American Football: Tomlinson sets touchdown record as Chargers reach play-offs

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The Independent Online

The San Diego Chargers became the second team to qualify for next month's play-offs after beating the Denver Broncos 48-20. The star of the show was the running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who established a new NFL season record of 29 touchdowns.

The old mark of 28, set last year by Seattle's Shaun Alexander, has always been under threat from the prolific Tomlinson. His third score of the day against Denver, a seven-yard run with three minutes remaining, merely confirmed the inevitable. His reaction afterwards was typical of this most unselfish of players.

"My initial thought process was to bring every guy on the offensive unit over to share the moment," he said. "When we're old and can't play any more, these are the moments we are going to remember, that we'll tell our kids and grandchildren. We can talk about something special, we made history today."

With three more matches remaining in the regular season, Tomlinson has many further history-making opportunities to come.

There was a moment of history, too, for the respected Indianapolis Colts receiver Marvin Harrison, who became only the fourth player to achieve 1,000 career catches. However, as Harrison's big moment arrived with the Colts trailing the Jacksonville Jaguars 37-10 in the fourth quarter, celebrations were muted.

The New Orleans Saints are now one win away from the post-season following their 42-17 humbling of the Dallas Cowboys. Tipped by most analysts to struggle this year, the Saints have been revived under the shrewd guidance of their first-year coach, Shaun Payton, who joined from Dallas last season.

Payton put together a masterful game plan against his old mentor, the veteran Dallas coach, Bill Parcells. The quarterback, Drew Brees, threw five touchdown passes, with two of them going to Mike Karney, who had never caught a touchdown in his life, and another to Jamal Jones, who had only two previous career catches to his name.

"I could tell it was very special for him," said Brees of his coach. "He didn't put a lot of added pressure on us, he just went about his normal business. But I could see the gleam in his eye at the end. I could tell it meant a lot."

While Tomlinson is almost certain to be named the sport's Most Valuable Player at the end of the season, Payton looks equally likely to be named Coach of the Year for effecting a remarkable transformation in the Saints' fortunes.