Final

Bengals 14

(2-1, 0-1 away)

Chargers 28

(3-0, 2-0 home)

Coverage: CBS

4:15 PM ET, September 30, 2001

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA 

1 2 3 4 T
CIN 0 7 0 714
SD 0 7 14 728

Tomlinson runs for three second-half TDs

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The Green Bay Packers and St. Louis Rams have unexpected company atop the NFL.

LaDainian Tomlinson

San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson had no problems getting by Brian Simmons and the Bengals in the second half, rushing for three consecutive TDs.

Everyone knew the San Diego Chargers would be better than last year -- it's hard to do much worse than 1-15 -- but here they are, leading the AFC and tied with the Packers and Rams at 3-0.

Rookie running back LaDainian Tomlinson scored touchdowns on three straight second-half possessions, and the Chargers brushed aside the Cincinnati Bengals 28-14 in a showdown of surprising unbeaten teams on Sunday.

"We're at peace right now," said linebacker Junior Seau, one of the few players left from the last Chargers' team to go 3-0, the one that reached the Super Bowl following the 1994 season. "We don't have to look back and say `if' and `but.' That was kind of wearing on us."

Seau, who hasn't been in the playoffs since 1995, knows how quick things can fall apart.

"We're not going be kids and holler that we're No. 1 in the AFC. We're going to let it go."

The Chargers are tops, though, because they have an outstanding rookie in Tomlinson to go along with the punishing defense led by Seau and safety Rodney Harrison.

Who's more important to the Chargers: Doug Flutie or LaDainian Tomlinson?
It's a combination of both. What the Chargers want to do is get the lead and then run the ball, as they've done in these first three games. Once they get the lead, Tomlinson is the most important guy in the Chargers' offense. Up until then, Flutie is very important in directing the offense.

Tomlinson missed some of training camp due to a contract impasse, but his success doesn't surprise me. In offensive coordinator Norv Turner's offense, the running back is going to get ball often (just ask Emmitt Smith). Tomlinson was talented coming out of TCU, and you knew he would do this.

ESPN.com NFL analyst Vinny Cerrato has served as director of player personnel for the Redskins and 49ers.

Tomlinson turned a tie game into a blowout with a combination of power runs and cutbacks, including scores of 4, 2 and 3 yards. He finished with 107 yards on 21 carries, his second 100-yard game in three starts. Tomlinson, the player the Chargers coveted over Michael Vick in April's draft, has 310 yards and five touchdowns in three games.

Tomlinson and the Chargers' maligned offensive line -- they're young and were unproven coming into the year -- didn't hit full steam until the middle of the third quarter.

"You saw the holes I had to run through," said Tomlinson, the first Chargers back to score three TDs since Natrone Means in 1994. "That's what it came down to in the second half. Oh my goodness, when I saw those holes, I'm thinking, `Where's everybody at?"'

Tomlinson said fans are just seeing the beginning.

"I really believe there are a lot better things to come," he said.

Center Kendyl Jacox said the line finally just wore down the Bengals.

"Sooner or later, we're going to get what we want," he said.

Tomlinson "is a fabulous back," Jacox said. "He's just scratching the surface."

Said quarterback Doug Flutie: "He's pretty darn good. It's so much fun to watch him run."

Tomlinson upstaged the Bengals' Corey Dillon, who was held to 46 yards on 15 carries.

"When they're feeding him and he's running well, he's going to get his yards," Dillon said. "Just that simple."

Tomlinson's second TD was set up when Harrison stripped Dillon, with Rogers Beckett recovering.

San Diego's suffocating defense forced four turnovers, including Jon Kitna's first three interceptions of the season. Cornerback Ryan McNeil had two pickoffs, giving him five this season, and Seau had the other.

"Every ball that was up in the air they made a play on and they were able to come down with it," Kitna said.

Cincinnati (2-1) looked more like the Bungles of the last decade than the Bengals who beat the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens a week earlier.

Their biggest problem was Tomlinson, although the rookie gained only 32 yards on 12 carries through 2½ quarters, including his 4-yard run with 8:01 to play in the third that gave San Diego a 14-7 lead. Tomlinson left two defenders in a heap at the goal line as he went in standing up.

Tomlinson then ran for 74 yards on seven carries the next two drives. His 2-yard TD run with 4:44 left made it 21-7, and he went up the middle to score from 3 yards with 14:15 to play.

After one of TDs, Tomlinson did a little shimmy in the end zone.

"I didn't even know I did that," he said.

Kitna threw two touchdown passes, including a 7-yarder to Peter Warrick with 1:48 to play.

Flutie, who ran onto the field waving an American flag during pregame introductions, threw a 19-yard TD pass to Curtis Conway for a 7-0 lead with 10:43 left in the second quarter.

The Bengals tied the game at 7 on Kitna's 8-yard pass to Chad Johnson with 24 seconds left before halftime.

Flutie, coming off a 353-yard game, was 12-of-19 for 133 yards, with no interceptions. Kitna was 18-of-32 for 135 yards.

Game notes
DE Marcellus Wiley made his Chargers debut and got his first sack. Wiley missed the first two games with a stress fracture in his left foot. ... Chargers DT Jamal Williams sprained his left knee in the second quarter and didn't return. He'll have an MRI Monday. Rookie LB Carlos Polk hurt his left shoulder in the fourth quarter.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Scoring Summary

SECOND QUARTERCINSD
sdTD11:07Touchdown
Drive info: 6 plays, 41 yds, 2:14
06
THIRD QUARTERCINSD
sdTD5:07LaDainian Tomlinson, 2 yd run
Drive info: 6 plays, 40 yds, 2:34
720
FOURTH QUARTERCINSD
cinTD1:54Touchdown
Drive info: 6 plays, 64 yds, 0:59
1328
SECOND QUARTERCINSD
sd11:07
Drive info: 6 plays, 41 yds, 2:14
07
THIRD QUARTERCINSD
sd5:07
Drive info: 6 plays, 40 yds, 2:34
721
FOURTH QUARTERCINSD
cin1:54
Drive info: 6 plays, 64 yds, 0:59
1428
sdTD14:30LaDainian Tomlinson, 3 yd run
Drive info: 6 plays, 59 yds, 12:08
727
THIRD QUARTERCINSD
sdTD9:38LaDainian Tomlinson, 4 yd run
Drive info: 9 plays, 55 yds, 2:12
713
FOURTH QUARTERCINSD
sd14:30
Drive info: 6 plays, 59 yds, 12:08
728
THIRD QUARTERCINSD
sd9:38
Drive info: 9 plays, 55 yds, 2:12
714
SECOND QUARTERCINSD
cinTD0:29Touchdown
Drive info: 9 plays, 47 yds, 2:20
67
cin0:29
Drive info: 9 plays, 47 yds, 2:20
77