Cleveland's Jamel White (30) recovers a fourth-quarter fumble as Kevin Bentley watches.
CLEVELAND - San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson put his money where his mouth was yesterday, rushing for exactly 200 yards in the Chargers' 26-20 win over the Browns.
He went out on a limb early last week, guaranteeing that the 0-5 Chargers would beat Cleveland.
“I felt strongly that we were going to get the win,” he said. “After a bye week, I just felt we were going to put it together and the losing was going to be over.”
Tomlinson put it together with a 70-yard touchdown run that gave his team a 20-6 lead early in the third quarter.
“He was bound and determined not to let us lose,” San Diego quarterback Drew Brees said of Tomlinson. “He wanted the ball and he was impressive.”
His performance marked the second time this season that the Cleveland defense allowed an opposing running back to reach the 200-yard mark.
Baltimore's Jamal Lewis set the NFL's single-game rushing record on Sept.14 with 295 yards against Cleveland.
Still, Browns linebacker Andra Davis called Tomlinson “the best back we have faced all year. He is the real deal. We had a game plan to stop him, but when a guy can cut back like he does, there are going to be times he just makes you miss. I missed him on the touchdown run.”
Tomlinson, who averaged 7.7 yards on his 26 carries, entered the game having toted the ball 90 times for 457 yards this season.
BANGED UP: Browns running back William Green, shooting for a third-straight 100-yard outing, played sparingly and carried only four times in the second half after suffering a shoulder injury on a play that coach Butch Davis called a spearing incident.
“He took a spear,” for which no penalty was called, Davis said. “He got hit in the back and didn't have 100 percent strength in his arm.”
Green finished with 14 carries for 65 yards, while James Jackson came off the bench to produce five carries worth 27 yards.
Starting quarterback Tim Couch compiled a meager 30.2 passer rating - 13-of-24, 102 yards, three sacks, two interceptions, 0 touchdown passes - and the Browns struggled mightily on offense for most of three quarters, but Davis would not blame it on a patchwork line that was down to bare bones when tackle Barry Stokes was forced out of the game with an ankle injury.
“We were perilously thin on the line, but I think we held our own,” Davis said. “I don't think we lost the ballgame today because of that situation.”
HAPPY RETURNS: Former Browns coach Marty Schottenheimer, now the Chargers' boss, got his first win of the season yesterday, but it did not come without some second-guessing.
Facing a third-down play inches short of the goal-line late in the game, the Chargers used Tomlinson as a decoy and instead rolled Brees out. Cleveland end Courtney Brown sniffed it out and threw Brees for a 13-yard loss, and the Chargers had to settle for a field goal and a six-point lead instead of a game-sealing touchdown.
“It was a bad call,” Schottenheimer admitted. “I have the authority to overrule any play our offensive coordinator calls. If I had to do it all over again, I would do exactly the opposite. I would have run the ball.
Schottenheimer coached the Browns for four-plus seasons (1984-88), leading the team to four playoff berths and two AFC Championship games.
THREE-DOT DATA: Referee Jeff Triplette worked a Browns home game for the first time since late in the 1999 season when he inadvertently threw his beanbag-weighted flag into the face of Cleveland lineman Orlando Brown, causing a serious eye injury. ... The Browns have won just four of their last 12 home games. Since returning to the NFL in 1999, the Browns are 10-26 at home. ... Brees was held to 74 yards passing and had a Couch-like 37.7 passer rating. ... The Browns were 2-of-14 on third-down conversions, their worst such mark this season.