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LT's still climbing the charts

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — LaDainian Tomlinson sliced 20 yards through Philadelphia's defense and into the end zone, flipped aside the ball and raised both arms in triumph.

It was as close to vintage as it's gotten this year for L.T., and the milestones keep coming for a 30-year-old whose time with the San Diego Chargers almost ended in the offseason.

The Chargers finally got into a rhythm with their running game in Sunday's 31-23 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, with Tomlinson gaining a season-high 96 yards and scoring twice.

"It was good. It was real good, and he's been close to that," coach Norv Turner said Monday.

There have been plenty of whispers this year that Tomlinson has lost a step, or worse, that he's finished.

Turner, whose Chargers (6-3) jumped into a tie with slumping Denver atop the AFC West, isn't buying any of it.

"It doesn't matter what I say, what people say," Turner said. "He breaks off the run in the red zone, whatever it was, 25-yard run, 20-yard run, he looked explosive. He hit a crease, he was patient. He did the things he does.

"You know, he did have the ankle injury early. He missed two games. I think he's getting into a good rhythm and we're getting into a better rhythm blocking for him," the coach said.

It appeared for a while in the offseason that L.T. would be a salary-cap casualty, but the sides finally agreed to a reworked contract. He turned 30 in June, then sprained his right ankle in an opening win at Oakland. He missed the next two games, the first time in his brilliant career that he missed regular-season games due to injury.

"I think I'm still effective and I think that's all that counts," Tomlinson, the 2006 NFL MVP, said after the game. "I still find a way to help this team win."

He's also still climbing up various career lists.

Tomlinson had a season-high 96 yards to move past Thurman Thomas and Franco Harris and into 12th place with 12,145 yards. His two touchdowns gave him 146, moving him past Marcus Allen into third.

"Like I said to our team after the game, every time he hits one of those milestones I'm going to make a big deal of it because I've been fortunate to be around certain guys who've had those type of accomplishments and I understand probably better than most how hard it is," Turner said.

As offensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys from 1991-93, Turner coached Tomlinson's boyhood idol, Emmitt Smith. Smith is first all-time rushing with 18,355 yards and second on the all-time TD list with 175, behind Jerry Rice with 208.

"There's guys that have a great game, there's guys that have a great season, there's some guys that can put a couple of seasons together, but to go do it at the level he's done it, for as long as he's done it is remarkable," Turner said of Tomlinson. "And it tells you, because when you look at the names of the guys he's passing and the guys he's chasing, I mean, they're an elite group of guys."

Tomlinson said he was happy when he find out about moving into third place on the TD list.

"It's kind of surreal," he said. "I grew up watching these guys and watching touchdown after touchdown and it's mind-boggling to me that now I find myself third all-time with just Emmitt and Jerry in front of me. It's a weird thing but I'm humbled because of the history of the game and watching these guys for so long."

Tomlinson was fired up because he found out before the game that he's going to be a father.

"She left me a gift in my locker. It said, 'Open immediately.' I thought it was a necklace. It was a pregnancy test," Tomlinson said after the game.

The child will be the couple's first. LaTorsha Tomlinson suffered a miscarriage in 2005.

"I was aware," Turner said. "L.T. was emotional, I think, when he found out. I went over maybe 15-20 minutes later and told him I knew about it and it was going to be a special day. And I told him I had a couple of suggestions for names if he needed and he said he didn't need any."

Asked what those suggestions were, Turner said: "Not mine."

The coach's full name is Norval Eugene Turner.

"I'm still mad at my mom about that," he said.

NOTES: Turner was asked what he thought about WR Legedu Naanee getting down on one knee and handing a Chargers cheerleader the ball after catching a 20-yard touchdown pass from Philip Rivers in the third quarter. Naanee was flagged for excessive celebration. "He'll get a letter from New York and it will cost him about $7,500," Turner said. "So I don't think we will see that one again."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.

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