept the ball. The Broncos scored on fourth down, followed by the winning 2-point conversion.
On Sunday night, Tomlinson used a nice spin move to score on a 4-yard run late in the second quarter, adding to the 1-yard scoring run he had in the first quarter.
With 126 rushing touchdowns, L.T. moved out of a tie with Marcus Allen and into sole possession of second place on the career list. Emmitt Smith is No. 1 with 164 rushing TDs.
Rivers picked apart Denver's porous secondary and also threw two blocks on reverses by wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Jackson's diving catch of a 37-yard pass helped set up L.T.'s first TD run, and Rivers threw a 34-yarder to Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates on a drive capped by a 12-yard scoring pass to tight end Brandon Manumaleuna early in the second quarter.
Denver's Tatum Bell had touchdown runs of 26 and 37 yards. San Diego's Nate Kaeding kicked a 28-yard field goal.

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