Tomlinson stays hot in cold

Times Staff Writer

The game-time temperature Sunday in Buffalo was 35 degrees, cold enough for referees to don cold-weather gear for the first time this season.

It's a good thing, then, that the visiting San Diego Chargers have the NFL's hottest player.

LaDainian Tomlinson continued his assault on the single-season touchdown record, rushing for two more as the San Diego Chargers defeated the Bills, 24-21, for their sixth consecutive victory.

Tomlinson has 26 touchdowns this season, and with four games to play he's two shy of the league record set last season by Seattle's Shaun Alexander.

He's scored 18 touchdowns in the last six games, which might explain why teammates warmed their hands by putting them next to Tomlinson instead of electric warmers on the sidelines.

"You know, every once in a while it's actually fun to play in weather like this," said Tomlinson, who had a 51-yard touchdown run in the first half, then sealed the victory with a two-yard score in the fourth quarter.

"You look forward to games like this because they don't happen much."

Neither do seasons such as Tomlinson's. He has six consecutive 100-yard games and jumped into the NFL lead with 1,324 yards rushing.

He joined Eric Dickerson as the only players in NFL history to start a career with six consecutive 1,200-yard seasons.

Tomlinson said the only stat that matters, however, is that San Diego (10-2) is now tied with Indianapolis for the best record in the AFC.

"That's the most important thing," Tomlinson said. "With four games to go, it's going to be a heck of a stretch."

Back to his old tricks

Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman had six tackles, two sacks -- giving him 10 1/2 this season -- and forced two fumbles against Buffalo in his first game back from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL drug policy.

Style points

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers avoided a shutout by the slimmest of margins, kicking a field goal on the final play of the game in a 20-3 loss to Pittsburgh.

"I probably will get criticized for it," Coach John Gruden said.

Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter said his unit would have liked the shutout, but he didn't hold a grudge.

"There's kind of an unwritten rule against it but, if I had been them, I probably would have kicked it too," Porter said.

Negative returns

The Houston Texans didn't complete a pass in the second half, finished the game with minus-five yards passing yet somehow defeated the Raiders, 23-14.

Oakland's five turnovers, three missed field goals and five sacks allowed helped.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Texans were the first team since the Houston Oilers on Oct. 4, 1981, to finish with negative yards passing and win.

"It's the weirdest feeling I've ever had in a football game," Houston quarterback David Carr said. "We didn't do anything. I didn't do anything.... But we won."

Meeting of the minds

The Atlanta Falcons defeated the Washington Redskins, 24-14, and improved to 6-6 after falling below .500 for the first time in Coach Jim Mora's three seasons.

A players-only meeting called by safety Lawyer Milloy provided the impetus for a team that had lost its previous four games.

"It was at a point where the players of this team, the leaders of this team, needed to take some ownership," Milloy said.

Breathless return

One of the Atlanta highlights was a 41-yard interception return by 272-pound defensive lineman Chauncey Davis that set up the go-ahead touchdown.

It was Davis' first career interception and the team's first in seven games.

"Me, of all people," Davis said. "I haven't had a run like that in so long. I was trying to hold on."

No reason to cheer

The Green Bay Packers lost, 38-10, against the New York Jets, dropping the Packers (4-8) to 1-5 at home. In their five home losses, they have scored 57 points.

Its no wonder that the normally faithful Green Bay fans booed the team as they went to the locker room at halftime, down 31-0.

"I'd be booing too," Packers Coach Mike McCarthy said. "Shoot, they should boo us."

Century mark, finally

Edgerrin James had his first 100-yard game since joining the Arizona Cardinals.

He rushed for 115 yards in a 34-20 victory over the St. Louis Rams, the 50th 100-yard game of his career but first since Dec. 4 of last year.

"It was a normal thing for me for a while," James said. "But when you get here, you see it is a big thing."

Injury report

Cleveland quarterback Charlie Frye injured his right wrist -- and may have broken it -- in the first quarter against Kansas City. He returned in the second quarter but sat out the second half.... Saints receiver Joe Horn aggravated a groin injury during the first quarter against San Francisco and did not return.... San Diego receiver Keenan McCardell hurt his left calf and didn't return after making a seven-yard catch in the third quarter.... .New England rookie running back Laurence Maroney left early in the second half against Detroit after he had the wind knocked out of him. He did not return.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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